Despite harsh criticism from the Vatican, German Catholics are continuing their synodal path reform process. The synodal assembly of bishops, priests, church employees and numerous lay representatives met for the fourth time in the Frankfurt Messe on Thursday. "We have to move," demanded the chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, Georg Bätzing. He felt the "infinitely great pressure to change" in the communities.
359,000 Catholics left the church last year alone, and attendance at church services is falling sharply. The synodal path wants to give an answer to that, said Bätzing. The President of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), Irme Stetter-Karp, said the synodal assembly had to send out the message: "We have power!"
The synodal path wants to achieve changes in Catholic sexual morality, in the role of women in the church, in dealing with power and in celibacy, the obligatory celibacy of Catholic priests. The trigger for the reform process was the massive crisis of confidence after the abuse scandal became known.
Vatican opposes movement
In July, however, the Vatican issued a harsh statement to the German brothers and sisters in the faith that the synodal path was "not authorized" to develop new forms of leadership and a new orientation of Catholic teaching and morals. Critics of the synodal path say that since this clarification it has finally become obvious that the reform efforts are pure window dressing - an "illusion": The hall in which the opening press conference took place on Thursday also happened to have the same name.
The fact that the tension is a bit greater this time than at the previous three gatherings is possibly also reflected in the fact that all members are offered "stress balls" for the first time: small balls with faces printed on them, some with a halo, which can be kneaded or thrown to relieve stress . Stetter-Karp admitted that she was "a bit nervous", and Bätzing described his mood as "positive excitement".
Before the synodal assembly in the Frankfurt exhibition center, groups of reformers demonstrated with slogans like "Consecration for all" and "Jesus also had two fathers". Bätzing had Maria 2.0 put a shawl on her and went through an improvised Holy Spirit gate to internalize the right spirit of reform.
Resolute nun rejects Vatican criticism
Sister Philippa Rath, one of the most prominent members of the Synodal Assembly, advocated not overestimating the Vatican's criticism, since it was "extremely lacking in content" and only served the goal of discrediting and blocking the Synodal path. But that will not happen, on the contrary: "Especially in view of these disruptive maneuvers, it makes a lot of sense to continue on the path undeterred," said the resolute nun from the Abbey of St. Hildegard in Rüdesheim of the German Press Agency. "Because the reform issues are more than urgent and cannot be postponed. In many other countries, by the way, this is seen in the same way as here."
Johanna Müller, the youngest member of the synodal assembly at 18, emphasized that the church urgently needs to change: "The abuse crisis shows that we have a major power problem in the Catholic Church. Toxic structures and rigid sexual morals encourage sexual abuse. Another The construction site is the equality of all people - this applies, for example, to the services and offices in the church."
Müller feels "annoyed" by the criticism from the Vatican. Even if it is not certain that the resolutions will ultimately all be implemented, it is still important to work on problem areas and to question structures and principles. "This is both our duty against the background of the abuse crisis and an important contribution to debates that are being conducted in a very similar way in other parts of the universal church."