Bishop Georg Batzing visits Pope Francis © Romano Siciliani/ Vatican Media (KNA)
Georg Batzing, president of the German Bishops' Conference since March, made his inaugural visit to Pope Francis over the weekend. The Limburg bishop reported afterwards on an "intense, collegial conversation".
Pope Francis is "with his heart with us in Germany" and is following the reform process of the Synodal Way very closely. "He would like us to make good progress in this process."
The visit of the new bishops' conference president to the Vatican was originally scheduled for an earlier date. However, due to the Corona pandemic, the date was considerably delayed. Batzing was accompanied on the two-day visit by Father Hans Langendorfer, secretary of the German Bishops' Conference.
In addition to the meeting with the Pope, the program included talks with the heads of important Curia authorities, such as Cardinals Luis Ladaria (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) and Marc Ouellet (Congregation for Bishops).
Clearing away "blockages" to church life
Curia looks with "great interest" at synodal journey, Batzing says. It is known that the project "did not fall from the sky". Rather, it is an obligation for bishops and laity to work together to remove "blockages" to church life. The reform process is also necessary in light of the latest church exit figures, which are "very depressing". Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri was particularly interested in the events in Germany. The secretary general of the Synod of Bishops is preparing a meeting in Rome in 2022 with the theme "For a synodal church: communion, participation and mission".
After intensive wrangling, the German bishops had decided on a binding Synodal Way in spring 2019. The main topics to be discussed are power, sexual morality, the way of life of priests and the role of women in the church.
With the collaboration of Catholic lay people and external experts, the bishops want to clarify their positions on these ies. Calls for reform had grown louder in connection with the reappraisal of clerical abuse. However, the project is controversial. Objections and admonitions came from the Vatican on several occasions.
"The world will not be the same after the crisis be the same"
Meanwhile, Francis "expressly welcomed" an intermediate step of the Synodal Way that was recently decided because of the Corona crisis. At several regional conferences in September, the consequences of the health emergency for the Church in Germany will be discussed. From the Pope's point of view, this is obviously a sensible project: "He is also of the opinion that the world will not be the same again after the crisis," said Batzing.
He said the pope was also concerned about a resurgence of nationalism in Europe and elsewhere. "He fears a split in society," says the bishop of Limburg. Francis had addressed the ie himself and clearly expressed himself "as a pro-European". The head of the Church expects positive signals not least from the German EU Council presidency, which begins in July. Above all, the poor, the elderly, the refugees and those in need of help should not be lost from sight.
Is the Pope coming to Germany??
Meanwhile, Batzing hopes that the Pope will accept an invitation to Germany extended by Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) during a telephone conversation in May. Following on from this, he has now invited him again – "in the name of all Catholics". Such a visit would be a very special "encouragement" in these difficult times, the president of the German bishops stressed. "I very much hope that he will come."
By Alexander Pitz