The Second General Assembly of the Synodal Path (1)

October 25, 2021
Fr. Wolfgang Picken

From Thursday September 30 to Saturday October 2, 2021 the second General Assembly of the Synodal Path of the Church of Germany was held in Frankfurt. These general assemblies, or plenary sessions, carry out the final phase of the Synodal Path decided and put in place in spring 2019.

The first plenary session was held at the end of January 2020 in the same city. It had been the scene of a rather heated substantive discussion about the rules of procedure. The dean of the city of Bonn, Fr. Wolfgang Picken, had demanded “transparency” and called for a revision of the rules of procedure.

This same priest has been involved in the drafting of the alternative text proposed by the site sponsored by Msgr. Rudolf Voderholzer.

This first meeting had so far remained orphan: the second synodal assembly, scheduled for September 2020, could not be held because of the health situation.

Instead, around 50 synod members gathered on September 4, 2020 for decentralized regional conferences in Berlin, Dortmund, Frankfurt, Ludwigshafen, and Munich to discuss the themes of the Synod Path.

While many welcomed the constructive and positive atmosphere of the meetings, the sometimes very divergent views of the participants re-emerged.

At the online conference in early February 2021, the synod forums gave an overview of their work. It should be remembered that these forums, whose members were elected in December 2019, had received the work provided by the first “preparatory” forums. They are responsible for drafting the texts that will be studied in the General Assembly.

In total, 16 texts have been produced, which must be discussed and voted on by the members of the synod. These texts have already received amendments through an online tool. These amendments were accepted up to a week before the Synod Assembly. They were then taken up by ad hoc committees in the form of motions which will accompany the texts to be discussed and voted on.

As reported in a recent article, Rudolf Voderholzer, Bishop of Regensburg, assisted by several members of the Synodal Path, at the beginning of September set up a site dedicated to alternative texts to those produced by the forums.

The published text - “Authority and responsibility” - by four members of the Forum on the Reform of Power in the Church, was not accepted by the other members of the forum and is not being submitted for discussion in the Synod Assembly. It received unexpected support, however. The editors have requested that this text be added to the discussion.

Bishop Voderholzer also stated, in a sermon given on the eve of the opening of the session: The Synodal Way instrumentalizes the abuses and “devalues the Bible as the foundational document of the faith and of the Church” by “placing other sources of ecclesiastical orientation along side of Holy Scripture,” namely, “a study of abuses which is dogmatized without criticism.”

This criticism is perfectly justified, and it received a striking confirmation during the debates of this second session.

The Synodal Path is now tangibly entering a decisive phase. After the first reading of these texts during the second session, they may be adopted at the third assembly, in accordance with the statutes, at second reading, by a two-thirds majority of the members present and a two-thirds majority of the members of the Episcopal Conference.