We don’t need two evangelical churches in Germany – Catholic World Report

Archbishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, meets Pope Francis at the Vatican, June 24, 2021. (Vatican Media)

Vatican City, June 14, 2022 / 4:55 a.m. (CNA).

Pope Francis said in an interview published Tuesday that he told Germany’s head of Catholic bishops that the country already has “one very good evangelical church” and “we don’t need two of them.”

The pope recalled his remark to Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German episcopal conference, during a conversation with the editors of Jesuit journals.

The dialogue, which also touched on the war in Ukraine and opposition to Vatican II, was published in La Civiltà Cattolica on June 14 but took place on May 19.

The pope was asked what he thought of Germany’s ‘Synodal Way’, a controversial multi-year gathering of bishops and laity to discuss four main areas: four main topics: how power is exercised in the Church ; the priesthood; the role of women; and sexual morality.

Attendees voted in favor of draft documents calling for priestly ordination of women, same-sex blessings and changes to church teaching on homosexual acts, sparking accusations of heresy and fears of schism.

The Evangelical Church in Germany, a federation of 20 regional Lutheran, Reformed and United churches, ordains women priests and bishops and authorizes the blessing of same-sex unions.

Pope Francis told the editors: “To the President of the German Episcopal Conference, Bishop Bätzing, I said: ‘In Germany there is a very good Evangelical Church. We don’t need two.

“The problem arises when the synodal path comes from intellectual and theological elites and is heavily influenced by outside pressures. There are dioceses where the synodal path develops with the faithful, with the people, slowly”.

Bätzing, who has led the German bishops’ conference since March 2020, expressed his disappointment with Pope Francis in an interview published in May.

“The pope, even in the Catholic Church, even with all the powers conferred on him, is not someone who could overthrow the Church, which we would like,” the Bishop of Limburg said.

Bätzing dismissed concerns – expressed by Church leaders in Poland, the Nordic countries and around the world – that the Synodal Way could lead to schism.

The Catholic Church and the Evangelical Church in Germany are experiencing an exodus of their members.

Pope Francis wrote a lengthy letter to Catholics in Germany in 2019. Addressing what he called the “erosion” and “decline of faith” in the country, he called on the faithful to convert, pray and fast, and proclaim the gospel.

The pope referenced the letter in his conversation with the editors.

“I wrote it myself, and it took me a month to write it. I didn’t want to involve the curia. I did it all alone. The original is Spanish and the one in German is a translation. This is where you will find my thoughts,” he said.

Pope Francis also discussed the future of embattled German Cardinal Rainer Woelki, who has faced intense pressure to step down as head of the Archdiocese of Cologne.

The pope confirmed Woelki in the post after an apostolic visit to the archdiocese and allowed him to take a leave of absence. Upon the 65-year-old cardinal’s return, the archdiocese announced that he had tendered his resignation.

The Pope said: “When the situation was very turbulent, I asked the Archbishop to leave for six months, so that things would calm down and I could see clearly. Because when the waters are choppy, you can’t see clearly.

“When he came back, I asked him to write a letter of resignation. He did and he gave it to me. And he wrote a letter of apology to the diocese. I left it at his place to see what would happen, but I have his resignation in hand.

Pope Francis continued: “What happens is that there are a lot of pressure groups, and under pressure it is not possible to discern. Then there is an economic problem for which I plan to send a financial team. To be able to discern, I wait until there is no more pressure.

“The fact that there are different points of view is good. The problem is when there is pressure. It doesn’t help. However, I don’t think Cologne is the only diocese in the world where there are conflicts. I treat it like any other diocese in the world that experiences conflict. I can think of a case where the conflict is not yet over: Arecibo in Puerto Rico, has been in conflict for years. There are many dioceses like that.

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Barry F. Howard