09/19/2019, 15.13
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Pope receives Card. Marx, amid controversy sparked by German Church 'Synod'

The meeting with the president of the German Bishops Conference, in all likelihood touched upon the assembly with "deliberative power" convoked by the Germans to address issues such as the separation of power in the Church, priestly life, women's access to ministry and to offices in the Church and sexual morality.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis has turned his attention to the Synod of the German Church, which has already created a controversy with the Congregation for Bishops and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. The Pope received Cardinal Reinhard Marx this morning, who is the president of the German Bishops' Conference.

Nothing has so far been made public on the subject of the meeting and even if the Vatican bulletin refers to the Cardinal by his title of coordinator of the Council for the economy, it is impossible that the question of the synod has not been addressed.

At the origin of the controversy, there is the decision of the Bishops' Conference of Germany to call a synod, open not only to bishops. An assembly with "deliberative power", to address issues such as the separation of power in the Church, priestly life, women's access to ministry and office in the Church and sexual morality.

A "binding path" that includes the collaboration of the Central Committee of German Catholics, a group that has called for the ordination of women, the end of priestly celibacy and the blessing of homosexual unions in churches.

On 4 September, the theme was addressed by a letter addressed to Card. Marx by the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, with an attached evaluation of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts of 1 August on the draft Statutes for the Synod.

In essence the program of discussing questions of discipline and doctrine that have already been decided by the universal teaching of the Church or by the universal law is criticized. "It is easy to see - writes Msgr. Filippo Iannone the president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts - that these themes do not concern only the Church in Germany but the universal Church and - with few exceptions - cannot be the object of the deliberations or decisions of a particular Church without violating what is expressed by the Holy Father".

The reference is to a letter from the Pope, written in June to all the faithful of Germany, in which the bishops were warned against falling into a "new Pelagianism".

"The synodality in the Church, to which Pope Francis makes frequent reference - underlines Msgr. Iannone - is not synonymous with democracy or majority decisions", because "it is the prerogative of the Pope to present the results". The synodal process, then, "must take place within a hierarchically structured community", while the equivalence between bishops and the Central Committee of the laity, which would come to have the same weight in the Synod, is not.

The fear is that the "synodal path" will lead the German Church to a separate path such as to put communion with the universal Church at risk, giving life to a German national Church. A schism.

In the reply to Card. Ouellet, dated September 12, Card. Marx appears determined to move ahead and writes, among other things: "We hope that the results of the formation of an opinion [on these issues] in our country will also be useful for the guidance of the universal Church and for other episcopal conferences on a case by case basis. In any case, I cannot understand why the questions on which the magisterium has made decisions should be withdrawn from any debate, as is suggested by your letter".

The question remains open and will be examined in the Autumn Plenary Assembly of the German Bishops' Conference in the meeting of September 23-26, 2019, in Fulda. (FP)

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