Germany: Synodal Councils Already in Place in Some Dioceses

February 10, 2023

The representatives of the Catholic diocesan councils of Germany support the creation of the Synodal Council envisaged by the Synodal Path and condemned by the letter from Cardinals Parolin, Ladaria, and Ouellet. In some dioceses, such councils are already in place, although the Holy See has said they have no place in the Church.

During the annual assembly of the diocese of Passau, they declared that it was necessary “to continue the steps with a view to the formation of the Committee and the Synodal Council for the country, as well as Synodal Councils in the various dioceses,” according to a resolution from which the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) quoted an extract in a press release on Monday.

“The goal is to promote a culture of deliberation and joint decision-making in which transparency and the separation of powers can be achieved as an expression of synodality,” the resolution reads. Synodality strengthens bishops and does not weaken them, they say.

In this way they have respond to the letter from the Vatican Secretariat of State published at the end of January. In that document, the cardinals of the Curia, Pietro Parolin, Luis Ladaria and Marc Ouellet, warned “that neither the Synodal Path, nor a body established by it, nor an episcopal conference have the competence to establish a Synodal Council at the national, diocesan, or parochial level.”

For his part, Bishop Georg Bätzing, Bishop of Limburg, President of the German Episcopal Conference, as well as of the Synodal Path, recalled that some dioceses are already introducing Synodal Councils or have had such structures for years. But he mentioned no diocese by name.

The text entitled “Declaration of Passau” reads: “We encourage everyone to follow this path towards a synodal Church.” And the authors specify, “This is not contrary to the content of the Roman letter, since each local bishop can establish such a council for his diocese by virtue of his authority.”

This last statement is astonishing, since the Roman letter says exactly the opposite: “We would like to specify that neither the Synodal Path, nor any body instituted by it, nor any episcopal conference have the competence to establish a ‘Synodal Council’ at the national, diocesan or parochial level.”

The answer was approved by the pope in forma specifica, which gives it particular authority. But the followers of the Synodal Path have not forgotten Che Guevara: “The revolution is like a bicycle: when it does not move forward, it falls. Which they translate as: “We are happy with our bishops on the way to a synodal Church.”