German dioceses are moving forward with plans to establish governing boards that include lay leadership, despite Vatican warnings against such plans.
Newsroom (20/05/2023 19:55, Gaudium Press) Two German dioceses are forging ahead with lay participation in Church governance, despite warnings from the Vatican. The dioceses have begun to put reforms proposed by the German synodal path initiative into practice, especially that of involving the laity in governance.
In the Diocese of Osnabrück, which has been vacant since the Pope accepted Bishop Franz-Josef Bode’s resignation in March, talks have begun between the nine priest members of the cathedral chapter and nine lay Catholics.
The Osnabrück diocese has thereby adopted a model developed by the neighbouring Archdiocese of Paderborn. The diocesan Catholic Council, or “Katholikenrat”, which represents lay Catholics in the diocese, selected nine lay members keeping strictly to a generation- and gender-equitable method.
This 18-member group will now discuss the profile of the future bishop and exchange opinions on possible named persons. These talks will continue until the summer holidays and are strictly confidential.
On the basis of the talks the cathedral chapter will then draw up a list of names which the cathedral chapter will then send to the Vatican via the apostolic nuncio in Berlin, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic.
The Vatican will then choose three names – the so-called terna – from the list and the Osnabrück chapter alone and not the nine members of the laity, will choose one of them as future bishop.
According to the concordat between Lower Saxony, the state in which the diocese of Osnabrück lies, and the Holy See, only the chapter may choose the name of a future bishop from the terna.
The neighbouring diocese of Paderborn applied for an expansion of the number of persons allowed to select a bishop from the terna so that lay members would be included, but the wish was turned down by the nuncio in Berlin.
The Bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, Gebhard Fürst, has meanwhile announced that his diocese will stick to the “Rottenburg Model” which foresees lay participation in all diocesan bodies.
“Our ‘Rottenburg Model’ is not up for discussion. Strong lay participation in all diocesan bodies is a great advantage for local dioceses and a clear consequence of the Second Vatican Council”, he said. That was why the Vatican’s prohibitions had so surprised him and many of his fellow bishops in Germany, he said.
Joint leadership of a diocese by priests and lay Catholics was “perfectly in line with canon law”, he pointed out.
The German synodal path initiative for Church reform favoured joint leadership and was, therefore, the “right response to the great challenges facing the Church today”.
- Raju Hasmukh with files from The Tablet UK