27. July 2019 | Synodal Path Towards a “Priority of Evangelization“ Statutes

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Author: Rainer Maria Card. Woelki and Bishop Dr. Rudolf Voderholzer
Origin: previously unpublished

By Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki und Bishop Dr. Rudolf Voderholzer on August the 19th, 2019 brought to the Permanent Council (“Ständiger Rat“) of the German Bishops' Conference, discussed in detail and declined with 21 to 3 votes (with 3 abstentions).

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Preamble

It is with pain and with shame that the Catholic Church in Germany confesses that it is facing a serious credibility crisis and a deep crisis of faith. The effects of the appalling crimes of sexual abuse have  also revealed the serious gap already present for some time within the Church in questions of faith and the practical experience of life. Many believers have turned away from the Catholic Church bewildered or even embittered. At the same time, the lack of religious knowledge and religious practice of God’s people in our country has reached a dramatic point, as Pope Francis1 has also clearly reminded us of. All of this not only threatens the unity within the Church in Germany, but also its unity with the universal church. This concerns the future of the Catholic Church in our country.

That is why we need to bring about a comprehensive and thoroughgoing spiritual renewal consistent with the universal Church and its faith in the sense of the “Priority of Evangelization” 2 called for by Pope Francis. Strengthened and encouraged by the Pope, the bishops of the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK), together with the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), are confidently turning to God’s people and asking for their help.

The bishops, who according to the Second Vatican Council are leading their dioceses as “vicars and ambassadors of Christ” (LG 27) with “their authority and sacred power“ (LG 27), are therefore along with Pope Francis calling together the representatives of the pilgrim

people of God to follow a “synodal path”: clerics, laity and consecrated Christians. Together with the Pope they are placing their trust in the “Sentire cum ecclesia” of all believers and in the gifts which they have been given by the Spirit of God in establishing the Kingdom of God.

The “Synodal Path” begins on the First Sunday in Advent 2019 and lasts for three years. It concerns itself with two central groups of themes:

1. the scandal relating to sexual abuse

2. the crisis of faith and the answers to this within the meaning of the “Priority of Evangelization”.

According to the request of the bishops, the “Synodal Path” is therefore meant to be an assembly providing space for open discussion. This requires that the current positions in the Church are fairly and equally represented and listened to. The assembly of the “Synodal Path” has the important task of advising the bishops in this time of crisis and preparing proposals for solutions. These proposals will be presented to the bishops within the scope of their competency as the bearers of the Church’s leadership and teaching authority to decide on at the general assembly of the German Bishops’ Conference and for the Pope to officially review as the supreme shepherd and teacher of the universal Church.

 

Article 1 Task

The “Synodal Path” of the Catholic Church as an assembly place for debating and exchanging experience has set itself the task of:

1. Coming to terms with sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and of searching for ways to prevent further crimes. Previous measures will be subjected to a rigorous appraisal.

2. Dealing with the crisis of faith at length, as encouraged by Pope Francis3. This includes an analysis of the reasons for the crisis of faith and an examination of the previous evangelization concepts. Within the scope of the “priority of evangelization“, new approaches in imparting and restoring  the faith will be determined, which on the one hand are rooted in the faith of the universal Church and on the other hand will account for the special circumstances in our country.

 

Article 2 Organs of the “Synodal Path”

The organs of the “Synodal Path“ are:

1. the synodal general assembly,

2. the synodal presidium,

3. the synodal forums.

 

Article 3 The Synodal General Assembly

1. The synodal general assembly of the “Synodal Path” has 175 members:

–   27 diocesan bishops

–   13 auxiliary bishops (elected by the auxiliary bishops in the German Bishops’ Conference)

–   62 members of the Central Committee of German Catholics (elected by the general assembly of the Central Committee of German Catholics)

–   27 secular priests (elected by the priestly council of the respective diocese)

–   12 religious (elected by the representative body of the German religious orders, DOK)

–   10 representatives from the “New Spiritual Communities” 4

–   4 senior pastoral associates (“Pastoralreferenten”, elected from the registered professional association of senior pastoral associates of Germany)

–   4 junior pastoral associates (“Gemeindereferenten”, elected from the professional association of junior pastoral associates)

–   4 deans of the Catholic theological faculties (elected from the executive committee of the registered society of the permanent committee of the Catholic Theology Departments)

–   3 vicar generals (elected by the conference of vicar generals)

–   3 judicial vicars (elected by the conference of judicial vicars)

–   3 seminary rectors (elected by the German seminary rectors’ conference)

–   3 permanent deacons (elected by the association of perpetual deacons of Germany)

2. The 175 members of the synodal general assembly will have the same voting rights.

3. The members of the synodal general assembly will keep their mandate for the duration of the “Synodal Path“. If a member departs from the synodal general assembly before the end of the “Synodal Path“, the committee that assigned the member shall mandate a new member.

4. The members of the synodal general assembly may not act by proxy.

5. They are not bound to any instructions by the committee that delegated them.

 

Article 4 Observers of the Synodal General Assembly

1. The following have been invited to send observers to the synodal general assembly:

a. From the Catholic Church:

–   the papal nuncio

–   1 representative of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

–   1 representative of the papal council for a new evangelization

–   1 representative from the Councils of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE)

–   1 representative each from the bishops’ conferences of the neighboring countries

–   1 representative each from the laity umbrella organizations of the neighboring countries.

These observers will take part in the synodal general assemblies and the synodal forums where they will have advisory rights.

b. From ecumenical Christianity:

–   1 representative of the Orthodox Bishops’ Conference in Germany (OBKD)

–   1 representative of the German Evangelical Church (EKD)

–   1 representative of the Association of Christian Churches in Germany (ACK). These representatives will be taking part in the synodal general assembly as observers.

 

Article 5 Guests

The following groups of members may invite 26 guests through the presidium to the opening and closing sessions of the “Synodal Path”:

–   5 by the German Bishops’ Conference

–   5 by the Central Committee of German Catholics

–   4 by the group of diocesan priests

–   3 by the religious orders

–   2 by the New Spiritual Communities

–   1 by the senior pastoral associates (“Pastoralreferenten”)

–   1 by the junior pastoral associates (“Gemeindereferenten”)

–   1 by the Catholic theology departments

–   1 by the vicar generals

–   1 by the judicial vicars

–   1 by the seminary rectors

–   1 by the permanent deacons.

 

Article 6 Presidium

1. The presidium of the “Synodal Path” has 7 members:

a. As president: the chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference

b. As vice presidents:

–   an archbishop from the German Bishops’ Conference

–   the president of the Central Committee of German Catholics

–   the vice president of the Central Committee of German Catholics.

c.  The following people also belong to the presidium:

–   1 representative of the group of diocesan priests (by election within the group of delegates)

–   1 representative of the religious orders (by election within the group of delegates)

–   1 representative of the New Spiritual Communities (by election within the group of delegates).

2. The chair in the synodal general assembly will be taken by the chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference. He may tem p orari l y del e gate th is chair to a vice president.

3. The presidium will prepare the synodal general assembly and evaluate it afterwards.

4. The presidium will officially invite the guests proposed by the groups pursuant to Article

5. The presidium may expel a participant from the “Synodal Path” for serious disciplinary reasons.

 

Article 7 Synodal Forums

1. In order to prepare submittals on the two key topics “sexual abuse” and the “Priority of Evangelization“  for  the  synodal  general  assembly, the  “Synodal  Path“  as  an  advisory council will establish the following forums:

I.     Synodal forum:         Sexual abuse

II.    Synodal forum:         Delegating laity to serve in evangelization

III.   Synodal forum:        Youth ministry/ Youth cathechesis in parishes, associations  and communities

IV.   Synodal forum:        Marriage ministry and family counseling in the parishes, associations and communities

V.    Synodal forum:         Vocations ministry

VI.   Synodal forum:        Theology and religious instruction in the service of evangelization

VII.  Synodal forum:        Spirituality and evangelization.

2. The delegates of the individual groups of the synodal general assembly are full members of   the    synodal    forums    who    possess     the    same    advisory    and    voting    rights.

 3. Each member of the synodal general assemly may only take part in one synodal forum.

4. The individual groups of delegates are free to choose the specific synodal forums which their members will attend. The presidium will officially confirm these delegations.

5. A synodal forum may not have more than 25 delegates.

6. The following people as members of the synodal forum will only have advisory rights:

–   the Catholic observers pursuant to Article 4

–   the advisors pursuant to Article 8.

7. Each synodal forum will elect a forum leader and an assistant with a simple majority.

8. A submittal prepared by the respective synodal forum for deliberation in the synodal general assembly will be adopted by a three‐fourth majority of the members.

9. The leaders of the synodal forums will submit the results and the prepared submittals to the presidium with the request to have these deliberated in the synodal general assembly.

 

Article 8 Advisors

1. The following groups of the “Synodal Path“ may appoint advisors:

–   7 by the German Bishops’ Conference

–   7 by the Central Committee of German Catholics

–   4 by the group of diocesan priests

–   3 by the religious orders

–   2 by the New Spiritual Communities

–   1 by the senior pastoral associates (“Pastoralreferenten”)

–   1by the junior pastoral associates (“Gemeindereferenten”)

–   1 by the Catholic theology departments

–   1 by the vicar generals

–   1 by the judicial vicars

–   1 by the seminary rectors

–   1 by the permanent deacons.

2. The number of 30 advisors may not be exceeded.

3. The advisors will be officially invited by the presidium.

4. The members may not act by proxy.

5. The advisors may participate in all synodal general assemblies and in one  synodal forum.

6. They have the right to speak and give advice without possessing a voting right.

 

Article 9 Secretariat

1. The secretariat of the “Synodal Path“ consists of:

a. the secretary of the German Bishops’ Conference

b. the secretary general of the Central Committee of German Catholics

c.  additional staff made available by the German Bishops’ Conference and the Cental

Committee of German Catholics.

2. The secretaries of the “Synodal Path” are the secretary of the German Bishops’ Conference und the secretary general of the Central Committee of German Catholics. The secretariat of the “Synodal Path” is led by the secretary of the German Bishops’ Conference and the Central Committee of German Catholics.

3. They will take part in the sessions of the general assembly and one each in a synodal forum with an advisory vote.

4. The secretariat is bound by the instructions of the president and the vice president of the “Synodal Path“.

5. In fulfilling the organizational tasks, the secretariat is at the disposal of the president.

6. In particular the secretariat is responsible for organizing and evaluating the synodal general assemblies and the synodal forums.

7. It is responsible for taking the minutes of the synodal general assembly and the synodal forums.

8. The secretariat will provide each synodal forum with at least one secretary.

 

Article 10 Public Relations

1. The presidium with the cooperation of the secretariat is responsible for effectively promoting a uniform media presence of the “Synodal Path“.

2. The presidium will inform the press about the respective state of affairs and the results of the “Synodal Path“.

3. To avoid an unwarranted influence from being exercised or pressure from being applied on the members of the “Synodal Path“, all members will commit themselves to observe silence towards the outside during the deliberation process.  Participants not abiding by this rule will be excluded from the “Synodal Path” by the presidium.

4.  The press will be admitted to the opening and closing session of the “Synodal Path“.

 

Article 11 Deliberation of the Individual Submittals of the Synodal Forums in the Synodal General Assembly

1. The synodal general assembly will convene approx. every six months to deliberate on the respective working papers of the synodal forums.

2. For this purpose the presidium will set the dates and the duration for the assembly sessions for the synodal general assembly.

3. No later than one month before the respective  synodal general assembly the written submittal of a synodal forum will be sent to all members of the assembly as well as to the Catholic observers and advisors.

4. The deliberation of a proposal submitted to a synodal forum can be prolonged for two synodal general assemblies where proposals for changes and amendments can be made.

5. In a speech delivered to the deliberating synodal general assembly, each full member may respond to a submittal or move for amendments or additions.

6. When put forward by half of the full members, a vote can be taken on the working papers from the synodal forums and on amendments and additions.

 7. When amendments and additional motions are adopted by three‐fourths of the members with voting rights, they will be returned to the respective synodal forum so they can be included.

8. Rejected motions may not be submitted again.

 

Article 12 Decision‐making Procedure of the Synodal General Assembly

1. At the latest in a  third  synodal general assembly convened for this topic, the submittal must be presented to all members of the general assembly with voting rights for a final vote without further discussion.

2. A submittal is officially adopted when three‐fourths of the members with voting rights show their approval in a secret ballot, as otherwise the presidium will determine that  the  German  Bishops’  Conference  has  not  passe d  an  official  vote  on  the deliberated topic of the “Synodal Path”.

3. After the last synodal general assembly of the “Synodal Path” has been held, the voting on the passed resolutions will be made public.

 

Article 13 Deliberation and Decision‐making Procedure of the German Bishops’ Conference

The German Bishops’ Conference commits itself to the following procedures:

1. Deliberation

a. The presidium will submit the official votes of the deliberations of the “Synodal Path” to the bishops of the German Bishops’ Conference as the bearers of the teaching and governing authority in the Church in Germany for it to review and approve.

b. For this purpose the German Bishops’ Conference will convene two general assemblies

to discuss the submission.  Each individual vote on the deliberations of the “Synodal Path” will be discussed separately by the bishops.

c.  Every diocesan bishop may introduce written submissions for changes or amendments during two general assemblies.

d. All bishops must receive these proposals at least one month before the next general assembly.

e. After deliberating the proposal, the two general assemblies will vote on the motion.

f.  If two‐thirds of the bishops (including a two‐third majority of the diocesan bishops) agree,   the   secretariat  of   the   German   Bishops’   Conference   will   include   these submissions for changes into the relevant deliberations of the “Synodal Path“ voted upon.

2. Decision‐making

a. In a third general assembly of the German Bishops’ Conference, the votes on the deliberations  of  the  general  assembly  of  the  “Synodal  Path”  will  be  voted  on individually without further discussion.

b. In order to be adopted, the resolution of deliberations voted on requires a two‐thirds majority of all bishops (including a two‐third majority of the diocesan bishops).

c.  If after three votes no such majority is reached, the vote on that specific deliberation

will be considered as having been rejected.

d. The accepted documents will be submitted to the Apostolic See for an official review and recognition.

e. If bishops have reason to believe that the accepted documents pose a threat to the unity of the universal Church and her common substance of faith, they may express their disagreement to the Apostolic See.

 

Article 14 Implementing the Accepted Documents of the “Synodal Path“

The diocesan bishops will immediately implement the accepted documents in their diocese after they have been officially reviewed and recognized by the Apostolic See.

 

Article 15 Evaluation

Five  years after the  documents  of  the  “Synodal  Path”  were  implemented, the  synodal general assembly is meeting again to evaluate the results.

 

Article 16 Rules of Procedure

The procedural details of the “Synodal Path“ arising from the present statutes are regulated in the Rules of Procedure prepared by the German Bishops’ Conference in cooperation with the Central Committee of German Catholics. Proposals for changing the Rules of Procedure can be submitted at the first synodal general assembly of the “Synodal Path“. To be accepted they must obtain a two‐third majority of all the members, and they may not contradict the statutes.

 

Article 17 Final Provision

This statute, which upon being heard by the Central Committee of the German Catholics was officially reviewed by the Apostolic See on XX/XX/XXXX and enacted by the German Bishops` Conference on XX/XX/XXXX, cannot be changed by the synodal general assembly. It is binding on all members.

 

 ______________________

[1] Cf. Pope Francis, Address during the audience for the German bishops on the occasion of the ad limina apostolorum (11/20/2015), in: L’Osservatore Romano (German), No. 48 from 11/27/2015, p. 6.
[2] Pope Francis, letter “to the pilgrim people of God in Germany” (06/29/2019), in: L’Osservatore Romano (German), No. 28 from 07/12/2019, p. 7‐9, here No. 7.
 [3] Cf. notes 1 and 2.
 [4] The secretariat of the “Synodal Path“ will contact all New Spiritual Communities represented in Germany and ask them to send ten delegates elected in a joint internal clarification process.


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