Bishops in Germany have defended a national reform process and denied that their efforts are leading to a rift with the Vatican in the aftermath of sexual abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church in recent years.
Felix Genn, bishop of the German city of Muenster, said the church needed to develop a more balanced relationship between priests and their congregants, as well as with women.
“We must and want to follow the tortuous path of accountability, at first glance taking into account the victims but also the church structures that allowed and covered up these actions,” Genn told the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Saturday.
“We need a new division of power – concretely a new relationship between so-called lays and priests, between full-time and volunteers, between men and women in the Catholic Church,” he added.
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Genn’s comments come as the German Bishops’ Conference prepares for a general meeting in the coming week. The Vatican in Rome has warned the German bishops against going it alone.
German bishops, following revelations of the sexual abuse of children by priests, in the spring announced a reform process called the “Synodal Path” that would examine topics including power structures, sexual morality, celibacy and role of women.
The Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) – a lay body made up of representatives of Catholic organizations – is also taking part in the process.
Cardinal Reinhard Marz, who heads the Bishops’ Conference, held talks with Pope Francis on Friday in Rome and asked for understanding. In a statement, he said the two had held a “constructive dialogue” that would flow into the meeting’s consultations next week