The expert sees the “Protestantization” of the Catholic Church

DOMRADIO.DE: What is the basic relationship between the synodal path and the evangelical regional church?

Ulrich Ruh (Honorary Professor of the University of Friborg and former editor-in-chief of Herder correspondence): The understanding and practice of church leadership are so different in Protestant and Catholic churches that possible contacts are limited from the outset. Both churches have their own church leadership system, and if I can see it correctly, I want to stick to it. Therefore, ecumenism must continue in other areas.

DOMRADIO.DE: What does this mean now for the synodal path and ecumenism?

rest: Like the Synod of Würzburg, the synodal path is a Catholic affair. It is an attempt to jointly deal with certain crises and problems in the German Church or future problems, if possible, based on the Catholic understanding of the Church, which is also fully enshrined in Vatican II. But this is not a comparison with the Gospel synod.

The term “ecumenism” comes from Greek and literally means “all the inhabited earth”. It is about efforts for the unity of all separated Christians. The ecumenical movement initially came from the Protestant side; The beginning is considered to be the world missionary conference in Edinburgh in 1910, which in 1948 led to the creation of the World Council of Churches (World Council of Churches, WCC) based in Geneva. Today it has 349 Reformed, Anglican and Orthodox churches with 560 million Christians in 110 countries.

DOMRADIO.DE: The Vatican’s statement elicited various reactions. Critics of the synodal path rejoiced. The bodies that sat at the table for years, discussing and formulating texts, were obviously disappointed. How did you read the statement?

rest: This does not seem dramatic to me, insofar as it simply resembles the basic principles of the Catholic understanding of the Church, which, so to speak, do not have to be the basis of business. They remind that there is the supreme authority of the pope and individual bishops for their dioceses. You can’t shake it.

More problematic is that, of course, there is a difficulty in communication between those responsible for the Synodal Way, on the one hand, and the Holy See, on the other. It was not possible to really explain the mutual positions and start discussions about them.

DOMRADIO.DE: The new Evangelical bishop of Baden, Heike Springer, said she would like to nurture an ecumenical community, even if recent events triggered by the Vatican’s statement are a big challenge. What does this statement mean now for ecumenism in Germany? Did you really count on more freedom in cooperation?

rest: No, ecumenism works in many ways without any problems, so to speak. I mean the social sector, ecumenical centers of social assistance. I am thinking of the educational work that is very often carried out by ecumenical educational organizations. I am thinking of collaborating in the diaconal field of charity. This also works when the leadership structures of the two churches remain different.

I was a bit troubled that the reform processes in both churches were being carried out and experimented, so to speak, against each other. You could probably have done better by contacting us and providing the information in a timely manner.

DOMRADIO.DE: There has always been a fear of Protestantization of the Catholic Church, also in a synodal way. Is it justified from your point of view?

rest: Yes, the Catholic Church, so to speak, is secretly becoming a bit more “Protestant” because of the vile reality. For example, if there are practically no more priests on the Catholic side, which is now exaggerated, but not entirely wrong, the whole dispute over the church office, its profile, and its powers will eventually become obsolete.

Likewise, if in the Catholic Church there will be fewer and fewer Eucharistic celebrations as an early form of Sunday worship, then the question of communion will be at least more lax. As a result, the Catholic Church is also becoming a bit more “Protestant” as it is now embarking on a synodal path at the world level.

The interview was conducted by Michelle Olion.

The term “synodal path” refers to the Greek word synod. Literally means “companion on the way”; in ecclesiastical use a synod means an assembly of bishops or clergy and laity.

In the reform dialogue along the synodal road, the German Catholic bishops and the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) want to discuss the future of church life in Germany. One goal is to regain the trust that was lost after the fraud scandal.

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