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Munich, Germany, May 15, 2019 / 02:15 pm (CNA).- At least one bishop has offered his support for a week-long “Church strike” organized by German Catholic women, during which participants organize their own prayer services rather than attending Mass.
Calling itself “Mary 2.0” the initiative issued an open letter to Pope Francis, which called for the ordination of women, and claimed “men of the Church only tolerate one woman in their midst: Mary.”
“We want to take Mary off her pedestal and into our midst, as a sister facing our direction,” the letter said.
The website features paintings of Mary and other women with their mouths taped over.
The campaign has met with considerable criticism from German Catholics, some of when even launched of a “Maria 1.0” website, which says that the Mother of God “does not require any updates and should not be instrumentalized.”
But several Church representatives have gone public in support of “Mary 2.0.”
The official news portal of the Catholic Church in Germany provided broad coverage of the call for a strike, taking place May 11-18. It also reported that Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück supports the campaign.
Bode, who leads the Commission on Women in the German bishops’ conference, told press agency EPD that while he regrets the strikes will not attend Mass, he believes it important to acknowledge the impatience of “many women in the Catholic Church” and their feelings of “deep hurt” for not being adequately appreciated for their contribution.
Bode said that while he does not believe women will be ordained priests in the near future, the Church could soon ordain them as deacons.
Participants in the “Church strike” are refusing to step into a church from the week of May 11 to 18 and will not attend Mass. Instead, services such as a “Liturgy of the Word” are held throughout the week. According to the campaign’s Facebook page, these services have garnered between 18 and 155 registered attendees.
Referencing the abuse crisis as a reason for the urgent need for change, the group’s letter to Pope Francis makes a range of demands, from the abolition of “mandatory celibacy” to an “updating” of the Church’s teaching on sexual morality and the ordination of women to “all ministries” – including the orders of deacon, priest and bishop.
In an interview published on the official website of the Archdiocese of Paderborn, vicar general Fr. Alfons Hardt praised the organizers of the campaign as women who are “concerned about the sustainability of their church.”
Hardt said “this is a motivation that I value highly,” even though the campaign might also create division.
Whether women can be ordained to the priesthood is an open question, Hardt asserted, saying, “on the one hand we have a definitive decision by Pope John Paul II on the question of the ordination of women and on the other hand we still do not have a final answer. At least in Germany this question is discussed very openly, especially among theologians. It is clear that there is a need for a global ecclesial consensus for this which currently is not the case.”
Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have all taught that the sacrament of ordination is reserved to men by divine institution, and that, while the role of female “deacons” in the early Church can be studied, such study does not imply that women can be ordained sacramentally.
Despite its demands and – initially – very small numbers, “Mary 2.0” has not only received support from several German prelates but also sustained coverage in Germany, where many Catholics are turning their back on a church in crisis in the wake of the abuse scandals and other controversies, with a recent prognosis predicting the number of Catholics in the country will halve by 2060, and Church attendance in constant decline, hovering at the 10 percent mark on average according to most recent official figure.
In March, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising announced that the church in Germany would embark on a “binding synodal process” to tackle what he described as the three key issues arising from the clerical abuse crisis: priestly celibacy, the Church’s teaching on sexual morality, and a reduction of clerical power.
More recently, another German bishop, Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen, voiced similar expectations for the “Pan-Amazonian Synod” in October.
Overbeck, who also leads the influential Catholic Latin America relief organization Adveniat, predicted that “nothing will be as it was before” after that synod.
Speaking to journalists on May 2, he said that the role of women in the Church would be reconsidered at the meeting, and so would sexual morality, the role of the priesthood and the overall hierarchical structure of the Church. The synod will take place from October 6 to 27.
This story was originally published by CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.