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Why Cdl. Muller warned that German involvement in Amazon Synod was ‘wrecking ball’ for Church

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Cardinal Gerhard Muller

July 30, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – In a recent July 26 statement, Cardinal Gerhard Müller pointed out the close link between the upcoming Amazon Synod and the German “synodal path” as it is being currently organized in Germany.

He stated that “the synodal process in the realm of the German Bishops' Conference is now being linked with the Synod for the Amazon, and this is done for ecclesial-political reasons and as a leverage for the restructuring of the Universal Church. Additionally, at both events the protagonists are nearly identical, and they are even financially and organizationally connected by way of the relief agencies of the German Bishops' Conference."

"It will not be easy to control this wrecking ball," the Cardinal added.  

The German bishops' "relief agencies" referred to by Cardinal Müller are Adveniat and Misereor. The two agencies published the German translation of the working document of the upcoming October 6-27  Pan-Amazon Synod on July 17 and revealed their  involvement in the preparatory work of this synod. The directors general of both agencies – Father Pirmin Spiegel and Father Michael Heinz – signed the introduction to the document.

Adveniat is the German bishops’ relief agency for Latin America and Misereor the bishops’ overseas aid and development agency. Both are financially involved in the Amazon region.

The translation of the Vatican document for the Amazon Synod was undertaken by the two German agencies that are each headed by a German bishop. Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck (Essen) is responsible for Adveniat, and Bishop Stephan Burger (Freiburg) for Misereor. The document translated into German is, however, copyrighted by the Vatican and appears on Adveniat's website. Usually such a document would be published by the Vatican, not by German episcopal agencies. This unusual situation highlights the new push for a decentralized Church, which is so essential for today's Church, according to Fathers Spiegel and Heinz.

At the same time, the Amazon Synod also stands for an internal change into a Church “which leaves the comfort zones and goes to the peripheries, there, where people do not matter and have no rights,” the two directors write in their introduction for the German version of the synod document. Instead of Roman centralism, “decentralization is the topic,” so that local churches “can make their own decisions about things that affect them directly.” For the authors, the Amazon Synod is about “implementing  Evangelii Gaudium (2013).” Evangelii Gaudium is Pope Francis' first apostolic exhortation, in which he presented the program of his papacy.

As the authors point out, “the working document [of the Amazon Synod] has the handwriting of the ecclesial Amazon-network, Repam (Red Eclesial Panamazónica), to which Adveniat and Misereor belong since its foundation in 2014.” They also highlight the fact that Pope Francis names Cardinal Claudio Hummes as the general relator of the upcoming Amazon Synod.

“The fact that the Pope named the President of Repam, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, as the general relator of the synod, and he, together with several other Repam representatives, is a member of the synodal preparatory council, shows how much Francis appreciates the Amazon-network,” Spiegel and Heinz comment.

They both hope that the Amazon Synod will lead to a “profound paradigm shift” in the Catholic Church, also with regard to the priesthood in general, and with an “official ministry” for women.

The two directors of the German relief agencies both draw a link between the Amazon Synod and the German “synodal path” which is being prepared and which aims at discussing celibacy, the Church's moral teaching, and the role of women within the Church. At the Synod, they state, “we can enter onto paths of new thinking, on which our questions in Europe also can be discussed.” 

And as a confirmation of this claim, Bishop Franz-Josef Bode – the German bishops' vice president – announced already in April of 2018 that, should the Amazon Synod agree on permitting married priests, the Germans, too, would ask for them for their own dioceses. One source close to the situation told LifeSiteNews that Bode is determined to act as soon as the decisions are made at the Amazon Synod in Rome this fall.

Another confirmation of the close link between the Amazon Synod and the German “synodal path” can be seen in the fact that both German episcopal relief agencies (Misereor and Adveniat) have already now organized a conference in Würzburg for November 6-8, 2019, that will discuss the conclusions which the German bishops should draw from the October Amazon Synod. Among the speakers will be three members of the Amazon Synod's pre-synodal council, most prominently Bishop Erwin Kräutler who has been called by different sources the main author of the synod's working document.

In light of the fact that Misereor and Adveniat are members of Repam and since they have published the Synod's working document in German, LifeSiteNews reached out to both agencies, asking them about their financial and organizational involvement with Repam and the upcoming Amazon Synod. 

In the following, LifeSite shall now present the answers which we have received from Adveniat and Misereor. We shall add our own further research in parentheses:

Adveniat

In 2018, Adveniat received just under $47 million in Euro donations. The Catholic Church in Germany asks on Christmas (24 and 25 December) in all churches to give donations to Adveniat.

The press speaker of Adveniat, Carolin Kronenburg told LifeSiteNews:

  • In the fiscal year of 2018, Adveniat funded 9 projects with a total of 272,000 Euro “for the preparation of the Amazon Synod in the territory and for Repam activities.” Additional funds were given in that year after the closing of the fiscal year at the end of September 2018. 

The following events are either pre-synodal meetings for the development of the Instrumentum Laboris (working document) of the Amazon Synod, conferences, Repam meetings and conferences, episcopal assemblies and travels in the region:

  • Franz Hellinge, Adveniat's expert for Ecuador, participated at a preparatory meeting of Repam in Ecuador.
  • Thomas Wieland, leader of the projects of Adveniat, went to a similar event in Peru.
  • Klemens Paffhausen – Adveniat's expert for Brazil – went two times to Brazil, to episcopal meetings in Manaus and Belem.
  • Father Michael Heinz, Adveniat's director general, went to Manaus, Brazil, dealing with an episcopal assembly for the whole of the Amazon. 
  • Thomas Wieland went to a conference in Washington, D.C. (According to LifeSite's research, that must have been the March 2019 conference at Georgetown University that was organized by Repam, with Cardinals Claudio Hummes, Pedro Barreto, and Reinhard Marx speaking.)
  • Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck, the bishop responsible for Adveniat, attended a Rome Conference. (No further information was given, but he definitely attended the private and unannounced pre-synodal June 2019 meeting in Rome, together with Cardinal Walter Kasper, Cardinal Baldisseri, and Cardinal Hummes. That meeting called for married priests and the female diaconate.)
  • Thomas Wieland repeatedly worked with the Repam steering committee, once in Bogotá, once in Sao Paulo, and then also “virtually.”
  • In the field of international organizations and Repam, Thomas Jung and Thomas Wieland went to Madrid, Spain; Adveniat co-hosted an event in Berlin, Germany with Father Michael Heinz, Stephan Jentgens, Martina Fornet Ponse, Carmen Martínez, Stephan Neumann, Thomas Wieland, and, as a volunteer, Stephanie Hoppe. There were also additionally several virtual meetings with Martina Fornet Ponse, Anna Barrera, Thomas Wieland, and Stephan Neuman being involved.
  • Visits in the territories and in the Repam Office: Prelate Klaschka, Father Michael Heinz and a delegation of the episcopal commission to Ecuador; a trip of journalists to Ecuador and Brazil; a trip to the Amazon region in Venezuela by Reiner Wilhelm, Stephan Neumann, and Thomas Wieland.
  • Further visits to the Amazon region, also in light of the Amazon Synod: Columbia: Monika Lauer Perez, who is the Adventiat expert for Columbia; Peru: Thomas Wieland; Venezuela: Reiner Wilhelm (Venezuela expert); Brazil: Brazil expert (Klemens Paffhausen); Bolivia: Dr. Anna Barrera, the former Adveniat expert for Bolivia; Ecuador: Franz Hellinge (Adveniat expert for Ecuador).
  • “Numerous conversations in the Adveniat office and during travels, as well as via Skype are of course not listed here,” is the final comment by Carolin Kronenburg.

Further research on the part of LifeSite found:

  • that Adveniat “very much” financially supported Bishop Erwin Kräutler – a key author of the Synod's working document and the director of Repam Brazil – when he was the director of the Indigenous Missionary Council of the Brazilian Bishops' Conference, CIMI (his last term was from 2006-2015). CIMI's former secretary and close collaborator of Kräutler, Father Paolo Suess, also attended the recent secret pre-synodal meeting in Rome. He had been taken by Bishop Kräutler to his April 4, 2014 meeting with the Pope, and he is said to have helped Kräutler write the Synod's working document. Adveniat points out that CIMI “works for many years for the rights of the indigenous.” Bishop Kräutler himself also had been invited by the German Bishops' Conference to participate at their 2016 Spring Assembly; it is not clear what the purpose of his presence – and that of two other Brazilian bishops – was. But it is not unlikely that the Amazon region was part of his discussions with the German bishops then.
  • For Christmas 2019, all Catholic churches in Germany will have a collection in support of Adveniat, for the people in Latin America and in the Caribbean. The fundraising campaign will be supported by Cardinal Pedro Barreto, the Vice President of Repam. Adveniat posted on its website a film about Barreto, presenting him and his work and showing how closely he is working with the German relief agencies. The film also states that “in Rome, he [Barreta] prepares, together with other members of Repam, the Amazon Synod.”
  • Barreto also participated at a conference in Berlin, in September of 2018, on the topic of the Amazon region and its protection. The conference was organized by Repam, Adveniat, and Misereor.
  • Cardinal Claudio Hummes, the President of Repam, together with Adveniat and Misereor, presented last year in September to the German government a Repam report on the violation of human rights in the Amazon region. Hummes is, together with Barreto and Kräutler, a member of the pre-synodal council of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon.
  • Also in September of 2018, Adveniat, together with Repam and Misereor and two other organizations, hosted a “Lunch debate & Press Conference" titled "Amazonia’s indigenous peoples: How can the EU promote their rights?” in Brussels. 
  • In 2016, Adveniat donated $3.5 million Euro to the Amazon region and Repam: They write: “The transnational ecclesial network Repam is a partner of Adveniat in defending the rights of the indigenous peoples.” They add the information that “Adveniat supported with more than $3.2 million Euro projects in the Amazon region.”
  • Adveniat, together with Repam, organized in 2018 for Friederike Becht, a well-known German actress, a trip to the Amazon region, as a sort of promotion of the awareness of the problems in the region. They made a film about her trip.
  • On its website, Adveniat has a whole entry on its collaboration with Repam for the Amazon.

Misereor

Misereor received $232 million Euro donations and public funds in 2018. The Catholic Church in Germany runs a national collection for Misereor in all Catholic churches during Lent.

Misereor's press speaker, Ralph Allgaier, told LifeSiteNews that the following different initiatives have been undertaken by Misereor with reference to the upcoming Amazon Synod:

  • participated at a September 17-19, 2018 international conference of Repam in Berlin;
  • Director General Father Pirmin Spiegel participated at the Repam conference in Rome (February 25-27, 2019) and in Washington (March 17-19, 2019)
  • According to Mr. Allgaier, “Misereor has not received any requests on the part of the Synod for financial support.”
  • Markus Büker – Misereor's theological expert – participated at a preparatory meeting of Amerindia and Repam, April 4-6, 2019, in Bogotá. From this event then stems the publication: Amerindia (Ed.), Hacia el Sinodo Panamazonico. Deafios y aportes desde America Latina y el Caribe. The article can be download on the Webseite of Amerindia. (LifeSiteNews' research shows that Amerindia has, on its website, a blog of the well-known representative of Liberation theology, Leonardo Boff.) 
  • Misereor is currently funding 85 projects in the Amazon region, with $18.5 million Euro. “We support the Repam office in Quito (the seat of the general secretary) with 100,000 Euro,” explains Allgaier. “The money is meant for projects in the field of human rights and alternative economical systems.”

Further research from LifeSite found:

  • Miseroeor co-funded a booklet — resulting from the above-mentioned April conference in Bogota — by Repam and Amerindia which calls for women deacons.
  • Repam participated at the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of Misereor in Berlin.
  • In 2017, Misereor and Adveniat called, together with Repam's Vice President then-Archbishop Padro Barreto, upon the German parliamentarians to work for the protection of the rights of the indigenous peoples in the Amazon region. The German government was asked to recognize Repam as the speaker of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon region.
  • In 2018, Misereor published a film about the publication of the report on the human rights of the indigenous peoples as it has been submitted to the German government by Misereor, Adveniat, and Repam.
  • The former chief executive director of Misereor (until 2012), Professor Josef Sayer, participated at the unannounced and private pre-synodal meeting that was organized by Repam and took place in June, 2019 near Rome. In 2015, Sayer had taken part, as a representative of Misereor, together with Cardinal Hummes, in a protest against so-called climate change.

Based on the above evidence, it is clear that both Misereor and Adveniat have invested money and organizational talent and other expertise in and for the benefit of the Amazon region, the organization Repam, and, finally for the upcoming Amazon Synod. 

The final outcome of the Amazon Synod, as well as the prompt implementation of certain decisions in Germany, might well confirm Cardinal Müller's above-quoted statement that “the synodal process in the realm of the German Bishops' Conference is now being linked with the Synod for the Amazon, and this is done for ecclesial-political reasons and as a leverage for the restructuring of the Universal Church.”

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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.