The President of German Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, has had a “constructive dialogue” with Pope Francis and with Vatican Cardinal Marc Ouellet on the topic of the German Church’s “binding synodal path”.

Driving the news

The German Bishops’ Conference confirmed Friday that Marx had been in Rome for meetings of the Vatican Council for the Economy and of Pope Francis’ “cabinet” of cardinal advisors on curial reform, the ‘C6’ group.

It was in the context of those meetings that Marx also had talks with Pope Francis and with Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, on the German Church’s reform process.


Cardinal Marx responds to Vatican criticism, insists “synodal path” necessary to clear “obstacles”

Go deeper

Relations between the Vatican and the German Church have been strained in recent days with threats from Rome that the synodal path is not permitted under Church law.

Ouellet warned it was not, and sent the German Bishops a Vatican legal assessment arguing that planned talks on reforms to Church power structures, priestly celibacy, sexual morality and women’s ministry overstepped the local Church’s authority.

But, in response, representatives of the German Church, led by Marx himself, said the planned synodal discussions were necessary to win back Church credibility.

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Why it matters

The German Bishops’ Conference confirmed that in Marx’s talks with both the Pope and Ouellet “a constructive dialogue took place, which will feed into the deliberations of the general assembly of the German Bishops’ Conference next week”.

Marx also handed over to the Pope a letter from both himself and layman President of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), Thomas Sternberg, in response to Francis’ own June letter to the German Church.

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For the record

“We want to set out on a path of conversion and renewal. We want to listen together to God’s word in our time in order to be able to witness it credibly”, Marx and Sternberg wrote in their letter.

“We want to fight the causes of the abuse scandal and renew our fellowship as a Church… With our reflection we want to make space for the Gospel”.

On the four topics of the synodal path, Marx and Sternberg explained that “we need to study these issues in depth to credibly witness to the Good News in the midst of today’s world”.

“We need the atmosphere of an open, respectful conversation in order to search together for solutions”, the two churchmen said.

“Holy Father, we are only at the beginning of this path. We ask for your prayer and your accompaniment”, Marx and Sternberg concluded.

“We would like to clarify with our response how important dialogue with you is for all of us who are committed, out of love for God and neighbour, to the renewal of the Church.

“We would be grateful to have a personal exchange with you to share our needs and questions, but also our hopes and ideas”.

More on the German synodal path:

Cardinal Marx defends synodality, insists “tradition and reform are not opposites”

What’s next

Marx’s delivery to the Pope of his and Sternberg’s letter came as 240 German-speaking theologians strongly defended the binding synodal path after a meeting in Austria.

The German-speaking Working Group on Catholic Dogmatics and Fundamental Theology (Arbeitsgemeinschaft katholische Dogmatik und Fundamentaltheologie) said in a statement from Salzburg that the synodal path had been made necessary by the “systemic conditions of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and its cover-up”.

The realities of priestly abuse necessitate a total reformulation of Catholic theology, the Working Group warned.

For that reason it urged the German Church to continue down the synodal path “with determination”.

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