The leader of the German bishops' conference has defended a plan by the prelates to offer Communion to divorced Catholics, saying he feels "strengthened" by Pope Francis on the matter despite opposition from the Vatican's highest doctrinal official.
Zollitsch, chairman of the German Episcopal Conference, says that in
reflecting on the opposition to the plan from Archbishop Gerhard Muller,
prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he remembers
that "a prefect is not the pope."
"As President of the Bishops'
Conference I have, in recent years, after our spring and autumn meeting,
traveled to Rome to explain our position," Zollitsch said in a Dec. 29
interview with the German newspaper Die Welt that has been partially
translated by Dutch blogger Mark de Vries.
"If a prefect of one
the various congregations would then oppose this position, I would think
to go slowly," he continued. "A prefect is not the pope. I look for
dialogue, and for me that is the way of collegiality and the dialogue in
Zollitsch, who has led the German bishops since
2008, is referring to a plan by the prelates to allow remarried
Catholics to make a "responsible decision in conscience" to receive
sacraments after consulting their priest.
That plan, first fully
disclosed by the Germans in November, was rebuked by Muller in October
in a 4,600-word article in the Vatican's semi-official newspaper
Defending current practice that divorced
Catholics must seek an official annulment from the church before
remarrying, Muller said the "entire sacramental economy" could not be
swept aside by an "appeal to mercy" on the matter.
official's article seemed to take a different tack than the pope, who
told reporters accompanying him on his plane back from Rio de Janeiro in
July that church law governing marriage annulments also "has to be
reviewed, because ecclesiastical tribunals are not sufficient for this."
to the German newspaper, Zollitsch said Muller could not take
re-examining the church's handling of issues of divorce and remarriage
"off the table."
"How can this topic be off the table?"
Zollitsch, the retired ordinary of the Freiburg im Breisgau asked. "35
to 40 percent of marriages end in divorce these days."