Religion is ‘interruption,’ not continuity, German bishops’ president says

Bishop Georg Bätzing Bishop Georg Bätzing | Photo credit: Synodaler Weg / Maximilian von Lachner

The president of the German Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing, said that the shortest definition of religion is “interruption,” and that some forms of continuity people seek from religion are “frankly suspect.”

Bätzing spoke in a live-streamed Mass on Tuesday on the occasion of the bishops’ plenary assembly, which is being held in the central German town of Fulda from Sept. 26–29, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

In his homily the bishop of Limburg said, “all too surely asserted continuities, i.e., seamless connections according to the motto ‘that has always been so; that has always been believed so; what was wrong yesterday cannot be right today’ ... are frankly suspect.”

Bätzing spoke of the “great images in which God’s people spelled out their historical experiences with faith and recognized God’s guidance in them.”

The German prelate, who expressed his disappointment in Pope Francis in May, said it was indeed “in our human nature to seek bridges between yesterday and tomorrow, to draw temporal lines and discover meaningful connections — which is often only possible in retrospect. We seek continuity. But the shortest definition of religion is and remains ‘interruption,’ as Johann Baptist Metz put it.”

Metz was an influential German priest and theologian who died in 2019.

This year’s fall plenary meeting of the German bishops is overshadowed by the recent turbulent meeting of the Synodal Way and the abuse report in the Osnabrück diocese with strongly incriminating statements about Bishop Franz-Josef Bode.

Bode announced he refused to resign despite a report published Sept. 20 saying he mishandled abuse cases.

The 71-year-old bishop has been vice president of the German bishops’ conference since 2017. He is also vice president of the German Synodal Way.

He has publicly supported women deacons and the development of a Church ceremony for blessing same-sex unions. At the latest meeting of the Synodal Way, participants voted to change the Church’s teaching on a number of related topics, including homosexuality and the ordination of women.

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