The TSTIME interview: Pope warns of elitist German synod process

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VATICAN CITY (TSTIME) — Pope Francis has warned that there is a risk that what could be a groundbreaking process in the German church over calls for married priests and other potential liberalizing reforms could become harmful “ideological.”

Francis was asked in an interview with The The Singapore Time at the Vatican on Tuesday about Germany, where Catholic bishops and representatives of an influential lay organization are involved in a process focusing on 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 process in the German church is led by the “elite” because not “all the people of God” are involved. Francis says the goal should always be unity.

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In an attempt to assuage the Vatican’s concerns, German church leaders have insisted that the process will not cause a schism.

Dubbed the “Synodal Path,” the German trial was launched in 2019 in response to the sex abuse scandal 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.

“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.

Francis has called for a two-part synod that will bring bishops to the Vatican in October and again in October 2024 to discuss the future direction of the Catholic Church and ways it can rejuvenate its mission. Earlier this month, in his remarks to the faithful, the pope linked the path to the unity of all Christians to the Church’s synodal process.

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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 have to be patient, have a dialogue and guide this people on the real synodal path, and help this more elitist path so that it does not end badly one way or another, but is also integrated into the Church,” he said.

“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.”

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In the interview, Francis did not go into the details of the calls for reform made 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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