New president of German bishops says he is following the 'big footsteps' of Cardinal Marx

Batzing Bishop Georg Bätzing. Courtesy: Diocese of Limburg

The new president of the German bishops' conference has emphasized his support for the ongoing synodal process of German bishops and laity, and for a paper supporting intercommunion with Lutherans.

Speaking at the closing of the plenary assembly of the German bishops in Mainz on Thursday, Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg also affirmed he is following in "the big footsteps" of Cardinal Reinhard Marx in continuing along the "synodal path" currently underway in Germany.

Bätzing described as having gotten off to a "good start", despite strong criticism about the first synodal assembly in January from a number of attending bishops.

Bishop Bätzing also claimed Pope Francis supported the controversial process, stating the "synodal way" was "in line" with  and exactly what the Holy Father wanted.

Pope Francis has issued a cautionary personal letter to all German Catholics on the matter, and the Vatican has repeatedly intervened, raising a number of concerns about the process.

Asserting that ecumenism is "on the right track" in Germany, Bätzing reiterated his support for a document titled "Together at the Lord's Table" by the ecumenical working group of Lutheran and Catholic theologians (ÖAK) in Germany, a body chaired by himself and the Protestant bishop Martin Hein.

The document promotes non-Catholics receiving the Eucharist at Catholic Mass. Bätzing also suggested in future, Christians of any denomination should simply decide on their own, individual accord if – and when to receive the Body of Christ.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has dismissed the document, saying it was based on an "assumption" he could not share, "namely, that the Catholic Eucharistic celebration and the Protestant last supper are identical." Koch also pointed out that there were several further "open questions" that needed clarifying.

This year's spring plenary assembly of the German bishops' conference also saw the announcement that the bishops had reached an agreement about compensation payments for victims of clerical sexual abuse.

A version of this story was first published by CNA Deutsch, CNA's German-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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