Vatican issues another warning to German hierarchy

The Vatican has expressed great concern over the final stage of the German synod. The members of this synod are planning to create a new governing body. But the Vatican says this has no canonical basis.

The Vatican sent a letter to the German Bishops' Conference, signed by the Secretary of State and the Prefects of the Doctrine of the Faith and of the Bishops. All three express their doubts about the nature of this new governing body, the so-called “Synodal Council.”

In the letter, the Vatican leaders recall that the German hierarchy was warned during their 2022 visit to Rome. Also, in another letter, they were explicitly asked to halt this project.

In the past, Pope Francis himself has expressed his concern. He has said that the German synod is following in the footsteps of the Evangelical or Protestant churches, although Germany insists it is not. This was pointed out by Bishop Georg Bätzing after the visit of the German bishops in 2022 to the Vatican.

"Yes, I think the farther you are from Germany, the stronger the feeling is," said Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German Bishops' Conference. "It is true that in Germany we have a great closeness between the Catholic Church and the Protestant Church, and we appreciate each other very much. But we are different. And the specific characteristic of Catholicism is that we are a sacramentally and hierarchically organized world Church. And we want to remain so."

The Vatican sent this most recent formal notice since the plenary assembly of the German bishops ends on February 22.

Germany is a rare case. The Vatican often approves organizations promoted by bishops' conferences around the world that do not harm the hierarchical authority of the Church. This is the case of CEAMA, the pastoral and social project promoted by the bishops of the Amazon region.