Austria’s contribution to the World Synod presented

Similar issues as in Germany: The “national synodal synodal process” of the Catholic Church in Austria sees a need to catch up with equality, the promotion of women in church leadership positions and opportunities for lay people to speak. The report, which the Austrian bishops’ conference sent to Rome in mid-August, was presented to the public in Vienna on Wednesday.

The Austria report, which summarizes the nationwide statements on the worldwide synodal process, states that these ecclesiastical concerns can be “taken up and implemented locally”. This also applies to the participation of more lay people in the service, the effort to use a more understandable language in liturgy and preaching, priestly dealings with people who are excluded from church life in various ways, dealing with abuse or promoting faith formation.

Other concerns must be decided at higher ecclesiastical levels, it said, such as women’s access to ordained ministry, mandatory celibacy as a condition for admission to ordained ministry, or adjustment of doctrines, such as on sexual morality. According to the newspaper, two groups of people were particularly often singled out: women and priests. In fact, many strongly desire the ordination of women, at least in the form of diaconate.

Difficult relationship between priests and believers

The investigations also revealed that the relationship between priests and believers was difficult in many places. On the one hand, there is criticism of the distance between the initiated and lay people. At the same time, the challenges for priests are mentioned: the lack of priests and the increasing loss of volunteers led to exhaustion; priests also often see their office in speech.

Another observation: many groups felt they were not heard enough. It particularly affects young people, whose subjects hardly receive attention. The question was often asked how people who are on the fringes of the church and do not mix could be heard.

Many contributors hope for a church “that approaches people, lets everyone experience God’s mercy and takes care of their needs, with a clear opportunity for the poor and disadvantaged”. Caritas in the form of the church’s social mission takes many forms in the articles: combating poverty, helping refugees, supporting the elderly, sick or needy or helping the homeless. This commitment must be strengthened; because Caritas must not only be understood as a service, but also as an opportunity to bring the church out to the people.

Dialogue with society is made more difficult according to the finding that church attitudes are becoming less and less understood. This applies especially to the church’s teaching on sexual morality. However, some voices also warned against adopting worldly moral concepts; they feared an erosion of church doctrine through the synodal process.

Team of authors without bishops

The synthesis was edited by a team of authors that did not include a bishop. However, the bishops have supplemented the document from the Catholics in Austria with an accompanying statement signed by the president of the bishops’ conference, Archbishop Franz Lackner (Salzburg) and Bishop Josef Marketz (Gurk-Klagenfurt).

It says that the Church is in the perception of no fewer people in imbalance. You need resistance; not in the sense of preventing or would overcome, but in the sense of support. “We bishops gratefully acknowledge this positive intent in this report,” Lackner and Marketz said.

In terms of content, the study revealed much that needed to be preserved and much that was innovative. In order to continue the history of salvation, the church needs both. Therefore, “we bishops support the work that is done on the common path, even if it sometimes means that we stand against it”. (KNA)

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