German Bishops' spokesman Matthias Kopp

German Bishops’ spokesman: “Synodal way exemplifies listening Church”

“A vast number of believers are waiting” for the German Church’s “binding synodal way” reform process, the spokesman of the German Bishops’ Conference has said.

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“You can see the synodal way as exemplifying a listening Church – the bishops want to concentrate on the questions believers are asking”, German Bishops’ spokesman Matthias Kopp told Catholic News Service Tuesday.

“The bishops’ conference has verified the issues – authority, participation, the separation of powers, sexual morality, the priestly life, women in Church services and orders – and wish to face these issues… The bishops see it as their pastoral mission”, Kopp said.

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The German Church’s “synodal way” has been the focus of criticism in recent weeks.

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Both from some of Germany’s own bishops, but also from the Vatican, who both understand that the synodal way’s planned discussions of reforms to key areas of Church life overstep the authority of national bishops and laypeople.

Despite that criticism, the German Bishops passed statutes for the synodal way last week in their Autumn Assembly.

They’re now pressing ahead with preparations alongside theologians and lay experts, ready to begin the two-year consultation process on December 1.

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Bishops’ spokesman Kopp defended the reform consultations from the criticisms.

“The synodal way is a ‘sui generis’ process, and not a synod or a particular council, and there’ll be no separate German process, without Rome, on questions touching the universal Church. But we hope to offer ideas and contributions to the universal Church”, Kopp explained.

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He added that the reform process had been made necessary by the “loss of credibility” and “institutional failure” inherent in a 2018 report that revealed that 3,600 children were sexually abused by priests in Germany in the last sixty years.

“At their spring assembly, the German bishops decided by common consent to follow the synodal way, and they’ve continued working toward this at their latest plenary in Fulda”, Kopp recalled.

The spokesman explained that German Bishops’ President Cardinal Reinhard Marx had “cleared everything up” with the Pope and Vatican authorities in recent talks.

He added that Marx, along with his brother bishops, was convinced that the conclusions of the synodal way would be “useful and instructive” for the universal Church.

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