“The road to the promised land has always been long and arduous”

About 100 women and men of the Maria 2 movement.0 discussed with Bishops Michael Gerber and Franz-Josef Bode at the end of the fall plenary meeting of the German bishops in Fulda. The latter appealed for patience.

Protesting women have been part of the unofficial side program of all bishops' meetings in Germany for the past two years. As have been the victims of abuse and their interest groups for some time, and for more than 20 years the radical reformers of "We are Church".

But something distinguishes the women who vociferously advocate "gender justice in the church" from the other protest groups.

Bishops seek dialogue

Rarely do they appear as small groups, even in Corona times, they are always demonstrations of visible and audible size – although not crowds of people. And bishops often try to get into conversation with them. Not all do, some pass by without a greeting.

But some seek the exchange – also because they fear that they could lose some of the church's most faithful followers.

This exchange continues, although the demands of some spokeswomen now go far beyond what is feasible in the Roman Catholic Church in the short and medium term.

Women's access to all ecclesiastical ordained offices and a departure from previous sexual morality are among Mary 2's non-negotiable demands.0., as the representatives emphasized at the end of the autumn plenary meeting of the German Bishops' Conference. If this "Promised Land of gender justice and freedom from clerical paternalism" is not reached soon, another silent exodus is coming. Because then many women would leave the Catholic Church.

Bode and Gerber listen patiently

The deputy chairman of the Bishops' Conference, Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, the local bishop of Fulda, Michael Gerber, and the auxiliary bishop of Munich, Wolfgang Bischof, listened patiently to these demands and threats. Then Bode, who apparently enjoys trust among activists because he is among the bishops who publicly call for change, spoke up.

Bode ares women that progress is being made, but asks for patience. The Israelites' journey to the Promised Land was also "long and arduous," he said. In addition, all debates are currently difficult because of the Corona pandemic, also in the Synodal Way. There, however, there continues to be "strong tailwind" for the demand for equal rights for women in the church, he said to applause from the crowd.

Since the large catholic woman federations KFD and KDFB with many demands of Maria 2.0 agree and protest with them, the bishops suspect that they are no longer dealing with an insignificant fringe group, but with a critical mass that can influence church policy. This also became clear in Fulda, where speakers from Maria 2.0 and the KFD appeared together – even if with different degrees of radicalism.

How the KFD women understand themselves today, came last week to the expression, when the tradition-rich magazine of the largest church woman federation was renamed on resolution of its federal assembly. Instead of "Woman and Mother" the paper is now called "Junia" – and this name is the program.

Because Junia was the only female apostle mentioned by name in the New Testament. With their exotic-seeming name, the KFD women manifest their new orientation: Their claim is the assertion of the equal rights of women in the church, which are already founded in the Bible, and this ultimately extends to the office of bishop, which, according to Catholic doctrine, is considered the office of successor to the apostles in the early church.

The only thing that the reform-minded majority of German bishops can realistically envision at this time is a step toward a female diaconate. To clarify its historical foundations, Pope Francis has already commissioned experts twice. Unlike the impossibility of admitting women to the priesthood, it has not yet been defined by the popes as a definitively decided question. Probably for this reason, the chairman of the Bishops' Conference, Georg Batzing, never tires of promoting this reform step.

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