From September 26 to 29, 2022, the German Bishops' Conference (DBK) is holding its annual autumn meeting in Fulda. On this occasion, it is traditional for the Apostolic Nuncio to address them.
Msgr. Nicola Eterović, originally from Croatia, has been Apostolic Nuncio to Germany since September 2013. In his introductory address to the assembly in Fulda, he spoke of synodality, collegiality, and communion before giving closing remarks.
These remarks were an open criticism of the German Synodal Path. The nuncio explained that a synod is not a parliament, nor an opinion poll. He went on to say that “there is no need to fall into a parliamentarism where majorities and minorities are established and where improper practices are exercised to achieve the intended objectives.”
Another remark concerned the freedom of the bishops and the vote. He remarked: “in order to preserve the freedom of the bishops, journalists are not normally admitted,” but what about all these lay people who clutter the corridors of the Synodal Path?
The nominal vote imposed on the bishops during the fourth Synodal Assembly was also targeted: “The secret vote is moreover one of the methods of the Church, practiced for centuries for important votes, for the election of superiors in many orders and congregations, including the election of the pope in conclave,” he explained.
He also recalled the June 21, 2022 Declaration on the Synodal Path, which he attributed “to the Pope, to the Secretariat of State and to the organs of the Roman Curia, which specified that the latter ‘does not have the power to oblige the bishops and the faithful to adopt new forms of government and new doctrinal and moral orientations,’” which recently has been precisely the case.
The text of the declaration continues: “It is not permissible to introduce new official structures or doctrines in dioceses before an agreement had been reached at the level of the universal Church, which would constitute a violation of ecclesial communion and a threat to the unity of the Church.”
Finally, he insisted that “the bishops have an essential role which is not transferable, which cannot be delegated.”
In his opening remarks, the president of the DBK, Msgr. Georg Bätzing, the Bishop of Limburg, had previously claimed Pope Francis’ support for the Synodal Path. “The pope himself is a great reformer, so it is not a good take to say that he is an opponent of the Synodal Path,” he said.
These criticisms, clearly targeted, are certainly welcome; but will these remarks be enough to impress the bishops who for the moment have not wanted to hear anything from anyone?