The outgoing director of the German edition of Vatican News, the Jesuit Bernd Hagenkord, has criticised German cardinal Walter Brandmüller for his loud and sustained attacks on the Amazon Synod.

Driving the news

“Nobody who observes the current situation in the Catholic Church carefully would really believe that the upcoming synod in October is truly about the fate of the Amazon forests and its inhabitants”, wrote Cardinal Brandmüller in a Tuesday piece for the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

This in opposition to the consistent aim of Pope Francis since convening the Synod almost two years ago “to find new ways for the evangelization of that portion of the People of God, especially the indigenous, often forgotten and without a perspective of a good future, also for the cause of the crisis of the Amazonian forest, lung of fundamental importance for our planet”.

For Brandmüller, “the Amazon” is “merely a label”.

“‘The spirit in the bottle’ has another name: radical re-structuring of the Church according to the well-known program”, wrote the cardinal, alleging that the main goal of the Synod is really doing away with compulsory priestly celibacy.

“If it falls, then the Church is also done for”, warned Brandmüller.

The Amazon Synod on Novena

The intrigue

For Hagenkord, writing on his blog, Brandmüller’s argument is not a defence of tradition, but a “destruction of dialogue”.

“[Brandmüller’s] fixation on celibacy shows that other cultures, their questions and concerns, are not important to him… Sad”, wrote the Jesuit.

To accept Brandmüller’s accusation that the Synod is really only about one thing – abolishing priestly celibacy – would entail all the Synod talk about environmental protection, respect for other cultures and the pastoral challenges facing the Amazonian Church is all a front, observed Hagenkord.

“Can we really not change? Can not we listen? Can we not pay attention to what other cultures have for questions and answers? Do we have to bring our own problems with us everywhere?”, he asked.

For Hagenkord, Brandmüller’s criticisms reflect a concern “with the same problems, again and again”. Not to mention a “violent reaction to a clearly articulated concern of the Pope”: that of the Amazon peoples and the care for our common home.

More on Novena:

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What’s next

Hagenkord warned that criticisms such as Brandmüller’s will be plentiful in the run-up to the Synod in October. But they are “counterproductive”, he said.

“Let’s hope that we get beyond such voices. That alone would be a success of the Synod”, said the Jesuit.

Novena editorial:

Novena responds: Why we support the Amazon Synod


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.