The “Synodal Way” is a process bringing together German lay people and bishops to discuss four major topics: the way power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women.
The first synodal assembly took place in Frankfurt at the end of January. Regional meetings were held Sept. 4, following a break due to the coronavirus pandemic.
When the German bishops launched the process, they initially said that the deliberations would be “binding” on the German Church, prompting a Vatican intervention.
In June 2019, Pope Francis sent a 28-page letter to German Catholics urging them to focus on evangelization in the face of a “growing erosion and deterioration of faith.”
Bätzing, who succeeded Cardinal Reinhard Marx as chairman of the German bishops’ conference in March, discussed the “Synodal Way” at a private audience with Pope Francis June 27.
Afterwards, he said: “I feel strengthened by the intensive exchange with the Holy Father to continue on the path we have taken. The pope appreciates this project, which he associates closely with the concept of ‘synodality’ which he coined.”
The audience took place the day after the German Church released figures showing that it lost a record number of members in 2019.
Despite the exodus, the Church in Germany received more money in church tax than ever before last year.
In Friday’s interview, Bätzing addressed the debate about church tax and its future, given the large number of German Catholics leaving the Church.
He said that Church leaders faced “difficult decisions.”
“What do we spend the money on? What are the resources with which we can effectively serve the preaching of the Gospel and catechesis? How many properties can we afford in the future and what is pastorally useful?” he asked.
Bätzing also ruled out moving the headquarters of the German bishops’ conference from Bonn, the former capital of West Germany, to Berlin, the capital since 1990, following the demise of East Germany.
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