Symbolic image Church on the way © f11photo
In a joint letter, ten vicars general took an explicit position in favor of the reform process in the Catholic Church. "In the 'business as usual' mode, we will no longer be able to fulfill our mission."
They wrote this in a letter published Tuesday to the chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, and the president of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), Thomas Sternberg.
Accordingly, they consider a fundamental reform of the church to be "urgently necessary, even existential". To this end, they want to support the Synodal Way, which begins on the first Advent, "with vigor" and rely on binding decisions.
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The signatories call on all those involved in the reform process to be open and promote respectful dialogue. "We ask that you refrain from mutual insinuations or even accusations of a lack of 'orthodoxy,'" they explained.
The letter is signed by vicars general from Trier, Munster, Berlin, Essen, Hamburg, Hildesheim, Limburg, Magdeburg, Osnabruck and Speyer. They reportedly meet regularly in this group for collegial exchanges. Lastly, they dealt with the situation and challenges of the church in Germany.
Nationwide, there are a total of 27 dioceses, each of which has a vicar general as its administrative head.
As important aspects, the authors of the letter mention the loss of trust and the question of the church's ability to act. The letter says: "For quite some time we have been experiencing a church which is increasingly sidelined by general social developments, but which is also – and this is more serious for us – losing credibility through its own fault."
View of serious effects
Increasing numbers of people leaving the church, an "inner discord among bishops, priests and believers," less interest among young people and declining funds triggered a "great consternation and perplexity. As vicars general, they have an eye on the "serious and threatening consequences for our dioceses" this could bring in the coming years.
The representatives of the bishops said they wanted "a church in which plurality and diversity are desired and allowed". Only if the church allows diversity does it have a chance to be present in society. The "distressing dimension of current developments" as well as fears, resistance and impending conflicts should be addressed. Trusting in Christ, she said, it is necessary to "determine the appropriate relationship between tradition and innovation today".
Accordingly, they expect the synodal way to bring about significant changes in their own work. They themselves are directly concerned with the question of how to deal with power. She also said they were ready to implement reforms in the dioceses with their bishops.
The German bishops agreed on a binding synodal path in the spring. The main topics are power, sexual morality, the priests' way of life and the role of women in the church.