ROME, Italy, February 20, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Francis said he liked Cardinal Gerhard Müller’s commentary on the apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia, which was published several months after the conclusion of the Amazon Synod in the Vatican last fall.
The Holy Father had sent a handwritten letter to the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), thanking him for “the document on the post-synodal exhortation ‘Querida Amazonia,’ which I liked,” reported Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
In his commentary, Cardinal Müller expressed his hope that Querida Amazonia could have a reconciling effect, “reducing internal Church factions, ideological fixations and the danger of inner emigration or open resistance.”
In that context, Müller continued, it is to be hoped “that the interpreters of this document will refrain from unnecessary harshness and take up the concerns of the Holy Father like true sons and daughters of the Church in a spirit of agreement and collaboration.”
Among other aspects, he especially praised the part of the apostolic exhortation where Pope Francis speaks of Jesus Christ appearing “as the Spouse of the community that celebrates the Eucharist through the figure of a man who presides as a sign of the one Priest. This dialogue between the Spouse and his Bride, which arises in adoration and sanctifies the community, should not trap us in partial conceptions of power in the Church. The Lord chose to reveal his power and his love through two human faces: the face of his divine Son made man and the face of a creature, a woman, Mary.”
For Müller, this states clearly, in the sense of the defined doctrine of faith, “that the priest is sacramentally conformed to Christ, the head of the Church, by virtue of ordination. Therefore, only a man can symbolically and sacramentally represent Christ as the Bridegroom of the Church.”
Francis’ and Müller’s new appreciation of one another comes after both had been critical of each other in the past.
The German cardinal found fault with Pope Francis in 2017 for the way in which he was dismissed from his position as prefect of the CDF.
“In an interview with German newspaper Passauer Neue Presse, the cardinal said that on the last working day of his five-year term as a prefect of the Congregation for the faith, Pope Francis informed him ‘within a minute’ of the decision not to extend his mandate,” the Catholic Herald reported.
Müller said that Pope Francis “did not give a reason,” adding, “Just as he gave no reason for dismissing three highly competent members of the CDF a few months earlier.”
“I cannot accept this way of doing things. As a bishop, you cannot treat people in this way,” Müller explained. “I have said this before – the Church’s social teaching must also be applied to the way employees are treated here in the Vatican.”
Müller had also criticized the use of Pachamama during religious ceremonies in the Vatican as part of the Amazon Synod.
“This whole sad story will give support to many aggressive, anti-Catholic sects in South America and elsewhere who in their polemics maintain that Catholics are idol worshipers and that the Pope who they obey is the Antichrist,” Müller said.
“Hundreds of thousands of Catholics in the Amazon region and wherever the videos of this Roman spectacle have been seen will leave the Church in protest. Did anyone think about these consequences or did they just assume this was collateral damage?”
However, Müller later showed his appreciation for the line drawn in the apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia between “worship of the Creator and worship of the created as if it were God.”
In 2019, on his way to Mozambique, Francis was asked about Müller and his interventions that seem to have a “critical view of the current pontificate.”
“He has good intentions, he is a good man. The Pope likes him. But he is like a child,” Pope Francis replied.
Now, it looks “like olive branches have been exchanged,” Fr. John Zuhlsdorf commented on his popular blog.
In the article published by Corriere della Sera, Müller is quoted as saying the progressive parts of the German Church gave “millions for propaganda to end priestly celibacy.”
Müller said that their goal was not simply to have married priests in the Amazon region, but to push for the end of celibacy in Europe, as well. “Fortunately, the Pope blocked the maneuver,” he stated.
“Those forty or so Indians with feathers on their heads, colored faces, and idols of Mother Earth, received by the Pope, did not seem to me to come from the Amazon forest. I have the impression that they were brought to Italy from Brasilia, from São Paulo, and hosted in Rome in five-star hotels, paid for by the German bishops,” Müller added.
Other members of the clergy have been less optimistic than Cardinal Müller about Querida Amazonia.
Bishop Athanasius Schneider, while praising the Pope’s decision not to weaken the laws of celibacy or open the door to female “deacons,” criticized the “lamentable doctrinal ambiguities and errors” of the exhortation.
Schneider called “highly problematic” the document’s “implicit endorsement of a pantheistic and pagan spirituality.” The bishop also pointed to the exhortation’s assertion that Christians may “take up an indigenous symbol in some way, without necessarily considering it as idolatry” and its designation of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the “mother of all creatures.”
Another of the document’s “main erroneous tendencies” is the “promotion of naturalism” and “slight echoes of pantheism and a hidden Pelagianism,” Schneider added.
Italian theologian Msgr. Nicola Bux explained in comments to LifeSiteNews that he sees in the new exhortation a lack of concentration on God Himself and the salvation of souls. Instead, he identified in the document a danger of allowing the Church to slip into “pantheism without noticing it.”