A German Jesuit has dismissed talk of schism around that country’s Church’s ‘synodal path’ reform process as “politically motivated exaggeration”.

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Synodal path critics “feel that the Germans brought on the Reformation 500 years ago and divided the Catholic Church, and now the Germans are again up to no good trying to change the Church”, a spokesman for the Jesuits in Germany, Godehard Brüntrup, told the New York Times.

But Brüntrup, who is also vice president of the Munich School of Philosophy, dismissed the fears around the synodal path, which have reached all the way to the Vatican.

In September, the Congregation for Bishops and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts attempted to “stifle” the process.

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The Jesuit Brüntrup explained to the NYT that what the German Bishops really want with the two-year reform process that starts Sunday is to win back credibility among the public after the clergy sex abuse scandal.

“What they want to start is a process of dialogue, listening to what the people and the experts and the lay people have to say, so that the hierarchy gets from a mode of teaching to a mode of listening”, Brüntrup said.

However, the Jesuit kicked the much-needed reform can down the road, and said the faithful shouldn’t hold their breath for changes any time soon.

The synodal path process “might lead 10, 20 or 30 years down the road to a universal council in which maybe a few things change”, Brüntrup said.

Why it matters

Though Brüntrup poured cold water on many German Catholics desperate desire for quick change, he did say that the changes that might come could echo in the worldwide Church.

“The German Church is very influential because of its financial might”, the Jesuit said.

“But it also has had a great influence on the intellectual life of the church, because German theology was and still is a leading force intellectually”.

What’s next

The synodal path discussion process gets underway Sunday, on the first day of Advent, with a ceremonial candle-lighting in Munich’s Frauenkirche cathedral.

The principal topics up for reform are four: Catholic sexual morality, celibacy and the priestly way of life, power and the separation of powers, and the role of women in the Church.

Importantly, Pope Francis seemed to give his backing to the synodal path in a major speech Friday to members of the International Theological Commission.

Synodality is a theme “very close to my heart.

“Synodality is a style, it is walking together, and it is what the Lord expects of the Church in the third millennium”, the Pope said.

Though Francis warned that synodality isn’t akin to “carrying out an opinion poll: ‘what do you think about the priesthood for women?'”, he did say that synodality is “traditional but always to be renewed… in the history of the People of God on their journey”.

“Synodality is an ecclesial journey that has a soul, which is the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit there is no synodality”, Francis said.

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