A German archbishop has said that that country’s ‘synodal path’ participants are not “revolutionaries”, but instead are only seeking a better “Church of the future”.

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“I don’t have the impression that the members of the [synodal] Assembly are revolutionaries”, Archbishop of Bamberg Ludwig Schick told Spanish news agency Europa Press February 7.

“We’re seeking a way to the Church of the future. Everyone wants to better the Church to face this challenge.

“This impression and conviction gives me the confidence that at the end there won’t be a schism, but that a second Church, reformed according to the will of Jesus Christ, will emerge”, Schick declared.

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Schick explained that, with the synodal path, “what we want is to renovate and better the Church to fulfill its tasks of living faith, hope [and] charity for God’s glory and the salvation of humankind”.

The Bamberg archbishop recalled that the actual work of the two-year synodal path – on possible changes to doctrine on sexual morality, the place women, structures of Church power and authority and the priestly way of life – hasn’t actually begun yet.

But he said the “cordial and serious” atmosphere in the first synodal assembly in Frankfurt at the beginning of the month, marked by a “great reciprocal esteem” between bishops, priests and laity, has built “a good base for discussion and progress in the work”.

Why it matters

Without mentioning Cardinal Müller by name – who this week likened the synodal path to the rise of Nazi Germany – Schick lamented that the synodal path has received “criticisms that are not acceptable”.

“We have begun discussions on the different and also contrasting arguments with the various positions. But the members of the synodal way have the willingness to seek a common path”, the archbishop argued.

Schick also explained that in the synodal path statutes it is “predetermined” that the synodal path participants “can make decisions, although it is specified [in the statutes] that these decisions are only votes or proposals that will be sent to diocesan bishops if they have the competence to decide on an issue in the diocese itself”.

However, “obviously if it’s a proposal to goes to arguments about the governance of the universal Church, in that case the Pope will be the one to decide”, Schick added.

He explained that although there’s technically no need for the Pope to call a Church Council to decide on possible synodal path proposals of maximum importance – such as the ordination of women, for example – “normally” that’s exactly what a Pope would do.

In Schick’s opinion, though, any future Vatican III could not involve only bishops, as in previous Church Councils, but would have to look at involving the laity too.

“I hope a solution can be found”, the archbishop said.

For the record

Other German bishops still reflecting on the first synodal assembly this week included Bishop Felix Genn of Münster.

Genn expressed his “great confidence” in the reform process and his conviction that “it will succeed and… be a win in Germany”.

Archbishop Stephan Burger of Freiburg, on the other hand, was more cautious, saying that although the first synodal assembly was no “failure”, it was more than clear in Frankfurt that “there are very different positions and sometimes divergent opinions among the participants”.

But, “if, despite the different positions, we succeed in understanding ourselves as a Church, as a community of faith that advances into the future when it becomes clear on what basis we stand, that would be a very important result of the synodal process”, Burger reflected.

For his part, Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück, head of the synodal path discussion forum on women and vice president of the German Bishops’ Conference, urged his fellow reform process participants to take stock of the fact that “the collaboration between women and men… is one of the most important signs of the time”.

“For us, Christ became a human being, not a man”, Bode said, as justification for his push both to do what is possible right now in terms of including more women in Church leadership positions and to work for their ordination in the future.

Had women been more included in the “decisions made by cliques of men” in the Church, the cover-up of clerical sex abuse would never have happened and things “would have taken another course”, Bode said, adding more reasons why women must have real leadership in Catholicism.

Bode concluded repeating his conviction that, for him, both full-time celibate priests and part-time married priests with families are conceivable in the Church.

“I am of the opinion that there can be both forms” of priesthood, Bode said.

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