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German Catholic bishops vow to continue with reforms

November 19, 2022

German Catholic bishops reaffirmed their commitment to reforms following meetings with Pope Francis and other Vatican figures. On the table are blessings for same-sex marriages, married priests and women deacons.

German Catholic Bishop Georg Bätzig
Bishop Georg Bätzig said that the German Catholic Church would continue its reform processImage: Johannes Neudecker/dpa/picture alliance

Germany's Catholic bishops on Saturday vowed to continue with reforms that have been criticized by the Vatican.

The Synodal Path progressive Catholic movement seeks to allow blessings for same-sex couples, married priests and the ordination of women as deacons. The Vatican has pushed back at the movement, arguing that the church risks a schism if it implements reforms.

The church launched the reform movement amid record numbers of Germans leaving their congregation and sex abuse scandals involving the church.

What did German bishops say?

Bishop Georg Bätzing, the head of the German Bishops' Conference (DBK), told reporters following a series of meetings with Pope Francis and other figures in the Vatican hierarchy that they sought to be "Catholic in a different way" by implementing reforms.

"We are Catholic," Bätzing said at a news conference. "But we want to be Catholic in a different way."

Bätzing assured the Vatican that the German Catholic Church would "not make any decisions that would only be possible in the context of the universal church," including changes to core doctrine.

"However, the church in Germany wants to and must provide answers to the questions being asked by the faithful," he insisted.

In the face of criticism from the Vatican, Bätzing said that reform issues are not "closed."

The Catholic Church in Crisis

"As far as the ordination of women is concerned, for example, (the Vatican's) view is very clear, that the question is closed. But the question exists and it has to elaborated and discussed," the bishop said. "All these questions are on the table and all attempts [to] cancel them will not have success."

Bätzing proposed that German lay representatives engage in round-table talks with Vatican officials as part of the reform process.

The Central Committee of German Catholics said that "it is not a solution to see the responsibility for the reform process solely from Rome." Committee president Irme Stetter-Karp said that there is no longer a "patient people of God," in response to a Vatican statement that the faithful must be patient.

Cardinal Woelki situation 'unbearable'

One issue raised by Bätzing in discussions with Pope Francis was that of Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, who has been criticized for the way he handled sexual abuse cases.

Woelki offered to resign in March, which Pope Francis has not acted on. Last year, the Vatican gave the cardinal a "spiritual timeout."

Bätzing said that the status quo was "unbearable for both the archbishop and the faithful."

sdi/kb (AP, Reuters)