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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - As Pope Francis remains silent on the potential schism rocking the Catholic Church, German bishops have begun to implement the resolutions on blessings for same-sex unions and women preachers passed by the Synodal Way.
"I can encourage all couples in our diocese who cannot or do not want to get married in a church, but still want their relationship to be blessed by the church, to contact us," Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, deputy chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, announced on Tuesday.
In a statement on the Osnabrück diocesan website, Bode, a member of the presidium of the Synodal Way, confirmed that some parishes in his diocese had already begun to offer "corresponding blessing ceremonies."
"Queer couples or couples who have remarried and divorced could contact the local pastoral workers, but otherwise also contact the diocese directly," Bode noted.
The "practical" and "concrete consequences" of the Synodal Way's resolutions would now also enable laymen and laywomen to administer baptisms and to preach the homily during Holy Mass, the bishop declared.
"The resolutions of the last synodal assemblies, which were supported by an overwhelming majority of bishops and lay people, give us the tailwind that we need for concrete changes in our diocese," Bode explained.
"Encouraged by various statements by Pope Francis, we have already prepared some things well over the past few years with the broad participation of our diocese committees," he added, noting that the diocese was also reconsidering the question of compulsory clerical celibacy.
The diocese will create teams of full-time and volunteer laywomen and laymen to gain practical experience in administering infant baptism and preach regularly in Catholic services in the future, the bishop observed.
Earlier, Bp. Georg Bätzing, head of the German Bishops' Conference, told German TV station ZDF that the German bishops "will implement" liturgies for blessing same-sex couples — regardless of directives from the Vatican.
"Does this mean that you are now effectively defying the pope?" the ZDF interviewer asked.
"First of all, we have to say that the practice of blessing exists, and we want to bring it to the light. And that means that we bishops take a position on it and say: 'It is good that we are doing this,'" Bätzing replied, sidestepping the question.
"What is good in a relationship between two people in a partnership can also receive God's blessing, that is only logical," he added, alluding to a March 2021 directive from the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith which said that God "does not and cannot bless sin."
"Are you sure the pope will agree to this?" Bätzing was asked. "We will implement it here," the bishop defiantly declared.
"We have worked very intensively on this. We have worked in four forums with dozens of people from the Synodal Way, with experts, and have created solid texts in which the arguments that lead to our decisions are presented in great detail," he explained.
"We have heard today from the Belgian Church that this has already been implemented there and that it has even been agreed upon with Rome," Bätzing told ZDF.
In a historic first, in September 2022, Flemish bishops approved a liturgical rite to be used for blessing the union of same-sex couples, Church Militant reported.
The bishops' quoted Pope Francis' controversial apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia by stating that "every human being, regardless of his sexual orientation, must be respected in his dignity and treated with respect."
"Pope Francis expressly asks 'these families to offer respectful pastoral guidance so that their homosexual members can enjoy the necessary support to understand and fully accomplish the will of God in their lives' (AL, §250)," the statement maintained.
Responding to questions from reporters, the Vatican secretary of state Cdl. Pietro Parolin said there must be "a dialogue with Rome as well as with the rest of the Churches in the world" to "clarify the decisions to be taken."
"Even if (the Germans) say that all this takes place in the current canon law, we will need to see and discuss this," Parolin remarked.
"It seems to me that the Holy See has already expressed itself very clearly on this matter with the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith's document," the cardinal said. "This is Rome's position," he added.
So far, there has been no condemnation or official statement from Rome on the resolutions passed by the German Synodal Way.
No disciplinary sanctions were imposed on scores of priests who conducted two seasons of same-sex blessings in over 110 churches in Germany in May 2021 and May 2022.