Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki © Julia Steinbrecht (KNA)
Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki is skeptical about the planned "synodal path" of the church in Germany. He fears that this path "holds great dangers – especially with regard to a split within the German church".
Pope Francis, in his letter to German Catholics at the end of June, clearly asked to remain in unity with the universal church and the faith of the church, the archbishop of Cologne said in an interview with the Cologne "Kirchenzeitung" (Friday).
Under the impression of the abuse scandal, the German Catholic bishops had decided in the spring on a "binding synodal path" for the renewal of the church. Starting in December, the topics of power, sexual morality, the priestly way of life and the role of women in the church will be discussed.
Each forum is to be led by a dual leadership of an (arch)bishop and a lay representative. The forum "Power, Participation, Separation of Powers" is chaired by Claudia Lucking-Michel (ZdK Vice President) and Bishop Dr. Karl-Heinz Wiesemann (Speyer), the forum on "Sexual Morality" was chaired by Birgit Mock (Vice President of the KDFB) and Bishop Dr. Georg Batzing (Limburg) and the "Priestly Life Form" forum of Stephan Buttgereit (executive director of the Catholic Association for Social Services in Germany, SKM) and Bishop Dr. Felix Genn (Munster). The Forum"Women in Ministries and Offices of the Church" will be led by Prof. Dr. Dorothea Sattler (University of Munster) and Bishop Dr. Franz-Josef Bode (Osnabruck) chaired.
Concern about a German special path
Woelki made his comments after a trip to the USA. In many encounters there, the Cardinal said, there was concern about a German special path, "that in the worst case we might even jeopardize our communion with the universal church and become a German national church.".
"We should take the warning very seriously"
"No one can want that, and we should take the warning very seriously." Many of his interlocutors had shaken their heads at "the fact that we in Germany seem willing to wantonly change the deposit of faith entrusted to us because it is loudly demanded of us".
In recent months, Catholic women's associations and the protest movement "Maria 2.0" demonstrated for a "gender-just church" and the access of women to the ordination offices. Several theologians and Catholic opinion leaders called for ordination of married men to the priesthood and blessing of same-sex couples. Involved in the synodal process wants "Mary 2.0" not. According to the "Maria 2.0"-co-founder Lisa Kotter would have representatives of the church leadership at "Maria 2.0" asked to participate in the "synodal journey" as voting members of the "women's forum". However, the initiative had decided against such participation.
Answers not "in the form of a natinal go-it-alone"
Local U.S. churches are not immune to the ies that are also affecting the church in Germany, the archbishop said. But he said he got the impression that answers there would be "not in the form of a national go-it-alone or theological hubris".
Woelki reported on church awakenings in the USA and religious congregations with many young people. The "heart center" everywhere, he said, is the decision to place the sacramental at the center of pastoral care and parish building. Mass celebrations on weekdays and Sundays or Eucharistic adoration are "essentials in the life of parishes, schools and colleges," the archbishop said.
He met with New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley and Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory, appointed by Pope Francis, among others during his trip.
In the U.S., the Catholic Church is the largest denomination with about 77 million members and 197 dioceses. Many American bishops reject church reforms along liberal Protestant lines.