Pope Francis Says He Has ‘Said All He Has to Say’ About the ‘Synodal Way’ in 2019 Letter to German Catholics
‘It is all in this letter,’ he said of the instruction he presented three years ago.
The latest Vatican intervention against the German “Synodal Way” was published by the Secretariat of State, but he himself has said “everything he had to say” about the process in his own letter to German Catholics, Pope Francis told journalists on the papal plane on July 30.
During an in-flight press conference on his return flight to Rome from Iqaluit, Canada, Francis said he thought the latest statement from the Holy See was “a communiqué of the Secretariat of State.”
The fact that the Holy See’s statement was not signed otherwise was not done out of “ill will,” the Pope stressed, in light of “astonished” reactions from people responsible for the controversial German process.
“The ‘Synodal Way’ in Germany does not have the power to compel bishops and the faithful to adopt new forms of governance and new orientations of doctrine and morals,” the Vatican said in its statement published a week ago.
The Holy See deemed it “necessary to clarify” this, to “safeguard the freedom of the People of God and the exercise of the episcopal ministry."
The Vatican warned: “It would not be permissible to introduce new official structures or doctrines in dioceses before an agreement had been reached at the level of the universal Church, which would constitute a violation of ecclesial communion and a threat to the unity of the Church.”
In response, the presidents of the German Bishops’ Conference and the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) said they were stunned by the intervention.
“In our understanding, a synodal Church is something else!” Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg and Irme Stetter-Karp declared. “It is not a good example of communication within the Church if statements are published which are not signed by name.”
On July 27, the Vatican's “foreign minister” said he was “very concerned” about the Church in Germany, CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported.
Without mentioning the “Synodal Way” by name, Archbishop Paul Gallagher explained this impacted the work of the Secretariat of State. “It influences how the German state sees the Holy See and the Catholic Church — and vice versa, how we see Germany and also the German Church."
On the papal flight back from Canada on July 29, the Holy Father stressed that he had “already said all he had to say” on the subject in his 2019 letter to German Catholics.
Pope Francis warned of disunity in the 5,700-word letter. He also cautioned German Catholics to avoid the "sin of secularization and a secular mindset against the Gospel.”
“Let us beware of the temptation of the father of lies and division, the master of division, who in driving the search for an apparent good or an answer to a particular situation, ultimately dismembers the body of God's holy and faithful people!”
On the flight back from Canada, the Pope commented, “On the ‘Synodal Way,’ I wrote a letter, and I wrote it alone, after a month of prayer, reflection and consultations. I said everything I had to say on the ‘Synodal Way.’ I do not want to say more.”
Francis continued, “This is the papal magisterium on the ‘Synodal Way.’”
He said he had bypassed the Curia with the letter at the time, as a shepherd of a Church seeking a way, as a brother, father and believer. “And this is my message. I know it is not easy, but it is all in this letter.”
In the letter, the Pope explained that reforms are about building up the People of God “instead of looking for immediate results with hasty (...) consequences that are fleeting because of a lack of deepening and maturation or because they do not correspond to the vocation that is given to us.”
In addition, in light of the “erosion” and “decline of faith” in Germany, the Pope called the faithful to conversion, prayer, and fasting — and he urged them to proclaim the Gospel.
That is the first and proper mission of the Church, thus must also be the goal of a “synodal journey,” the Pontiff exhorted in his historic letter.
He warned against “modernization” that was independent of the mission of the Church. He also warned of “reforms” that do not have evangelization and the revival of the sacraments as their goal.
“God deliver us from a worldly Church under spiritual or pastoral draperies! This suffocating worldliness undergoes healing when one tastes the pure air of the Holy Spirit, who frees us from revolving around ourselves, hidden in a religious pretense above godless emptiness,” the Pope told German Catholics in 2019.
On July 30, 2022, the Pope concluded a trip to Canada in which he traveled to Edmonton, Québec, and Iqaluit on what he called a “penitential pilgrimage” to apologize to the country’s Indigenous communities.