Bishop of Essen (Germany), Franz-Josef Overbeck

German bishop says he “can imagine” women priests

A German bishop has revealed he “can imagine” women priests, after the first step of the married male priests made possible by the Amazon Synod.

Driving the news

“Personally, I can now imagine women priests”, Bishop of Essen Franz-Josef Overbeck said Saturday in an interview with the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung.

Though Overbeck was realistic in the sense of admitting that there’s still much opposition in the Church to the ordination of women, he said a first step in the right direction towards that ultimate goal could be the ordination of married men.

Opening the priesthood to married men “would allow some to find their way” in the Church, Overbeck said.

Go deeper

Just after the conclusion of October’s Amazon Synod in the Vatican, Bishop Overbeck gave an interview in which he said that the themes of the Amazon Synod – including the care for the environment, the shortage of priests, the exercise of power in the Church and gender justice – “are here [in Germany], just as there [in the Amazon], important for everyone”.

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On the topic of the possible future ordination of women, the Bishop of Essen was especially thoughtful.

“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?”, Overbeck asked.

“Most people do not understand this anymore and also do not believe in it. I myself am also more than pensive”.

Why it matters

The possible future ordination of women is one of the topics to be discussed in the German Church’s two-year ‘synodal path’ reform process that began December 1.

Having women priests in the future is a question that’s beginning to gain traction in the German Church according to Sister Jordana Schmidt, who in a conference November 29 in Vienna said that although Church reforms are slow, they will come.

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Like Bishop Overbeck, German nun Schmidt said she too could well imagine women in ordained ministry.

She lamented “how many are suffering” for the current ban on women in orders.

But Schmidt was positive, too, and said it must be remembered that in the Church “office has to do with vocation, not sex”.

“God certainly does not make it dependent on sex”, she added.

On the Catholic women agitating for reforms in the Church – such as the ‘Maria 2.0’ movement in Germany – Schmidt recalled “these are women who love the Church and want to change something and want to have a say, on an equal footing”.

Though these brave women have met with opposition, Schmidt urged them to remember that “something changes only when someone shouts loudly, even if those voices are uncomfortable”.

Next on Novena:

Hopeful Germans begin ‘synodal path’: “We have to do something. People are leaving the Church”

German Bishops’ secretary urges “more courage” in opening up Church offices to women

German lay vice-president warns women’s ordination a question of Church “credibility”

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Mada Jurado

Reporter and community manager at Novena
Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.
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