Voices in the German Church are welcoming the Amazon Synod as an “event with meaning for the Universal Church and a success for Pope Francis”.
Driving the news
Raoul Löbbert, the editor-in-chief of the religion section of the German newspaper Die Zeit, Christ&Welt, expressed the sentiments in an opinion piece.
Löbbert also praised the Synod final document that “tries to avoid the impression” that “celibacy is part of history”, and said the bishops’ meet that concluded Sunday in the Vatican has a “symbolic effect for the Universal Church”.
Bishop of Essen Franz-Josef Overbeck, meanwhile, said that with the Amazon Synod’s cautious opening to the diaconate and other official ministries in the Church for women the time has come to consider female priests.
“Can one, for example, make a link between the access to the priesthood and the Y chromosome by justifying it with the will of Jesus?”, asked Overbeck, who is also the head of the German Church’s aid agency Adveniat, and as such was involved in preparations for the Synod.
“Most people do not understand this anymore and also do not believe in it. I myself am also more than provoked to thought”, the bishop said.
Overbeck also said other themes from the Amazon Synod apart from gender justice, such as environmental challenges, dealing with the shortage of priests and the distribution of power in the Church “are here [in Germany], just as there [in the Amazon], important for everyone”.
Reflecting on his ten years’ episcopal ministry last Monday, too, Overbeck said he had come a lot way in the decade.
Where once he had argued that “there exists a really fulfilled love only between a man and a woman”, for example, he admitted “I do not hold this opinion anymore today”.
Encounters with gay and lesbian people – but also the Church’s sex abuse crisis – had helped him to “advance morally” on the question of same-sex relationships, the bishop said.
Why it matters
Other voices in the German Church have also, like Overbeck, welcomed the results of the Amazon Synod.
Jesuit priest Wunibald Müller, for example, said the Synod “will go down in history as the synod with which the end of obligatory celibacy was heralded”.
“With the [Amazon Synod’s] recommendation to ordain morally proven, married men to the priesthood, the dam finally broke which heretofore hindered the abolishment of obligatory celibacy”, Müller said.
Ecological “sin”, married priests, women deacons… The Amazon Synod final document in seven key ideas
For its part, the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK) wasted no time after the Amazon Synod in getting back to its own “synodal path”, publishing the statutes for the reform process Tuesday.
In those statutes – jointly published with their synodal path partner, the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZDK) – the German Bishops regulated the composition and scope of the groups that will meet from the First Sunday of Advent.
The DBK and ZDK agreed, though, that the results of the synodal path will no longer be “binding” on the Church, in response to Vatican criticism.
The four major thematic areas to which synodal path participants will discuss reforms will be: “Power and separation of power in the Church – Joint participation and taking part in mission”; “Priestly existence today”; “Women in service and offices of the Church”; and “Living in successful relationships – love lives in sexuality and in cooperation”.
That last area was originally entitled “Sexual morals”.
The Synodal Assembly will meet for the first time in Frankfurt from 30 January to 1 February 2020, with a maximum of 230 members.
Those 230 members will include 69 bishops and 69 members of the ZDK, the vicars general of the German dioceses, representatives of Orders and Presbyteral Councils, pastoral and parish advisers, Catholic faculties and new spiritual communities, and 15 young people no older than 30.
The Presidency of the Synodal Assembly will be made up by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the President of the DBK, and Thomas Sternberg, the President of the ZDK.
Franz-Josef Bode, the Bishop of Osnabrück, and one of the four vice-presidents of the ZDK will serve as Assembly Vice-Presidents.