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Rainer Maria Cardinal WoelkiDW News / Youtube screen grab

February 3, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki has lamented that all his worries about the synodal path in Germany have come true, warning that he believes “many arguments put forward at the first synodal assembly are incompatible with the faith and teaching of the universal Church.”

He also pointed out, “My great concern that, due to the way this event was conceived and constituted, a Protestant church parliament is being implemented here, so to speak, has proved to be justified.”

The first assembly of the synodal path, which officially started at the end of 2019, took place from January 30 through February 1. Following the proceedings, Woelki gave multiple interviews, in each expressing his dissatisfaction with what happened at the first assembly in Frankfurt.

Woelki, who serves as the archbishop of Cologne, criticized many of the 230 members of the assembly, voicing his conviction that many of their arguments are actually “incompatible with the faith and teaching of the universal Church.”

In an interview published by, the news website of the German bishops, Cardinal Woelki said, “My impression is that much of what belongs to the theological body of knowledge is no longer shared by many of us here.”

Instead, the archbishop went on, some believe “that you can shape the Church in a completely new and different way. The view to the tradition of the Church no longer plays a major role.”

The ecclesiological foundations of the Church seem no longer relevant, Woelki said, continuing, “Basically, a rather Protestant understanding of the Church has become apparent.” 

This, according to the cardinal, makes it difficult still to recognize what constitutes the Church.

Speaking to Domradio, the news outlet associated with the archdiocese of Cologne, Woelki spelled out how an incorrect understanding of what the Church is, was already on display at the opening Mass on Thursday.

Bishops and laypeople had walked in together in procession, indicating “that everybody here is equal.” According to the archbishop of Cologne, this has “actually nothing to do with what the Catholic Church is and holds.”

Woelki said, “The hierarchical constitution of the Church, as it is also once again documented in the Second Vatican Council and expressed in ‘Lumen Gentium,’ is called into question.”

It would be wrong, according to the archbishop of Cologne, to simply think of the Church “in modern, democratic, republican categories.” The Church is based on a foundation “which we cannot create ourselves,” added Woelki, but which is “given to us by Christ.”

Many small signs – for instance the seating arrangement, which was alphabetical and not hierarchical – had questioned the “organic togetherness of consecrated and non-consecrated persons and the diversity of tasks expressed therein.” The archbishop considered this “to be extremely worrying.”

2,000 years after Christ, Woelki cautioned, “we are not those who are implementing the Church anew or reinventing her, but we are in a long tradition. Faith, as it was constituted in the councils and also from its apostolic origins, cannot be torn down or reinvented here in any way.”

He called the members of the assembly of the synodal path to focus first on understanding what the faith and the doctrine of the Church actually is, and only then reflect on questions that are raised by today’s situation in Germany.

In remarks to Catholic newspaper Die Tagespost, the cardinal pointed out the difficult situation brought about by the fact that many people no longer know what the Church is. He explained, “The church is also a human society, but it has a divine dimension. Both dimensions work together. The church is hierarchically endowed.”

While a number of participants and observers had praised that at the assembly of the synodal path clergy and laypeople were discussing “on equal footing,” Woelki disputed that claim. 

“As bishop, I have a different mission, flowing from my consecration, a different authority which places me in the tradition of the apostles and assigns to me in the Church the responsibility for the office of governing and sanctifying,” he said.

The archbishop emphasized, “Just because many today have difficulties with the faith of the Church or do not understand it, we cannot say that faith and doctrine are wrong or no longer relevant to a modern, contemporary, democratic society.”

On the contrary, Woelki demanded a rediscovering of the treasures of the faith, followed by translating them into our time. 

“There is a great responsibility on us. I would like to face this responsibility,” the cardinal added.

Using the example of the Church’s teaching on morality, which is often presented by the media as a morality of prohibitions, Cardinal Woelki had a completely different take. “When I love someone, some things are forbidden to me. However, that’s not a morality of prohibitions, but a commandment of love.”

He continued, “From the way in which I build and live my relationship with Christ, a morality arises from which some things are excluded.”

Asked what he had learned from the first assembly, the cardinal said it is important to talk about power in the Church. He noticed that power was exercised at the assembly, too, explaining, “not everybody who wanted to was given the right to speak.” Additionally, not all motions to speak that beforehand had been submitted in writing were given due consideration.

Referring to feedback from young Catholics, Woelki said they had stressed how important Mass is for them in their daily lives. Because of that, they had “sorely missed” that there was no Mass scheduled for Saturday morning.

Even though dozens of bishops and other clergy were present, the official schedule listed only a “liturgy of the word” (“Wortgottesfeier”). In Germany, many churches celebrate a “liturgy of the word,” presided by a layperson, sometimes even on Sundays, even though such liturgies do not enable the faithful to fulfill their Sunday obligation.