The vice-president of Germany’s powerful body of lay Catholics has warned that the Church is taking a hit to its credibility by not allowing women priests.

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“The question of whether we still have enough priests who live in celibacy and can fulfill all the tasks needed in the community is one that needs to be asked in Germany as well”, vice president of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), Karin Kortmann, told The Associated Press on Friday.

Kortmann was reflecting on the results of last month’s Synod for the Amazon in the Vatican, where bishops cautiously opened the way for more responsibility for women in the Church, and Pope Francis promised to reactivate a commission on women deacons in the early Church.

“It’s right to ask how we can open offices within the Church without jeopardizing the basic principles”, Kortmann said.

“It is also a question of credibility that we discuss women’s access to all offices within the Church”.


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Kortmann was also speaking in the context of the German Church’s “synodal path”, a two-year reform process in which, starting from next month, bishops, laity and outside experts will discuss the prospect of reforms to four areas of Church life: power, authority and participation; sexual morality; celibacy and the priestly way of life; and the role of women.

Precisely on that last aspect – the place of women in the Church – Osnabrück bishop Franz-Josef Bode praised the advances made at the Amazon Synod, and said they were a stimulus to German Church efforts in the same direction.

“Regarding the role of women in our societal and ecclesiastical situation, the recommendations [of the Amazon Synod] are a tail wind for our efforts so far”, Bode told diocesan newspaper Kirchenbote.

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Why it matters

In the meantime, ten German vicars general or “vice bishops” came out last Tuesday to strongly back the synodal path, defending the process against accusations that it will tackle questions outside its authority and lead to a “German national Church”.

In a letter addressed to the German Bishops’ Conference and the lay ZdK, the representatives of the dioceses of Berlin, Essen, Hamburg, Hildesheim, Limburg, Magdeburg, Münster, Osnabrück, Speyer and Trier said they see ” “fundamental reform of the Church in Germany to be urgently necessary, indeed essential”.

The vicars general said the synodal path will achieve a Church “in which plurality and diversity are desired and permitted”, as that is the only kind of Church that will survive into the future.

They added that public and media scrutiny of the Church – particularly over the abuse crisis that has prompted the synodal path – is a “sign of the times” and a “challenge that God gives us for us”.

The vicars general added that a “business as usual” approach will no longer do, and that it is “God’s will” that the Church “take significant steps of change”.

They explained that the synodal path should engender an “honest and open dialogue, characterised by mutual trust and respect and the willingness for mutual understanding”, for which reason critics should “refrain from insinuations and even accusations of lacking ‘orthodoxy'”.

“We expect that the results of the synodal path will change our practice significantly,” the vicars general concluded.

“We want, and are open to, such changes. Moreover, we are ready as administrative managers in our dioceses, together with our bishops, to implement reform decisions”.

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For the record

Also last week, the synodal path organisers presented the logo for the process.

The coloured cross with the German words for “synodal path” is a signpost that stands for “awakening, renewal and orientation”, German Bishops’ president Cardinal Reinhard Marx said at the presentation Friday.

ZdK vice president Kortmann added that it is “not a closed sign”.

Instead the logo refers to a “happy expectation” of what is to come from the beginning of the synodal path on the First Sunday of Advent December 1, Kortmann explained.

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German Church reform movement: no need to wait for “synodal path” for women deacons

The logo of the German Church's 'synodal path'
The logo of the German Church’s ‘synodal path’ (DBK)