Mons. Stefan Oster, Bishop of Passau Photo: InfoCatólica

The German Robert Barron: Monsignor Stefan Oster Says that Divisions in the German Church Are a “Disaster for the Faithful”

In an interview broadcast by the Polish Catholic Digital Gosc Niedzielny, Monsignor Oster, a firm opponent of the controversial Synodal Way, launched his harshest criticism to date on the state of the Catholic Church in his own country.

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(ZENIT News – Porta Luz / Passau, 05.12.2023).- In an interview with Tomasz Kycia, journalist of German radio stations Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg and COSMO, Monsignor Stefan Oster, Bishop of Passau, did not hesitate to identify profound theological disagreements as the source of division within the Catholic Church in Germany. “It’s a tragedy that we, the German Bishops, have such little agreement on key topics of anthropology and ecclesiology,” said Monsignor Oster, in an interview broadcast  on November 30, 2023.

The divided Episcopate “is obviously a disaster for the faithful in Germany,” stressed the 58-year-old Monsignor, who was chosen by Pope Francis to participate in the recent Assembly of the Synod on Synodality, after he was not chosen as Delegate by the German Episcopal Conference (DBK).

Managing the Crisis

The divisions in the German Episcopate came to light recently when Monsignor Oster and three other bishops — Cardinal Rainer Woelki of Cologne, Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg and Bishop Gregor Hanke of Eichstatt–, blocked the funds that the reformists wished to control of the “Synodale Weg”; as well as the boycotting now of Monsignor Oster in a meeting on November 10-11 of a Leadership Committee of the Synodal Way.

The above Committee is being created with the intention to establish a Permanent Synodal Council of laymen and Bishops to govern the Church in Germany, which was explicitly forbidden in a letter of January 2023 of top Vatican officials to the DBK and approved specifically by Pope Francis.

Although Monsignor Oster’s decision not to participate highlighted the divisions in Germany, he explained that his election was “geared precisely to maintain unity with Rome, adding that “I was faced with a choice: “to highlight clearly the existing polarization between the Bishops, or to highlight my path of unity with the universal Church,” said the Bavarian Bishop, whose diocese is in the south-eastern corner of Germany and has the highest rate of Catholics per capita of Germany.

A Synodal Solution

The increase of tensions between the leaders of the German Synodal Way and other Catholic leaders, especially Pope Francis, has led many to express their concern about the possibility of a schism.

However, in a recent interview, Monsignor Oster did not lose hope that a solution could be found. He suggested that they could “come out of the dead end” between Germany and the universal Church if the German Synodal Way “could submit itself now” and be integrated with the Vatican’s Synod on Synodality, with a clear acceptance of its content and decisions.”

“This would require great humility and perhaps, it might also mean withdrawing the decisions already taken in the Synodal Way,” such as the blessing of the bond of same-sex couples, he indicated.


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