Cardinal Reinhard Marx has scolded sceptics of the Amazon Synod for suggesting that the forum taking place in the Vatican October 6-27 is tainted by heresy.

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“Of course there will be debates, but it is difficult to tell someone with a different theological opinion that he is heretical”, Marx told reporters Monday before the first Synod session.

The President of the German Bishops’ Conference, close adviser to Pope Francis and Synod participant by special papal invitation added that certainly there can be “different opinions”, but said these can be legitimately expressed only after “listening first to others”.

“Criticisms are allowed. It’s okay to say that you don’t agree with something, it’s normal in theology, but to talk about heresy…”, the cardinal continued, thereby suggesting that the Amazon Synod criticisms are overblown.


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The celebration in the Synod working document of the richness of indigenous spirituality has been the main reason critics have accused the Synod of heresy.

But Synod organisers have said the working document is not to be “judged”, because, as the fruit of the consultation of some 80,000 people in the Amazon, the text represents “the voice of the people” and “the voice of the earth”.

Anothing sticking point has been the working document’s request that Synod participants consider the possible ordination of women and married men to ensure the wide availability of sacraments in the Amazon region.

Speaking to journalists yesterday, Marx referred to this last point – the possible reintroduction at the Synod of the ordination of viri probati (married men of proven virtue) – and backed a continuing discussion.

The debate on possible married priests must take place “in an appropriate manner and taking into account the right of the faithful to participate in the Eucharist”, Marx said.

He added that the possible ordination of married men is “not a simple” issue because it also affects “other parts of the world”, for which reason he asked Synod Fathers to be “very prudent” when looking into it.

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For the record

Marx went on to address Synod participants in the session yesterday afternoon.

On that occasion, the cardinal warned the gathered bishops and observers that “in order to give life to an integral ecology and economy it is necessary to put an end to corruption, exploitation and global indifference and to regularly discuss our actions based on the repercussions they have on nature and on the peoples of the world”.

Referring to the adaptation of the Church’s message to local realities, he added that:

“When we talk about inculturation, it means that the gospel has a different face in different cultures but is not another gospel. That’s very important, I think.

“This is the tension in which we live as a universal Church, as a Church that is present everywhere. That the Church has the courage to be multi-layered and multi-colored”.

Marx also insisted yesterday on the necessity of loyalty to the Pope:

“As a cardinal, I can claim that we do not part with the Holy Father. And that belongs to the basic substance of the Catholic faith. The Pope is not the universal church. The Pope is the foundation of the unity of the universal Church.

“The world Church is not a pyramid. […] It is an intertwining of local and universal Church. This entanglement cannot be separated, it must belong together. the Successor of Peter is the foundation that keeps it together”.

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