Bätzing then responded to the Nordic bishops’ comment that Church leaders are “commissioned to embrace as ours, with gratitude and reverence, the undiminished deposit of faith handed down through the Church.”
He wrote: “I would also like to make it clear here that the unchangeable and unalterable depositum fidei [deposit of faith] must not be understood in such a way that every ecclesiastical practice, every regulation and every social form of Church, which have been developed in the course of history and under very specific circumstances of time, of themselves already represent this unchangeable depositum.”
“Many organizational aspects, structures, and also assignments of competence in the Church were formed in response to concrete historical conditions and must then also be the object of change and renewal when they prove obsolete or even obstructive to the proclamation of the Gospel because of changed requirements.”
Quoting from the Vatican II document Lumen gentium, the German bishop continued: “The sacramental mystery of the Church is not affected by this, since the following always applies to the Church simultaneously: It is ‘at the same time holy and always in need of being purified, [and] always follows the way of penance and renewal.’”
“These are the changes that the Synodal Way is concerned with, and in its search for new pathways towards this end, it is guided by the key sources of the Faith: Scripture and Tradition, the Magisterium and theology, as well as the sense of faith of the faithful and the signs of the times. ”
The bishop of Limburg, western Germany, presented a similar argument in a March 16 letter to Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, the president of the Polish bishops’ conference.
Bätzing was replying to a strongly worded letter from Gądecki, which questioned whether the Synodal Way was rooted in the Gospel.
In his letter to the Nordic bishops, Bätzing picked up on their warning against “capitulation to the Zeitgeist,” or spirit of the age.
“I would like to assure you that the Synodal Way always takes this admonition to heart,” he wrote. “No one can be concerned with frivolously aligning Church action with prevailing fashions.”
“Nevertheless, the reflections of the Synodal Way, in good ecclesial tradition and in close connection with the statements of the Second Vatican Council, are based on the assumption that God, the Creator and Sustainer of the world, also reveals Himself in this world and in the history of mankind, and that his activity and his nature can also be seen in the events of history in a condensed form.”
In conclusion, the German bishop asked the Nordic bishops to stay in touch in the hope that they would be able to “strengthen and deepen” their exchange.
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