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German bishops’ leader wants ‘common line’ on same-sex blessings ahead of synodal way vote

German bishops’ leader wants ‘common line’ on same-sex blessings ahead of synodal way vote

When the German bishops’ conference meets next week, the group’s chairman will aim to see the country’s bishops support the prospect of liturgical blessings for same-sex couples, according to local media.

The German Catholic news agency KNA reported Thursday that Bishop Georg Bätzing will call for “a common line in favor of blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples” at the bishops’ plenary assembly in Dresden from Feb. 27 to March 2.

The bishops’ gathering will take place days before the final scheduled meeting of Germany’s controversial synodal way, a multi-year initiative bringing together bishops and select lay people to discuss far-reaching changes to Church teaching and structures.

Among the documents scheduled for discussion at the March 9-11 synodal assembly is a paper advocating same-sex blessings, in defiance of a Vatican declaration in 2021 that “the Church does not have, and cannot have, the power to bless unions of persons of the same sex.”

The text, “Blessing ceremonies for couples who love each other,” is due to have its second reading at next month’s meeting in Frankfurt, after which it could be formally adopted as a resolution of the synodal way.

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Bishop Bätzing has previously expressed support for same-sex blessings, but has not said publicly that he intends to seek a united front on the issue at the bishops’ Dresden meeting.

A press release announcing the plenary meeting noted that the 65 members of the German bishops’ conference will discuss “the current issues of the synodal way, especially with a view to the fifth and thus last synodal assembly,” but it did not mention any specific topics.

Several German bishops have publicly backed same-sex blessings — including Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück, Bishop Bertram Meier of Augsburg, and Bishop Heinrich Timmerevers of Dresden-Meissen — but others such as Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau have expressed opposition.

If German media reports are accurate, Bishop Bätzing may be seeking to avoid a repeat of the scenes at the last synodal assembly in September, when the bishops unexpectedly failed to pass a text calling for a change in the Church’s approach to sexual ethics, prompting protests.

KNA noted that the March synodal assembly will address a potentially “even more controversial” document on gender issues. The text, “Dealing with gender diversity,” will also have its second reading in March.

The draft document condemns the “wilful negative politicization of intersex and transgender persons in the Church and in society,” and says that “all ordained ministries and pastoral vocations in the Church should be open to the intersex and transgender baptized and confirmed who sense a calling for themselves.”

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