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German bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck.

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ROME, July 19, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — The chief executives of two German Church aid agencies, which have been funding the Amazon Synod preparations, have said the meeting will be “an unmistakable signal of departure” for the Church and a means of decentralizing Church governance away from Rome.

Much of the agency funding for the synod has passed through a Church network called REPAM set up specifically to prepare for the Synod, whose Brazilian director is Austrian Bishop Erwin Kräutler of the Territorial Prelature of Xingu in Brazil. Bishop Kräutler is advocating ordination of married men and women deacons at the synod, and has expressed support for women priests in the past.

According to a July 19 report by Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register, Father Michael Heinz and Pirmin Spiegel of Adveniat and Misereor said the upcoming meeting “will show that change is possible in politics, the economy, technology and, last but not least, in the Church.”

Adveniat and Misereor are respectively the German bishops’ relief agency for Latin America and the bishops’ overseas aid and development agency.

In a July 17 joint foreword to the German translation of the synod’s working document (instrumentum laboris), Spiegel and Heinz said the synod is “about responding to the challenges of the times by listening to the Spirit who demands the lives of men, peoples and creation as a whole be defended.”

They also said the working document calls for “a profound change in the Church” and that “what will be discussed in Rome will have significance for the Church worldwide.”

The two chief executives also said the document advocates decentralisation of Church governance “in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity” and consistent with Pope Francis’s 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium

Adveniat’s president is Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen who said earlier this year that the synod will lead the Church to a “point of no return,” and, thereafter, “nothing will be the same as it was.” 

The working document for the Oct. 6-27 synod, whose theme is “Amazonia: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology,” has sparked controversy with German Cardinals Gerhard Müller and Walter Brandmüller denouncing it as “heretical” and one of them saying it represents an “apostasy.”

Particular areas of controversy in the synod working document include a proposal to ordain married men, a push to establish an “official ministry” for women, and a description of the Amazon as a “source of God’s revelation.” Cardinal Gerhard Müller, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has called the latter a “false teaching.”

Misereor and Adveniat helped found REPAM, which stands for the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network. Set up in 2014, three years ahead of Pope Francis’s announcement of the Synod, its official aim has been to “bring to the world’s attention the fragile situation of indigenous people in the Amazon and the critical importance of the Amazon biome to the planet — our common home.”

According to Cardinal Müller, the body was “tasked with the preparation” of the working document, adding it “was founded for that very reason in 2014.” The Vatican also signalled in comments to the Register that REPAM’s purpose was to help draft both the preparatory and working documents for the October synod. 

REPAM and key figures from the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Synod were behind the private pre-synod “study-meeting” held in Rome last month, whose final report included a push for married priests and a reconsideration of the female diaconate. Cardinal Walter Kasper, Bishop Kräutler, and Bishop Overbeck also participated in the private meeting. 

Cardinal Müller has described REPAM as a “closed group” made up of “absolutely like-minded people, as can easily be gleaned from the list of participants at pre-synodal meetings in Washington and Rome, and it includes a disproportionately large number of mostly German-speaking Europeans.”

Edward Pentin reports that Adveniat has supported several REPAM projects to the tune of $307,000 last year alone and the agency has an annual income of $56 million. He also reports a Misereor spokesman saying that although it is not funding the Synod, it has helped the funding of projects from “partner organizations” of REPAM. Last year, the agency had a total income of €232 million ($260 million), Pentin reported. 

The Register contacted Cardinal Claudio Hummes, general relator of the Synod and REPAM’s president, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, and Caritas Internationalis about sources of funding for the synod and REPAM, but none of them responded.