VATICAN CITY — As reports emerged recently of Pope Francis’ “dramatic concern” about the state of the Catholic Church in Germany and news that he received Germany’s apostolic nuncio for private talks on Monday, the country’s bishops pressed ahead on their goal of shared Communion with Protestants despite strong objections from the Vatican.
The leaders of both churches said their intercommunion proposal “still needs to be clarified” even though the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said last month that differences in the Catholic and Protestant understanding of the Eucharist were “still so grave” that they ruled out attendance at each other’s services.
The increasing divergence between Rome and the German bishops, amplified by the ongoing Synodal Path — a two-year reform program of German bishops and laity that questions some of the Church’s established teaching on faith and morals — demonstrates the real dangers of the Church in Germany one day breaking with Rome.
In September, a leading German prelate raised the possibility of schism for the first time.
Cardinal Rainer Woelki of Cologne warned that the “worst outcome would be if the Synodal Path leads to schism” and that the “worst thing” would be if a “German national church were to be created here.”
Such a prospect is something Pope Francis appears increasingly concerned about, despite his own efforts to grant more autonomy to bishops’ conferences on doctrinal matters which critics have warned has sowed the seeds of a kind of “doctrinal anarchy” in the Church.
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