Germany: Bishops Retreating From the Synodal Path

Source: FSSPX News

Msgr. Wolfgang Ipolt and Msgr. Bertram Meier

The ad limina visit as well as the “inter-dicasterial” meeting on November 18, 2022, in the presence of Cardinals Pietro Parolin, Luis Ladaria Ferrer and Marc Ouellet, succeeded in introducing some doubt among some German bishops. Two of them confided their thoughts on this subject to the Tagespost newspaper.

An Integration of the Synodal Path

Msgr. Wolfgang Ipolt, Bishop of Görlitz, confided in Die Tagespost, the only German Catholic newspaper of national importance, in its Monday, November 28 edition. He is very reluctant to pursue the pure and simple German synodal process.

The 68-year-old prelate says the concerns of the synodal path should instead be integrated into the global synodal process. And he affirms clearly, plainly struck by the Roman discussions, that the Synodal Path cannot continue as before: “I feel that this awareness has grown in our episcopal conference thanks to the visit to Rome.”

He believes that it is time to stop and think about the steps to achieve this. But for attentive observers, it seem to be an impossible mission, because any attempt to do so will provoke a reaction that is difficult to measure. In any case, the damage will be considerable.

But Bishop Ipolt sees no risk of schism in Germany. He wants all parties to seriously consider the arguments being made. “We must explain more clearly to the participants of the Synodal Path than we have done so far, which votes or proposals can only be transmitted to Rome, and which we can resolve in Germany.”

He acknowledges that this point has not been sufficiently clear. And he adds: “This distinction also implies that we, in Germany, admit that we have lost importance from the perspective of the universal Church and that in the meantime other local Churches are stronger than us in terms of faith.”

Delaying the Implementation

Msgr. Bertram Meier, Bishop of Augsburg, proposed in the same newspaper, that the Synodal Path end as planned in 2023, but to wait until the end of the World Synod, in 2024, to implement the decisions.

“If we want to go further with Rome, we cannot currently implement in Germany everything that the Synodal Path predominantly advocates,” he said. He was also critical of the approach of the German bishops: “Did we really go to Rome to hear what the Romans had to say to us, or did we want, from our point of view, to make ourselves heard at the Vatican and show the way for the universal Church?” he wondered.

The two bishops agree on the importance of Pope Francis's 2019 letter: “Its key words are 'evangelization' and 'pastoral conversion,'” Bishop Ipolt said. Bishop Meier sums up the Pope's thought: “his exhortation should not be put away in a drawer, but should serve as a point of reference for our synodal journey.”

The Bishop of Augsburg continues: “The Pope's letter must be the compass to achieve the true objective of the Synodal Path, the spiritual renewal of the Church.” This does not exclude structural changes, but he sees it differently: “If the Holy Spirit penetrates us, it also affects the structures.”

The fact remains that the commitment to the Synodal Path is now so anchored, especially among the laity, but also among many bishops, that the desired reassessment is doomed to failure, or at least will cause a massive departure from the Church, or even a kind of schism.