Maike Hickson

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Pope Francis with Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops conference.

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Pope Francis sends German bishops 30-page letter, comments on their ‘synodal path’

Maike Hickson Maike Hickson Follow Maike

June 26, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The radio station of the Archdiocese of Cologne, Domradio, is reporting today that the German bishops have just received – per hand delivery from Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, the papal nuncio – a letter from Pope Francis. In it, the Pope makes comments on the recently initiated German “synodal path” regarding topics such as the Church's teaching on sexuality, celibacy, and the priesthood. 

The letter came to the German bishops while they were gathered for their standing council meeting in Berlin, where the main bishops of the 27 German dioceses met in a confidential manner. Mathias Kopp, the speaker of the German Bishops' Conference, confirmed that "there exists a letter from Pope Francis which will be published on 29 June 2019, at noon."

According to Domradio, “it seems that Pope Francis did not cancel the whole 'synodal path', but that he pointed out that some landmarks are to be taken into account.”

The recommendations of the Pope seem to be – according to Ingo Brüggenjürgen, Domradio's editor-in-chief – “that one should seek unity with the Universal Church and that one should not leave the 'Catholic path', in my own words.”

LifeSiteNews spoke with a well-informed source about this letter which is soon to be published, and the source, who wished to remain anonymous, stated that “the letter is written in a vague and ambiguous manner, which leaves open different interpretations.” The letter is about 30 pages long.

LifeSiteNews will update this report as more information will be forthcoming.

Another source who wishes to remain anonymous told LifeSiteNews that this new papal letter is a "free pass for Cardinal Marx in order to start his synodal path."

But it is worthwhile to remember in this context that last year, Pope Francis, with the help of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), also intervened in Germany with regard to the German bishops' guidelines concerning Communion for Protestant spouses of Catholics. 

First, the CDF cautioned the German bishops not yet to publish these guidelines due to the need of some further doctrinal discussion of the matter, but then Cardinal Reinhard Marx was able to receive, in a personal conversation with the Pope in Rome, the papal approval after all, thus bypassing any further doctrinal clarifications. The episcopal guidelines were published by the German Bishops' Conference in June of last year.

According to Domradio, the German bishops were mostly surprised about this papal letter.

The German bishops discussed during their meeting in Berlin the plans for this “synodal path” that is to be “binding” and that is to deal with “clerical power,” the “priestly form of living,” and “sexuality.” Possibly, the bishops will add another theme, that of the role of women in the Church.

It remains to be seen how the synodal discussions in Germany will flow together with the ones taking place over the upcoming Amazon Synod, since the recently published working document of the Amazon Synod also wishes to discuss the priesthood and the role of women in the Amazon region.

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Maike Hickson

Dr. Maike Hickson was born and raised in Germany. She holds a PhD from the University of Hannover, Germany, after having written in Switzerland her doctoral dissertation on the history of Swiss intellectuals before and during World War II. She now lives in the U.S. and is married to Dr. Robert Hickson, and they have been blessed with two beautiful children. She is a happy housewife who likes to write articles when time permits.

Dr. Hickson published in 2014 a Festschrift, a collection of some thirty essays written by thoughtful authors in honor of her husband upon his 70th birthday, which is entitled A Catholic Witness in Our Time.

Hickson has closely followed the papacy of Pope Francis and the developments in the Catholic Church in Germany, and she has been writing articles on religion and politics for U.S. and European publications and websites such as LifeSiteNews, OnePeterFive, The Wanderer, Rorate Caeli, Catholicism.org, Catholic Family News, Christian Order, Notizie Pro-Vita, Corrispondenza Romana, Katholisches.info, Der Dreizehnte,  Zeit-Fragen, and Westfalen-Blatt.