20 March 2023, The Tablet

Pro-reform German bishops warn against going too fast

Bishop Franz Jung of Würzburg said synodal way discussions had been “more like a rhetorical exchange of verbal blows” than an orderly debate.

Pro-reform German bishops warn against going too fast

The Bishop of Würzburg, Franz Jung, is among the reform-minded bishops who have expressed concerns about Church unity.
DPA Picture Alliance/Alamy

A growing number of German bishops who are in favour of Church reform have warned against forging ahead too fast and thus endangering Church unity.

While welcoming the German synodal path initiative’s decision to allow same-sex blessings and permit women and men who have not been ordained to deliver the homily at Mass, Bishop Heiner Wilmer SCJ said that the widening gap between those members of the initiative who wanted to push reforms through quickly and those holding back was exceedingly worrying.

“As bishop it is my job to preserve [Church] unity. This can be exceedingly challenging and I cannot and don’t want to deny that in recent months it has caused me sleepless nights,” Wilmer wrote in his resumée of the synodal path initiative’s meetings which he sent out to all the members of his diocese.

While fully in support of the reform initiative, Bishop Franz Jung of Würzburg deplored the “biting tone” of the discussions at the final meeting at the beginning of March.

It was imperative to improve the culture of discussion, he underlined in a 20 March press statement. The discussions had been “more like a rhetorical exchange of verbal blows” than an orderly debate, he said.

“Prayers for unity would probably have been more fruitful and more sustainable.”

Although his diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart is well ahead as far as Church reform is concerned – members of the lay faithful have, for instance, been allowed to deliver the homily for over 50 years (since 1971)  – Bishop Gebhard Fürst has warned that one consequence of the synodal path initiative could “well be a schismatic church”.

At an 18 March meeting of his diocesan council, Fürst called on the synodal path delegates to consider the connection of their resolutions with the world Church.

“Synodality is difficult and strenuous and we’re still a long way from being able to say we’re a synodal Church,” Cardinal Reinhard Marx underlined in a 19 March press statement.

He warned against falling back into old behaviour patterns. “We must now beware of reverting to the old pattern and insisting that the bishop must decide.”

  Loading ...
Get Instant Access
Subscribe to The Tablet for just £7.99

Subscribe today to take advantage of our introductory offers and enjoy 30 days' access for just £7.99