Vatican City October 22, 2023 (KAP) Bishop of Essen, Franz Josef Overbeck, called for understanding on the path of the German Synod on the sidelines of the World Council. In front of journalists from several countries on Saturday afternoon in the Vatican’s press room, he explained the motivations and topics of the debate on the Catholic Reformation in Germany. He stressed that the issue of the church’s credibility is pivotal. “If we are contradictory, we will not convince anyone,” said the Bishop of Essen, who has repeatedly spoken publicly in Germany in favor of the reformist concerns of the Synodal Way.
Overbeck explained that the impact of the abuse scandal and the significant decline in the number of priests affected discussions and responses to the reform project. The cultural environment in Germany, which includes a high percentage of non-religious people, also contributed to the search for answers that could be conveyed in this environment. In doing so, we draw from Scripture, Church Tradition, scientific theology and signs of the times, which we try to interpret as a mandate of the Church.
Regarding the number of priests, Overbeck noted that during his 14 years as bishop, he buried 300 priests and ordained 15. How the Church can live in this way is not just a practical matter of survival and administration of the sacraments, but also raises fundamental theological questions. He believes that the developments of the third millennium require new answers that differ from the answers of the second millennium. Overbeck stressed that the path the church is taking is “very difficult.”
The Bishop of Essen reported that at the World Synod meeting in Rome, he was often asked about the synodal method of the Germans. He was asked if the Germans had already brought the answers for tomorrow their way. He always answered the question whether the German path was still Catholic. Given that discussions on German reform continued in the coming years, he said the synod process could learn something from the spiritual atmosphere and style of listening practiced at the round tables in Rome.
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