European Catholics debate final outcome of Synod on Synodality assembly in Prague

The European Continental Assembly, a gathering of 200 delegates from across the European Catholic Church, discussed and debated the contents of a final document on Thursday, February 9th. This document will serve as a key reference point for the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican later this year. During the final day of public speeches in Prague, the delegates were asked if the assembly’s final document was faithful to the discussions held over the previous three days.

Several bishops and delegates voiced their concerns and objections to the contents of the document. Bishop Oleksandr Yazlovetskiy, a Latin auxiliary bishop of Kyiv, took issue with the repeated use of the term LGBTQ in the document, suggesting that it would be better to cover the topic within a single paragraph. Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki criticized the use of the terms “conservative and liberal” when describing the Church, suggesting that it would be clearer to specify whether a given statement agrees or disagrees with the Gospel.

Bishop Georg Bätzing, the president of the German bishops’ conference, pointed out that the document claimed that the Church was in a “new Pentecost,” which he disputed. Archbishop Felix Gmür of Basel, Switzerland, noted that certain parts of the text were too vague and needed to be more specific, especially in highlighting existing tensions.

Delegates made several suggestions for improving the text, including Bishop Brian McGee, who said that the Scottish delegation was surprised by how the document “presented the labeling or characterizing of various groups in a single sentence multiple times” and suggested a more sensitive approach. Archbishop Eamon Martin expressed his concern that the “voice of the poor” was not prominent enough in the document, despite the contributions from Catholic charities such as Caritas International.

Bishop Aliaksandr Yasheuskiy, auxiliary of Minsk, Belarus, recommended that the text should clarify that the comments on the ordination of married men and women did not reflect the common opinion of the assembly. Several women also addressed the assembly, including Anna Diouf, a representative from the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe, who asked how the text could emphasize the important role of women in the Church without mentioning the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The draft document, which has not been made public yet, covers various themes such as secularization, clerical abuse, tensions around the liturgy, and ecumenical dialogue. It also mentions the divide in Europe over the ordination of women to the priesthood, with some expressing fear that the Synod on Synodality could result in a “watering down” of Catholic doctrine.

The European bishops will meet privately for three days in Prague starting on February 10th for the second half of the assembly. During this time, they will review the document, listen to speeches by the presidents of each country’s bishops’ conference, and produce their own second final document for the synod’s continental process. The Prague assembly is one of seven synod continental assemblies occurring worldwide in February and March. Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich assured the delegates that their comments and suggestions from the morning’s debate would be taken into account in the formation of the final draft.

Article by Prague Forum

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