The president of Poland’s Catholic bishops’ conference has expressed “fraternal concern” about the direction of the “Synodal Way” in a strongly worded letter to his German counterpart.
In the almost 3,000-word letter published on the Polish bishops’ website, Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki questioned whether the initiative bringing together Germany’s bishops and laypeople was rooted in the Gospel.
“The Catholic Church in Germany is important on the map of Europe, and I am aware that it will either radiate its faith or its unbelief onto the entire continent,” he wrote to Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German bishops’ conference.
“Therefore, I look with unease at the actions of the German ‘synodal path’ so far. Observing its fruits, one can get the impression that the Gospel is not always the basis for reflection.”
Gądecki’s intervention is likely to intensify the debate about the Synodal Way, a multi-year process addressing the way power is exercised in the Church, sexual morality, the priesthood, and the role of women in the wake of a devastating clerical abuse crisis in Germany.
At a meeting earlier this month, participants voted in favour of draft texts calling for married priests in the Latin Church, the ordination of women priests, same-sex blessings, and changes to Catholic teaching on homosexuality.
In his letter, Gądecki addressed the votes and appealed to Bätzing to resist pressure to seek to bring Church teaching in line with public opinion.
“Faithful to the Church’s teaching, we should not yield to the pressures of the world or to the patterns of the dominant culture since this can lead to moral and spiritual corruption,” he wrote.
“Let us avoid the repetition of worn-out slogans, and standard demands such as the abolition of celibacy, the priesthood of women, communion for the divorced, and the blessing of same-sex unions.”
Gądecki’s intervention is significant as Poland and Germany are neighbours, sharing an almost 300-mile border.
But there are striking differences between the Catholic Church in Poland and Germany.
More than 90 per cent of Poland’s almost 38 million population describe themselves as members of the Church, with 36.9 per cent of Catholics regularly attending Mass.
Around 27 per cent of Germany’s 83 million population identify as Catholics, with only 5.9 per cent of Catholics attending Mass in 2020. More than 220,000 people formally left the Catholic Church that year.
In his letter, Gądecki highlighted the shared history of Polish and German Catholics, including the process of reconciliation after the Second World War supported by the future Polish pope St John Paul II and Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński.
“Bearing in mind this communion of faith and history between Poland and Germany, I would like to express my deep concern and anxiety regarding the information that has been recently received from some spheres of the Catholic Church in Germany,” wrote Gądecki, the archbishop of Poznań, western Poland.
“In a spirit of Christian charity, therefore, I take the liberty of addressing to you — as President of the German Bishops’ Conference — this letter, full of fraternal care and in a spirit of shared responsibility for the deposit of the holy apostolic faith entrusted to us by Christ.”
( Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki and Bishop Georg Bätzing. | Episkopat.pl/Bistum Limburg via CNA)
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