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Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German bishops' conferenceYouTube screenshot

LIMBURG, Germany (LifeSiteNews) — A diocese in Germany led by the head of the nation’s bishops’ conference ordained zero priests for the first time in history in 2023.

The Diocese of Limburg in western Germany is led by Bishop Georg Bätzing, who has spearheaded the “Synodal Way” of the German bishops’ conference, and is known for his heretical stances on moral issues. He has called for a change to unchangeable Church teaching on homosexuality and female deacons, and has supported optional clerical celibacy.

Bätzing lamented the lack of ordinations in a September Die Zeit interview, saying, “What worries me is that almost nobody wants to become a priest, because there is no Catholic Church without priests.”

His diocese now embodies the “rock bottom” of a global trend of low ordinations that has hit Germany particularly hard. In 2021, 62 men were ordained to the priesthood in the country, and that number dipped to 45 ordinations in 2022. Ordination trends in Europe show that these are extraordinarily historic lows, and France’s plummeting ordination numbers are not far behind.

The traditional priestly Society of St. Pius X (SSPX)’s news outlet has remarked that Bätzing’s “astonishment and concern seem rather unreal,” because the present “revolutionary” climate in the Church in Germany cannot assure the recruitment of seminarians. 

FSSPX News noted that the German Synodal Path has “denied several points of the Faith” and aims to impose “structures opposed to the divine constitution of the Church.”

The traditional Catholic outlet further pointed to a statement by Dr. Christof May, the Bätzing-appointed rector of the diocesan seminary, which appears to undermine the importance of the ordained priesthood.

“In my attentive interaction with people, I would like to promote the baptismal priestly vocation of the individual… to be a companion of the pilgrim people of God with the strengthening of the voluntary baptismal priesthood,” May said.

This attitude was echoed by German theology professor Thomas Laubach, who told the newspaper Sonntag in September, “The first Christians celebrated religious services in private in homes… They did not need a priest or an ecclesial community for their way of believing. Believers organize themselves.”

“Then why would the Church need priests?” commented FSSPX News. “The desertion of seminaries can be easily explained, and the synodal revolution will only make things worse.”