Participants attend the fourth synodal assembly of Germany's Synodal Path in Frankfurt.
CNS photo/Julia Steinbrecht, KNA
While a majority (92.8 per cent) of the German bishops are in favour of establishing a nationwide permanent synodal commission” – an advisory body where the bishops and the laity can together continue to  discuss further steps of church reform – the manner in which the 8-10 September fourth plenary of the Synodal Way” was conducted has come in for sharp criticism.
He would continue to seek consensus, but it was difficult to imagine that the bishops would find a common way forward, Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau told the Passauer Bistumsblatt on 16 September. On certain issues that were being discussed in the Synodal Way” the bishops were more or less irreconcilable”. The fourth synodal way plenary had been more about political processes, tactics and a search for alliances than about listening to one another”, he said.
Bishop Franz Josef Overbeck of Essen also declared his reservations about the process. With the rejection of the fundamental text on sexual morality (which includes reforming the Churchs teaching on birth control, homosexuality and sexual identity) yet more trust in the German bishops has been lost,” Bishop Overbeck said in a statement published by his diocese. Many Catholics now doubted whether the Church wanted to or was willing to change, he said.
Steffen Zimmermann, Berlin editor of the bishopsconferences official website, katholisch.de who attended the synodal way plenary as an observer, was sharply critical in a different way. Of course one can find the bishops’ ‘Noto the text on sexual morality annoying, but the overreaction of the group in favour of church reform had little to do with synodal or democratic principles. I personally found the reactions to the bishopsrejection of the text very one-sided and unfair,” he said. “The way these bishops were treated did not do credit to the church reform procedure or to the culture of the discussions at the plenary.” Some delegates burst into tears and stormed out after that vote failed to carry.
Bishop Bertram Meier of Augsburg admitted in a press statement that he had found the plenary cantankerous”, but at least “we remained together and didnt go our separate ways”, he said. The German synodal way suggestions would flow into the 2023 worldwide Synodal Process, he stated, where they would – if need be – be corrected, Meier said.
Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg was less sanguine. Synodality must be based on the Churchs teaching, the Magisterium, and not on an ever-changing subject of consultation”, Bishop Voderholzer told the Tagespost.
In the press conference on his return flight from Kazakhstan, Pope Francis was asked how worried he was by the “severe losses of believers” in Churches in Europe and in particular in Germany. 
“What you have to do, first of all, is to be consistent with your faith,” Francis replied. “If you are a bishop or a priest who is not consistent, young people catch a whiff – and then goodbye! When a Church … thinks more about money, development, pastoral plans and not pastoral care, that doesn’t attract people … I think the shepherds have to go forward, but if they have lost the smell of the sheep and the sheep have lost the smell of the shepherds, you don’t go forward.”
Catholic news The Catholic Church in Germany Synodal Way
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