German bishops will light ‘Synodal Candle’ to launch controversial process  

cardinal marx in st p square Cardinal Reinhard Marx. | Daniel Ibanez/CNA

The German bishops' conference announced Monday that a ceremonial "Synodal Candle" will be lit on the first Sunday of Advent to officially launch the nation's "synodal process," which is scheduled to run over two years and pass resolutions about Church life in Germany.

The launch ceremony will be hosted by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who will light a candle together with lay leader Karin Kortmann in Munich's famous Frauenkirche, or "Cathedral of Our Dear Lady."

Draft statutes of the – no longer binding – "synodal process"  were approved Nov. 22 by a majority of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) at the lay group's plenary assembly.

During deliberations, a motion to amend the statutes to include a focus on evangelization was rejected.

CNA Deutsch, CNA's German language news partner, reported Nov. 25 that ZdK member Karl zu Löwenstein reminded fellow delegates of Pope Francis' call for a new evangelization during Nov. 22 deliberations regarding the synod. Before debating and passing resolutions about the structure of the Church, one should first put Christ's message at the center, he argued.

However, two vice presidents of the lay Catholic organization disagreed. Both Claudia Lücking-Michel and Karin Kortmann, both German politicians, argued that any amendment would delay the start of the synodal process.

The German bishops had initially planned a "binding" synodal process for German Catholics, which would pass normative resolutions on moral and ecclesiastical issues. But a Vatican intervention raised concerns that the proposed process constituted a particular council, and could not take place without permission from the Vatican. After that intervention, the initial draft statues were amended to ensure they were no longer canonically binding.

On a visit to German last week, Cardinal Robert Sarah expressed concerns about the planned synod.  Sarah has gone so far as to offer a special prayer for the Church in Germany, given developments there, warning "If a synod aims to change the doctrine of faith, then it is no longer a synod."

In an unusual move, Pope Francis in June personally wrote a letter to all German Catholics, warning of meaningless structural maneuvering and reiterating a call to evangelization ahead of the announced process.

In addition to concerns about a lack of focus on spreading the Gospel, the actual agenda of the process – which exclusively targets the topics of sexual morality, power and ecclesial offices – and public demands of the ZdK for the blessing of homosexual couples and the ordination of women, have come in for sharp criticism from noted theologians

CNA Deutsch contributed to this report.

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