From the outset, the German process, which is not a synod, has courted controversy.
Participants have voted in favor of draft documents calling for the priestly ordination of women, same-sex blessings, and changes to Church teaching on homosexual acts, prompting accusations of heresy and fears of schism.
Concerns have been publicly raised by Church leaders from Poland, the Nordic countries, and around the world.
Fears of a “dirty schism” from Germany have increased over the past few months as organizers of the Synodal Way in November refused a moratorium on the process suggested by the Vatican.
Pope Francis launched the global consultation process leading to the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in October 2023 and 2024 with a call to “encounter, listen, and discern.”
Synod organizers recently clarified that the sole theme to be discussed in each stage of the process is the official theme assigned by the pope: “For a Synodal Church: communion, participation, mission.”
The four-year synod process is currently in its continental stage with seven continental assemblies meeting in Fiji, Czech Republic, Thailand, Ethiopia, the United States, Lebanon, and multiple locations across Latin America.
The contributions of the German delegation participating in the European Continental Assembly will be included in the final document that will be debated and approved by the 200 European delegates — including 65 women and 46 bishops — on Feb. 9.
Following these discussions, a second private meeting among 35 bishops, the presidents of each of Europe’s bishops’ conferences, will collectively review the document, listen to speeches by each of the bishops, and produce a second final document.
The final documents produced by the assembly in Europe will influence what priorities and themes should be taken up in the Synod of Bishops taking place at the Vatican this fall.
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.