German bishops at loggerheads over plan for Church renewal

Cardinal Reinhard Marx (left) and Cardinal Rainer Woelki (CNS/Sascha Steinbach, EPA)

The German bishops are at odds over the “binding synodal procedure” they decided to adopt at their plenary in March this year, designed to reduce clerical power and address clerical sexual abuse and the celibacy rule. Source: The Tablet.

On August 29, the bishops conference confirmed that four forums ( Power, Participation and Checks and Balances, The Priestly Mode of Life, Sexual Morality, and Women in Church Service and in Church Offices) would be led by a bishop and a lay Catholic.

However, on his return from a visit to the United States, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne warned that the synodal procedure could put community with the World Church at stake and split the Church in Germany.

In an interview in the Cologne Kirchenzeitung, he said he was “sceptical” about the procedure, fearing that “it holds great dangers – above all the danger of splitting the German Church”.

In his letter to the German Catholics in June, Pope Francis had asked the Church in Germany to remain in union with the world Church, Cardinal Woelki recalled.

Mainz Bishop Peter Kohlgraf defended the synodal procedure. At a celebration for lay pastoral assistants in Mainz Cathedral, where the synodal procedure meetings are to be held, he recalled that the procedure had not been decided on “for fun but against the background of terrible crimes” committed by priests.

Meanwhile conference president Cardinal Reinhard Marx told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper on Sunday that a “regional relaxation of the celibacy rule” was conceivable. He could “well imagine that a conclusion could be reached that it was reasonable – in certain regions and under certain circumstances – to allow married priests”, he replied when asked whether he thought such a reform might be concluded at the coming Amazon Synod in Rome in October.

Asked for his opinion on women’s ordination, Cardinal Marx said he was not necessarily against it but could not see how one could shelve what Pope St John Paul II had declared as final in 1994, namely that the Church had no authority to ordain women. Nonetheless, the question could still be discussed: “As I said to Pope Francis, ‘Holy Father, the discussion is not over’,” Cardinal Marx said.

FULL STORY

German bishops at loggerheads over plan for Church renewal (The Tablet)

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