The German Catholic Church’s “Synodal Way” will be extended to 2023 after its plenary session ended abruptly following votes in favour of a text approving same-sex blessings and a discussion of whether the priesthood is necessary.
Bishop Georg Bätzing, chairman of the German bishops’ conference, and Thomas Sternberg, president of the lay Central Committee of German Catholics, announced the extension on October 2, at the end of the second synodal assembly in Frankfurt.
The synodal assembly is the supreme decision-making body of the Synodal Way, a multi-year process bringing together bishops and lay people to discuss four main topics: the way power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women.
The Synodal Way, launched on December 1, 2019, was originally expected to end in October 2021, but was extended to February 2022 due to the pandemic. The latest extension means that the controversial process will last more than three years.
The Church in Germany is facing an exodus of Catholics in the wake of a clerical abuse crisis. More than 220,000 people officially left the Church in 2020. Only 5.9% of Germany’s Catholics attended Mass last year, compared to 9.1% in 2019.
The decision to suspend deliberations was reportedly met with dismay among participants in the assembly. Assessing the nature of the votes, more than 168 participants out of a total of 214 voted in favour of blessing same-sex marriages, while the topic of the necessity of priesthood returned a slender majority in favour of priesthood (95 to 94).