Sunday, September 13, 2015
Bishop Bode about his expectations for the family Synod in Rome
"Openly discuss various Positions"
The Osnabrück Bishop Franz-Josef Bode takes part in early October in the World Synod of Bishops in Rome on the subject of the family. In an interview with the Catholic news agency, he commented on his expectations for this meeting.
KNA: Bishop Bode, what do you expect in terms of atmosphere at the Synod of Bishops?
Bode: There will be a special atmosphere. Because a synod was already held last year in preparation. And because it has first given out surveys among the faithful about the issues at stake. These opinions and directions have evolved. Therefore, this Synod is eagerly awaited. This is also true for myself.
KNA: A major issue will be the divorced and remarried. You have advocated, under certain conditions to allow those who sufferer this situation back to receiving Holy Communion. Which conditions?
Bode: Marriage is indissoluble according to the will of Jesus. With a sacramental marriage, something is concluded that never dissolves easily. Given the weakness of human life, this relationship can still break and fail. People can come into a new relationship that is mature, but sacramentally not of the same value as the first. The question is whether this new reality, which might better equate to the covenant of God with men than the first, always must lead to the exclusion from confession and communion. We should include the question of what circumstances have led to the breakdown of the marriage. So far, we have treated everyone in the same way, whether someone carries guilt or not. In addition, this is tied to a question of the understanding of the Eucharist. Is it really the only representation of a perfect unity in faith and Church or does it also help for lives that have their wounds? And that people cannot express themselves in confession and obtain forgiveness, I find almost more difficult than the question of Communion.
KNA: A large theme will also be dealing with homosexuals and an ecclesial appreciation of their enduring partnerships. Can you describe a solution for this?
Bode: The Catechism makes clear that we do not discriminate against these people. As with others who live together before marriage, it is also a matter of recognizing their strengths and not only their weaknesses and shortcomings. Civil unions are not to be equated to marriage. Marriage is the relationship of husband and wife which can produce children for us. The Church can help the civil unions in discussions and in the positive support and assist them. However, it is not able to give anything which is tantamount to marriage. But with prayer and a private form of blessing, you will be able to accompany their way.
KNA: Where loyalty and reliability are lived, may there be a recognition from the Church?
Bode: A recognition of what is lived there. A sacrament is not. But when I basically have the openness not to demand everything or nothing, then the same is true for homosexuality. Whereby that is dependent of course on cultural and political contexts. Even the last Synod has highlighted the differences in the universal Church. Maybe because you have to go different ways.
KNA: What opportunities do you see for uniform solutions in the Catholic Church around the world?
Bode: The opportunity there is always because we believe working together on the one Christ, because the basis is the Scripture and because we have a tradition of the Church as a whole. That was always the advantage of the Church that it is a community across borders, beyond cultures. In the basic conception of marriage and family, there is however unanimity. With regard to homosexual ways of life, you will need to assume a greater diversity in the cultures.
KNA: What will change in pastoral care after the Synod?
Bode: A synod is not a Council, which adopts resolutions, which are then pastorally implemented. The Synod makes recommendations to the Pope, who authored a directional work from it. In it, he can of course also set new pastoral priorities. In our recommendations we can keep the doors open for pastoral solutions locally. It is conceivable to give the priests their own powers, so that in pastoral work they can find responsible solutions for the divorced and remarried. There have already been for many years in the dioceses suggestions on how parish priests should deal with the matter. I hope that this can be done in a theologically founded direct manner. We have almost always only in view what dogma tells pastoral work, but rarely what pastoral work tells dogma. Here that's a dialogue, an innermost connection.
KNA: In Rome, conservative and reform-minded bishops meet together. Will they not hold back behind closed doors?
Bode: I hope for a climate in which the different positions can be openly expressed. And not just in the three-minute statement at the beginning of the Synod, but also in small groups with each other. This must be done to retain the factual nature. Elements of prayer, deliberation, of retreat and re-gathering are important to. Above all, it takes time. I do not know how far we go in three weeks.
KNA: How important is the participation of non-clerics?
Bode: We cannot discuss as clerics and men alone, the questions of family. Yes. It is absolutely necessary that married couples are present. In addition, a very honest statement of the position comes out of the opinion survey. In addition, the bishops have spoken beforehand with consultants and spouses, especially with women.
KNA: How important is to you as a celibate man's own family?
Bode: I have four older sisters. All four are married and two children. And who now already eight grandchildren. As uncle and great-uncle, I have a good normal family life. Unfortunately, two of my sisters have already passed away, so I also know this situation of severe illness and widowhood. In my circle of friends, I have friends whose marriages have failed and have made new good beginnings. Also, I meet regularly with the six couples of a family circle of the parish in which I was a parish priest. I am very involved in my family.