The President of the German Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, has insisted that the German Church’s synodal path reform process “isn’t in any danger”, despite opposition from the Vatican.

Driving the news

Marx was speaking Monday at the start of the German Bishops’ Autumn Assembly in the city of Fulda.

“The synodal path isn’t in any danger”, the cardinal said.

“There’s no stop sign from Rome”.

“I’ve had the opportunity to speak with the Pope. It was a constructive conversation: we were able to clear up some misunderstandings and he encourages us to move forward”.

“I have full confidence in the path we’re on together, with prayer and accompanied by the publicity around the process. Why wouldn’t I?”, Marx said.

“The German synodal path has the Pope’s support”.


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Go deeper

The German “binding synodal path” has been in the spotlight in the last few days.

Vatican officials warned its planned discussions on reforms to Church power structures, compulsory priestly celibacy, women’s invisibility in the Church and Catholic sexual morality were not permitted under Church law.

But Marx brushed the controversy aside.

“If the universal Church finds it more reassuring or finds a need for us to be in contact with the Vatican, then we will submit our report to the Pope”, Marx said.

“But I think that would not be the end of the ‘Synodal Path’; in that case, the path would continue upwards. But there is no such confrontation”, he explained.

“Before anything else, we are the Catholic Church. Of course we in Germany cannot issue norms that do not apply to the rest of the Church”.

“Naturally, many things can be discussed: changes to canon law; we’ve been seeing that since the 70s. It can legitimately be taken to a Council, that’s not prohibited”.

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Why it matters

Marx was particularly critical of Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops who issued the stern Vatican rebuke of the synodal path.

Ouellet wrote that a key Vatican objection was that the Germans were separating themselves with the path from the universal Church.

“That’s not quite right, because the universal Church is in movement”, Marx fired back.

“This idea that there’s Germany there – that it wants reform and that it strains the Church, that [Germany] threatens to destroy [the Church] or divide it – and in front there’s a uniform block, that’s not so”.

“We’re bringing something to the universal Church: that’s what I wrote to the Pope in my letter that has been made public”, Marx insisted.

That was a reference to the letter he wrote to Francis with Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) President, the layman Thomas Sternberg.

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For the record

Earlier Monday, before entering meetings with his fellow bishops, Marx met with a group of around 150 women protesting in Fulda for gender equality in the Church.

In the Church, “the role of women is extremely important”, Marx told the protesters.

He promised to bring up gender equality in the Bishops’ assembly, which will continue until Thursday.

“I know, we need movement. I urge and bring pressure, but sometimes things happen slowly”, the cardinal said to demonstrators.

Marx said it is “understandable” that “many women from our parishes, from organisations” continue to push for gender equality.

“Even in Rome there are different positions: there’s not a single voice, the difference is that here [the voices] are public here. And of course it’s not an easy path to navigate”, he said.

Though the cardinal warned against thinking “that things will change overnight”, he also criticised the “stubbornness” of those in the Church “who think whatever movement is a betrayal of the faith”.

“The unity the Pope speaks about is not only the unity of the bishops or the Episcopal Conference. It’s also the unity of all the baptised”, Marx warned.

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