Pope Francis and other Church leaders have expressed serious concerns about plans to create a permanent synodal council for the German Church.
Such a body would function “as a consultative and decision-making body on essential developments in the Church and society,” according to a Synodal Way proposal.
More importantly, it would “make fundamental decisions of supra-diocesan significance on pastoral planning, questions of the future, and budgetary matters of the Church that are not decided at the diocesan level.”
In response to warnings from Rome about taking such a step, Bätzing in January already suggested he would pursue a “fallback option.”
“We in Germany are looking for a way of truly deliberating and deciding together without overriding the canonical regulations that affect the authority of the bishop,” the German prelate said.
As to the objections raised at the meetings in the Vatican — and confirmed in a letter approved by Pope Francis — Bätzing in January repeated his public dismissal of these concerns — and vowed the Synodal Way would continue pursuing its controversial agenda in the face of them.
Concerns by German bishops
The bishops of Cologne, Regensburg, Passau, Eichstätt, and Augsburg wrote to the Vatican on Dec. 21, 2022. They raised what Bätzing acknowledged were “justified and necessary questions” — particularly whether bishops could be compelled to abide by such a council’s authority.
This was not the case, the Vatican’s letter noted. The message, written in German, reminded Bätzing that according to Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council teaches “that episcopal consecration, together with the office of sanctifying, also confers the office of teaching and of governing, which, however, of its very nature, can be exercised only in hierarchical communion with the head and the members of the college.”
Running to four pages, the latest Vatican letter to Germany said it was approved by Pope Francis. It was signed by the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin; the prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Luis Ladaria; and the former prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet.
Warning of a threat of a new schism from Germany, the Vatican already intervened in July 2022 against a German synodal council.
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