In his response, the pope urged the four women to pray for him and “for our common cause of unity.”
The German theologian Martin Brüske described the pope’s letter as a clear and forceful signal to halt the work of the synodal committee.
“The flagship of Peter has given the German Church a broadside across the bow,” said Brüske in a statement provided by New Beginning, a group of German Catholics critical of the Synodal Way. “Those who do not want to hear and see this will bear full responsibility if they ultimately disappear into the maelstrom of division.”
Leadership of the German Synodal Way has recently framed their push to establish the Synodal Council as consistent with Pope Francis’ emphasis on increased synodality in the Catholic Church, including the recent Synod on Synodality assembly at the Vatican.
In an Oct. 29 statement, Thomas Söding, vice president of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), described the Vatican assembly as “a confirmation of the Synodal [Way] in Germany.” He added that German plans to establish a permanent Synodal Council were consistent with the October synod report’s call for greater decentralization.
The German Synodal Way, a joint effort of the German Bishops Conference and the ZdK, was launched in 2019. The noncanonical process concluded its initial stage in March, passing resolutions to not only move forward with establishing a Synodal Council but also to bless same-sex unions and push for women’s ordination at the level of the universal Church.
The pope’s letter to the four laywomen was not the first time he has commented on the Synodal Way. In January, he criticized the process as “elitist” and “neither helpful nor serious.” Before the start of the Synodal Way, he wrote a June 2019 letter to “the Pilgrim People of Germany,” calling for a focus on evangelization in the face of “growing erosion and deterioration of faith.”
This article was updated at 7:55 a.m. EST with a statements from New Beginning and the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK).