Top Vatican cardinal: 'Legitimate concerns' about Germany's 'Synodal Path'

Cardinal Kurt Koch Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, was interviewed by EWTN on April 14, 2022. | Daniel Ibanez/CNA

A top cardinal at the Vatican has confirmed Pope Francis’ apprehension about Germany’s “Synodal Path,” telling EWTN in an exclusive interview that critics have raised “legitimate concerns” about the controversial re-assessment of Church teaching on sexual morality and other critical issues.

"I very much hope that the German bishops will not simply defend themselves but really enter into a dialogue. Because there are legitimate concerns behind this that have to be taken seriously,” Cardinal Kurt Koch said Thursday.

The Swiss cardinal, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, spoke to EWTN Vatican Bureau Chief Andreas Thonhauser for the EWTN news magazine “Vaticano.” The interview will air Sunday, April 24.

In the same conversation, Koch also discussed the situation in Ukraine, affirming Pope Francis’ view that any religious justification for the war is "blasphemy."

Concerning the Synodal Path, Koch referred to a growing chorus of concern expressed by Church leaders around the world about its call for sweeping changes to the Church’s teaching on homosexuality and other issues.

Koch recalled the “fraternal concern” expressed by the Polish Catholic bishops, the alarm of the Nordic Bishops' Conference, as well as the recent “fraternal open letter” signed by four cardinals and more than 80 bishops warning that the ongoing process in Germany could undermine the Church’s credibility and lead to schism.

Koch called for a dialogue about "what the Holy Father and what the German bishops each understand by the Synodal Way," adding these were two distinct meanings. 

"I don't see these as identical. For the pope, synodality is … a spiritual event. That is, he invites us to listen to one another and, in listening to one another, to listen to the Holy Spirit for what he wants to say to us,” Koch explained.

“In Germany, I have the impression that synodality consists in dealing with the structures, something that Pope Francis already urged very energetically in his “Letter to the People of God” in Germany, that it is first and foremost not about structures but spirituality. And secondly, that the synodality on the whole should serve evangelization, as the pope has now also established in the Apostolic Constitution for the Roman Curia." 

Pope Francis addressed Catholics in Germany directly in a historic 28-page letter in 2019. In it, addressing what he called the "erosion" and "decline of the faith" in the country, the pope called on the faithful to convert, pray, and fast — and he urged them to proclaim the Gospel.

The proclamation of the faith is the first and proper mission of the Church, and thus this must also be the goal of a "synodal journey," the pontiff exhorted at the time. 

Koch told EWTN that Pope Francis gives the highest priority to this proclamation of the faith.

"Against this background," the cardinal said, "one must also understand his letter to Germany, which I do not have the impression has really been taken into full consideration."

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