German Church leaders have offered markedly distinct responses to Querida Amazonia, the apostolic exhortation on the Amazon region released by Pope Francis Feb. 12.
Catholic officials in Germany paid close attention to the 2019 Vatican synod that preceded the papal document, because synod recommendations to relax clerical celibacy norms and ordain women as deacons closely mirrored calls made by some leaders of a two-year Church synodal process taking place in Germany.
Pope Francis’ document did not respond affirmatively to those suggestions.
The Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), an influential lay group which is jointly managing the so-called synodal process with the German bishops’ conference, accused Pope Francis of a “lack of courage for real reforms” in his Amazonian exhortation.
The group has taken formal stances against Church teaching and discipline on a range of issues, and called for the ordination of women, the blessing of same-sex unions by the Church, and an end to clerical celibacy.
“With his post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation to the Amazon Synod, Pope Francis continues the path he has chosen. He addresses the whole people of God and all people of good will in a clear and understandable, also emotional language,” said a statement published on the ZdK website on Wednesday.
“Unfortunately, he does not find the courage to implement real reforms on the issues of consecration of married men and the liturgical skills of women that have been discussed for 50 years.”
The ZdK said that, following the publication of the working documents for the Synod on the Amazon the synodal deliberations last October, “expectations regarding concrete steps towards reform, especially with regard to access to the priestly office and the role of women, were very high.”
“We very much regret that Pope Francis did not take a step forward in his letter. Rather, it strengthens the existing positions of the Roman Church both in terms of access to the priesthood and the participation of women in ministries and ministries.”
While the lay committee’s apparently accepted that the pope has ruled out any meaningful change to clerical discipline, the head of the German hierarchy appeared to downplay the impact of Francis’s exhortation.
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