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Pope criticizes German Catholic reform movement

Saim Dušan Inayatullah
November 6, 2022

Pope Francis said that he did not want "another" Protestant Church in Germany, echoing fears that reforms could split the Catholic Church. Contentious issues include female deacons and blessing same-sex marriages.

Pope Francis speaks to journalist on flight
Pope Francis spoke to journalists on his flight back from Bahrain and warned that Germany's progressive reform movement could split the churchImage: Maurizio Brambatti/AP Photo/picture alliance

Pope Francis on Sunday warned German Catholics against implementing reforms while speaking to journalists on his flight back from Bahrain.

"I say to German Catholics: Germany has a great Protestant Church, but I don't want another one, because it won't be as good," the pope said. Francis was responding to a question as to what Germany's Catholic Church should do in the face of decreasing membership.

"I am not saying go backwards, no; but go to the source of inspiration, to the roots," he stressed, warning against entering "contingent" discussions that move away from the "core of theology."

What is the German Catholic Church's reform movement?

Pope Francis was responding to the progressive German Catholic movement known as the "Synodal Path," which has proposed broad reforms amid declining membership and changing public attitudes.

Record numbers of Germans have left their congregations in recent years, with church membership dropping below 50% for the first time in 2021.

Results from a survey published in September of this year suggested that 58% of German Catholics opposed anti-abortion statements made by Pope Francis. The church has also been rocked by child sex abuse scandals.

In July, the German Catholic Church received a letter from the Vatican rebuking the reform current.

"The Synodal Path in Germany does not have the authority to oblige the bishops and the faithful to accept new forms of leadership and new orientations of doctrine and morals," it said.

The statement went on to say that this "would represent a wound to ecclesial communion and a threat to the unity of the Church."

What are the Synodal Path's proposed reforms?

In January, around 120 priests and employees of the Catholic church in the Germany came out as members of the LGBTQ community and called for an end to "outdated statements of church doctrine" on sexuality and gender.

In February, the Synodal Path called for the Catholic Church to allow priests to marry, women to become deacons and for same-sex marriages to be blessed by the church. The group also called for ordinary Catholics to have more of a say in how the church operates.

This report was written in part with material from the German Press Agency.

Edited by: Amanda Rivkin

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