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BREAKING: Pope Francis intervenes in German Synodal Way, expresses 'concerns' about threats to Church unity

Pope Francis’ general audience of April 19, 2023. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Nov 21, 2023 / 04:55 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has expressed deep reservations about the direction of the Catholic Church in Germany, warning that concrete steps currently being taken “threaten” to undermine unity with the universal Church.

In a striking personal intervention, the pope wrote a letter to four German Catholic laywomen that was published in the German newspaper Welt on Nov. 21.

“I, too, share concerns about the numerous concrete steps that large parts of this local church are now taking that threaten to move further and further away from the common path of the universal Church,” the pope wrote in his letter, which was written in German and signed “Francis.”

Chief among the pope’s concerns is a push to establish a permanent “Synodal Council,” a mixed body of laity and bishops that would govern the Catholic Church in Germany. The pope underscored that this kind of “advisory and decision-making body … cannot be reconciled with the sacramental structure of the Catholic Church,” and referenced a previous prohibition the Vatican had issued on the topic.

Leadership of the controversial German Synodal Way recently met in Essen on November 10. They aim to establish a Synodal Council in Germany no later than 2026.

The pope proposed a different path forward for the Church in Germany.

“Instead of looking for ‘salvation’ in ever new committees and always discussing the same topic with a certain self-absorption,” the pope urged the Catholic Church in Germany to “open up and go out to meet our brothers and sisters, especially those who are … on the thresholds of our church doors, on the streets, in the prisons, in the hospitals, in the squares and in the cities.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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