Appointment of bishops, homosexual couples… Where are the measures of the German synod path?

The German bishops traveled to the Vatican this week with a package of synodal measures as part of their ad limina visit. an encounter ” difficult “ She is expected with Pope Francis and curia officials, according to the website of the German Catholic Church. Rome has repeatedly criticized this synodal process, independent of the Synod on the Future of the Church launched by Francis in 2019.

The German process, launched in 2018 following the release of a report on sexual abuse in the church, takes the form of five gatherings in which groups of lay and clergy propose action on four main themes: “Power, Participation and Separation of Powers”, ” Sexual Morality”, “Priestly Way of Life” and “Women in the Offices and Offices of the Church”. The texts are then voted on by the 230 members of the assembly and, in a second step, ratified by the bishops with a qualified majority (two-thirds of the bishops present).

► Which measures have already been voted on?

In the area of ​​governance, the flagship measure is a reform of the nomination of bishops. watch that“It is urgent and necessary that the people of God should participate more in the appointment of bishops”, the text stipulates that a “committee” of lay people will be consulted by the Council of Episcopal Chapters (the council of clerics responsible for the appointment) before the three chosen names are transmitted. This list is then presented to the Vatican, which has the final say in appointing the future bishop.

The position of women in the church has also been the subject of several texts. A document therefore envisages promoting women’s access to diakonia. Another motion also recalls that the diaconate is not a diaconate “under priesthood”. Finally, the German Synodal Path calls on the Pope“Open the debate” about the possible ordination of women.

Another important text: an explicit request to Pope Francis “for doctrinal clarification and reassessment of homosexuality”, namely to revise the Catechism of the Catholic Church. One of the key proposals approved by the bishops is for the Vatican to withdraw the registration “homosexual acts” in the list of the major sins of the Church.

► Which measures have already been rejected?

A text on sexual morals caused tension during the last session in September. Rejected by some German bishops, he returned to the teachings of the Catholic Church on sexuality, proposing in particular to reconsider contraception and to place homosexual couples and remarried divorced people under God’s blessing. It also demands recognition “urgently” the equality and legitimacy of non-heterosexual orientations and the end of conversion therapy.

It was approved by 88% of the members of the synodal assembly, but only 61% of the bishops present. However, he will be introduced to Pope Francis during the ad limina visit.

► What does the Vatican accuse the German synod path of?

On the plane returning from his trip to Bahrain on November 6, Pope Francis openly railed against the Synod’s path.I Tell the German Catholics: Germany has a great and beautiful evangelical church. I wouldn’t want anything else, it wouldn’t be that good»he said aboard the papal plane.

“Excessive trust in the democratic process as in the evangelical church” concerned, says Jérôme Vignon, a former foreign observer of the synodal path. And this ” would be at the expense of the Holy Spirit”as some German bishops were able to criticize at the end of the last session.

The pope criticizes the synod trip because it doesn’t swear to it “popular piety” of the faithful and not sufficiently taking into account the opinion of more modest circles. But this piety is not “highly developed” compared to Latin America, analyzes Jérôme Vignon. And the pastoral leaders, at the heart of the reflection groups, do “part of the middle class”.

► Which measures still need to be agreed?

Most chapter texts “priestly way of life”, reflecting developments in the priesthood, pending reconciliation. One document, for example, asks Pope Francis “to examine a possible general dispensation from the promise of celibacy in future ordinations”. He particularly highlights the example of the Eastern Catholic Churches, where married men can be ordained priests, and is concerned about the shortage of clergy in parishes.

After the last session on February 3-5, 2023 “There will be a significant surplus of projects that can still be discussed but can no longer be accepted”, observes Frank Vesper, former General Secretary of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZDK), who is leading the synodal path together with the Bishops’ Conference. The assembly has already decided to create a lay and clergy synod council to continue the work. Everything should take shape by March 2026.

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