AP Interview: Pope warns of elitist German synod process

AP Interview: Pope warns of elitist German synod process


VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has warned there is a risk that what could be a groundbreaking process in the German church over calls for married priests and other potential liberalizing reforms could become detrimentally “ideological.”

Francis, in an interview with The Associated Press at the Vatican on Tuesday, was asked about Germany, where Catholic bishops and representatives of an influential secular organization are involved in a process addressing what would be revolutionary reforms for the church if they had to be done. Under consideration in the process are married priests, deacons and the church’s blessings for same-sex couples.

In the interview, the Pope said that while the dialogue is good, the process in the German church has been led by the “elite” because it does not involve “all the people of God.” Francisco says that the goal must always be unity.

Seeking to assuage Vatican concerns, German church leaders have insisted the process will not trigger a schism.

The German process, dubbed the “Synodal Path,” was launched in 2019 in response to the sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Church in Germany, where Christians are split roughly evenly between Catholics and Protestants.

Francis said that the German process is neither useful nor serious.

“The danger here is that something very, very ideological leaks out. When ideology gets involved in church processes, the Holy Spirit goes home, because ideology wins over the Holy Spirit,” Francis said.

Francis has called for a two-part synod that will bring bishops to the Vatican this October, and again in October 2024, to discuss the future direction of the Catholic Church and ways it can rejuvenate its mission. Earlier this month, the Pope, in statements to the faithful, linked the path towards unity of all Christians to the synodal process of the church.

Although clearly critical of how the German bishops relate to representatives of the secular organization known as the Central Committee of German Catholics, Francis struck a hopeful note in the interview. “You have to be patient, dialogue and accompany this people on the true synodal path, and help this more elitist path so that it does not end badly in some way, but also integrates into the church,” he said.

“Always try to unite,” added the Pope.

In his nearly 10-year papacy, Francis has raised hopes among some liberal Catholics that he could revise church teaching on moral or social issues such as homosexuality. Yet while Francis has urged parents never to “condemn” gay children, he stands by the church’s claim that homosexual activity is sinful. In 2021, the Vatican said the church will not bless same-sex unions because God “cannot bless sin.”

In the interview, Francis did not delve into the details of the calls for reform being addressed by the German bishops.

A few months ago, an assembly of the Synodal Path failed to approve a text calling for the liberalization of teaching on sexuality because it did not get the necessary support from two-thirds of the German bishops. That was an indication that the German church is in conflict over the pressures for reform and church splits that could trigger.

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