Pope warns German church reform process elitist, ideological

Pope warns German church reform process elitist, ideological

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has warned there is a risk that a reform process in Germany’s Catholic Church over calls for married priests and other potential liberalizing reforms could become damaging “ideologically.”

In an interview with The Associated Press at the Vatican on Tuesday, Francis was asked about the process in Germany, where Catholic bishops and representatives of an influential lay organization are discussing what revolutionary reforms would be for the church if realized. The process is considering married priests, female deacons, and church blessings for same-sex couples.

In the interview, the pope said that while dialogue is good, “the German experience doesn’t help.”

He said the process has so far been led by the “elite” because it doesn’t involve “all the people of God.” Francis says the goal should always be unity.

Trying to allay the concerns of the VaticanGerman church leaders have insisted that the trial will not cause a schism.

The German trial, dubbed the “Synodal Path,” was launched in 2019 in response to the sexual abuse crisis that rocked the church in Germany, where Christians are roughly evenly split between Catholics and Protestants.

Francis said the German process is neither useful nor serious, contrasting it with a global consultation of the Catholic faithful he has convened that will culminate in two major gatherings at the Vatican in October and next October.

“Here is the danger of something very, very ideological seeping in. When ideology gets involved in church processes, the Holy Spirit goes home, because ideology overcomes the Holy Spirit,” Francis said.

For the worldwide Catholic Church, Francis has called for a two-part synod, or assembly, that will bring together bishops and laity to discuss the future direction of the church and ways it can rejuvenate its mission.

While clearly critical of the German bishops’ handling of representatives of the lay organization known as the Central Committee of German Catholics, Francis made a note of hope in the interview.

“We must be patient, engage in dialogue and guide these people on the real synodal path,” Francis said, referring to his global consultation. The goal, he said, is to “help this more elitist (German) path so that it doesn’t end badly one way or another, but is also integrated into the church.”

“Always try to unite,” the pope added.

During his nearly 10-year papacy, Francis raised hopes among some liberal Catholics that he would revise the Church’s teaching on moral or social issues such as homosexuality.. But while Francis has urged parents never to “condemn” homosexual children, he supports the Church’s claim that homosexual activity is sinful. In 2021, the Vatican said the Church will not bless same-sex unions because God “cannot bless sin.”

In the interview, Francis did not go into the details of the calls for reform addressed by the German bishops.

A few months ago, a meeting of the Synodal Way failed to pass a text calling for liberalization of sexuality education because it did not receive the necessary support from two-thirds of German bishops. That was an indication that the German church is conflicted about the push to push for reforms and divisions in the church that they could cause.

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