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Bishop Georg Bätzing (CNS/Harald Oppitz, KNA)

In a letter approved by Pope Francis, the Vatican has told the German Synodal Path initiative it does not have the competence to establish a nationwide permanent “synodal council”. Source: The Tablet.

Such a council would see bishops, priests and the laity discuss and decide key issues concerning the Church.

The letter, dated January 16, was addressed to the president of the German bishops conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing, and signed by Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, prefect Cardinal Luis Ladaria and prefect for the Dicastery for Bishops Cardinal Marc Ouellet.

It was published by the German bishops conference on Monday.

The letter states that it is an answer to a letter the Vatican received in December from five German bishops, asking Rome whether bishops were obliged to take part in a synodal commission to discuss the erection of a synodal council, but also whether they might take part should they wish to. The Vatican letter emphasises that the bishops are not obliged to take part in a “synodal commission” whose chief task is to prepare a “synodal council”.

Bishop Bätzing, president of the German bishops conference, was quick to react to the Vatican letter by publishing his decision to carry on with plans to establish a “synodal council” that same evening on the bishops’ conference’s website.

“While the Holy See is convinced that the establishment of a Synodal Council would weaken the episcopal office, in my experience synodal consultations virtually strengthen the office of bishop,” Bishop Bätzing said.

Two of Germany’s best-known canon lawyers, Thomas Schüller and Norbert Lüdecke, immediately pointed out that the letter from Rome meant the end for the German Synodal Path.


Vatican ‘no’ to synodal council reignites row with German Church (By Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, The Tablet)


Vatican, German bishops spar over proposal for new ‘Synodal Council’ (Crux)