Pope Francis told Bishop Bätzing: We don’t need two Evangelical churches in Germany

Pope Francis told Bishop Bätzing: We don’t need two Evangelical churches in Germany

Bishop Georg Bätzing, chairman of the German bishops’ conference, meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican, June 24, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Jun 14, 2022 / 04:55 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said in an interview published on Tuesday that he told the leader of Germany’s Catholic bishops that the country already had “a very good Evangelical Church” and “we don’t need two.”

The pope recalled his remark to Bishop Georg Bätzing, chairman of the German bishops’ 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 was conducted on May 19.

The pope was asked what he thought of the German “Synodal Way,” a controversial multi-year gathering of bishops and lay people to discuss four main areas: four main topics: the way power is exercised in the Church; the priesthood; the role of women; and sexual morality.

Participants have voted in favor of draft documents calling for the priestly ordination of women, same-sex blessings, and changes to Church teaching on homosexual acts, prompting accusations of heresy and fears of schism.

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 the intellectual, theological elites, and is much influenced by external pressures. There are some dioceses where the synodal way is being developed with the faithful, with the people, slowly.”

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

“The pope, even in the Catholic Church, even with all the powers vested in him, is not someone who could turn the Church from its head onto its feet, which is what we would like,” the bishop of Limburg said.

Bätzing has rejected concerns — expressed by Church leaders from Poland, the Nordic countries, and around the world — that the Synodal Way could lead to schism.

Pope Francis wrote an extensive letter to Catholics in Germany in 2019. Addressing what he called the “erosion” and “decline of the faith” in the country, he called on the faithful to convert, pray, and fast, as well as proclaim the Gospel.

The pope referred to the letter in his conversation with the editors.

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

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