Vatican City, March 28, 2022 / 8:30 a.m. (CNA).
The president of Poland’s conference of Catholic bishops raised concerns about Germany’s “synodal way” during a meeting with Pope Francis on Monday.
The Polish bishops’ conference said in a statement after the March 28 audience that the pope had distanced himself from the controversial multi-year process bringing together bishops and laity in Germany.
“The Holy Father was also informed of the difficulties caused to the universal Church by the issues raised – in the words of the pope – by the so-called German ‘synodal way’,” the statement read. “François distances himself from this initiative.”
The Vatican has not commented on the conversation and rarely addresses discussions during private papal audiences.
Bishop Stanisław Gądecki publicly expressed his “fraternal concern” about the direction of the “Synodal Way” in a forceful letter to his German counterpart, Bishop Georg Bätzing, in February.
In the nearly 3,000-word letter, the Archbishop questioned whether the initiative was rooted in the Gospel.
The Nordic Catholic bishops have also publicly expressed their concern over the trajectory of the Synodal Path.
The meeting of the President of the Polish Episcopal Conference @Abp_Gadecki with the Holy Father Francis began. The topic of the meeting is the current affairs of the Church in Poland, the war in #Ukraine and aid to refugees. pic.twitter.com/1WPZ8W8fK4
— Church in Poland (@ChurchInPoland) March 28, 2022
Bishop Georg Bätzing said in a March 16 response to Gądecki that he was seeking “a genuine theological exchange” on the draft texts approved at a synodal meeting in February.
Synodal Path participants voted in favor of documents calling for married priests in the Latin Church, the ordination of female priests, same-sex blessings and changes to Catholic teaching on homosexuality.
In her letter to Gądecki, Bätzing defended the initiative, saying she sought to reform the Church in Germany following a devastating abuse crisis.
The main topic of discussion during the 45-minute meeting between Gądecki and the pope was the refugee crisis following Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, nearly 2.3 million people had entered Poland from Ukraine as of March 27, around 60% of the 3.9 million people who have fled Ukraine.
The Archbishop of Poznań in western Poland explained how Polish Catholics are making an unprecedented effort to support refugees and send aid to Ukraine.
The bishops’ conference said Gądecki also described his measures “to intensify joint actions of Christians of different confessions for a just peace.”
The 72-year-old archbishop cited the joint message from the bishops of Ukraine and Poland in January, his pre-invasion appeal to Orthodox and Catholic leaders in Russia and Ukraine, and his letter to the head of the Orthodox Church Russian.
He told the Pope he planned to meet Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world’s Eastern Orthodox Christians, in the Polish capital Warsaw on March 29.
Polish President Andrzej Duda is expected to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican later this week.
“The Holy Father expressed his thanks for all the actions undertaken by the Church in Poland and assured him of his spiritual support,” the Polish bishops’ conference said. “He asked the clergy and seminarians to stay close to the faith of the people of God. He also granted his apostolic blessing.
Pope Francis sent a 19-page letter to German Catholics in June 2019, urging them to focus on evangelism in the face of “the growing erosion and deterioration of the faith”.
His most recent public comments on the Synodal Way date back to September 2021, in an interview with Spanish radio station COPE.
When asked if the initiative had given him any sleepless nights, the pope recalled that he had written a long letter which expressed “all that I feel about the German synod”.
Responding to the interviewer’s comment that the Church had faced similar challenges in the past, he said, “Yeah, but I wouldn’t be too tragic either. There is no ill will among many bishops with whom I have spoken.
“It’s a pastoral desire, but it may not take into account some things that I explain in the letter and which must be taken into account.”
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