Bishop Peter Kohlgraf of Mainz has shown himself to be open to church reforms – for example, on the subject of celibacy among Catholic priests. The topic will also be discussed at the Amazon Synod, which starts Sunday.
"I do not consider married priests in certain regions to be an attack on the universal Church or on the priesthood," he stressed in an interview with the "Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger" (Saturday). On Sunday (6. October), the Amazon Synod will begin in Rome, which is to seek answers to the challenges facing the church in this region. This is also to discuss ways to ensure Mass celebrations in remote areas. The question of ordination of married men to the priesthood will determine "how concrete this may become," Kohlgraf said.
The clergyman also criticized a "disconnect between the Christian message and the reality of people's lives". He said it is undeniable that the external image of the church is experienced by many "as unhelpful". This leads to people distancing themselves from the church. It is all the more important, he said, "that we in the Church perceive this gap with reality and try to close it.". He sees this as the task of the much-discussed "synodal way". The German bishops had decided on this reform process in the spring with a large majority. He is supposed to win back lost trust after the abuse scandal and at the same time look for ways for the future of church life.
Engaging with other ways of thinking
In the interview, Kohlgraf also pleaded for new perspectives on sexual morality. "A look at Church history shows that, apart from the essentials in the Creed, there is nothing in the Church that has not been subject to change over time," he said. The reality of people's lives, he said, has always played a role. He therefore advises greater serenity and less rigidity. "One way to move forward would be to move away from a fixation on the sexual act and instead see the whole of a relationship."
With regard to the protest movement Maria 2.0 which, among other things, calls for women to have access to all offices in the church, the bishop said, "These are highly committed women – and men, too – from the midst of our communities."Even if at the end of the "synodal journey" there will certainly not be the ordination of women, he believes it is crucial "that we engage with the mindset of those who are calling for movement and change on this ie". He told the activists of Maria 2.0 promised to pass on their lack of understanding to Rome. "We are looking together in the same direction."In addition, Kohlgraf continued, he had to "simply state that the objections of Rome against the ordination of women are often not convincing".
Hollerich speaks positively about "viri probati
Luxembourg's future Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich also spoke out on the ie. He can imagine ordaining more married men as Catholic priests. On the debate about allowing experienced husbands, so-called "viri probati," to become priests, Hollerich told reporters at the Vatican on Friday evening that if entire regions in the Amazon could not celebrate the Eucharist, that was a major problem. "If there viri probati are a solution, why not?", the Archbishop of Luxembourg said verbatim.
Hollerich, who will be received into the College of Cardinals by Pope Francis this Saturday, pointed to married priests in Eastern Catholic churches and to Anglican clergy who have converted. Contrary to what some claimed, it was not about the theology of the priesthood.
"A wonderful complement"
The 61-year-old also highlighted the different experience of husbands, saying, "I love my celibacy, I stand by it, but I see that married deacons can preach differently than I can, and I find that in itself a wonderful addition."
Hollerich, who is also president of the EU bishops' commission COMECE, is attending the Amazon Synod, which begins Sunday, at the pope's personal invitation. Possibilities to ensure mass celebrations in remote areas are also to be discussed.