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The German bishops' national news agency, Katholische Nachrichten-Agentu (KNA), is opening up an English-language section called "KNA International." It will consist of KNA articles, translated from the original German by a team from Deutsche Presse-Agentur in Hamburg.
KNA's main shareholder is the Association of the dioceses of Germany, Verband der Diözesen Deutschlands, which has its headquarters in Bonn.
The purpose of the new English section, according to some, is to provide to the English-speaking world a more positive view of the German bishops' "synodal path" — a plan for changing the Church which some fear could create a full-blown schism in the Church in Germany.
KNA's Jan. 7 press release speaks of "intense interest within the Catholic Church around the world in the so-called synodal path, the project for reforms in the Catholic Church in Germany starting at the end of January with a three-day synodal plenary assembly in Frankfurt."
Ludwig Ring-Eifel, KNA's editor-in-chief, stated, "Until now, coverage of the debates underway in the Catholic Church in Germany by English-language media, blogs and social media has often been polemical and rarely objective."
The synodal path — full name "Synodal Way of the Catholic Church in Germany" — is an initiative among Germany's bishops to come together for a "binding" national synod that will discuss and re-examine Church discipline and even Christian morality.
Church Militant reported in September that draft plans for the synod include addressing four themes: "authority and separation of powers," "sexual morality," "the priestly mode of life" and "women at the service of ecclesiastical offices."
KNA's new English-language section will consist of KNA articles translated from the German. Responsible for the work of translating the articles is a team from Deutsche Presse-Agentur in Hamburg.
The synodal path has even sparked concern from the Vatican. The German scheme revolves around a two-year, 200-person synod featuring bishops and laity — including 70 people from the left-wing Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), a leading proponent of female ordination and changing Church teaching on homosexuality.
In September, Cdl. Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops, wrote a letter to the German Episcopal Conference warning against the plans for the synod as "not ecclesiologically valid."
Accompanying Ouellet's letter was a legal assessment of the synod's statutes, penned by Abp. Filippo Iannone, head of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.
Archbishop Iannone's analysis pointed to ways in which the basic structure of the synod is at odds with the Code of Canon Law. He also warned, "It is easy to see that these themes do not only affect the Church in Germany but the universal Church and — with few exceptions — cannot be the object of the deliberations or decisions of a particular Church without contravening what is expressed by the Holy Father in his letter."
After Cdl. Ouellet's letter, Germany's Cdl. Reinhard Marx met with Cdl. Ouellet and Pope Francis in Rome to discuss the synodal path. According to Cdl. Marx, they allowed the synod to proceed as planned.
"There is no stop sign," Cdl. Marx remarked at the time. "I cannot see that the synodal path now somehow would be endangered."
With the synodal path moving along as planned, fears remain that it will put the German hierarchy in schism with the Universal Church.