The Vatican has rejected the lay participation in the election of bishops. The papal nuncio in Berlin informed the cathedral chapter of the Archdiocese of Paderborn that it may not involve lay people in its forthcoming election of a new archbishop. This means that there must be no deviation from the election procedure laid down in an international treaty between the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the Holy See, in which only the clergy of the cathedral chapter are allowed to participate.
Previously, the Catholic archdiocese, which represents almost 1.5 million Church members, wanted to implement a core demand of the German reform project Synodal Path by also involving lay people in the process.
According to the dean of the cathedral, Joachim Goebel, the cathedral chapter proposed to the nuncio that the so-called papal secrecy code be extended to the circle of 14 lay delegates. By extending this secrecy, which is supposed to guarantee confidentiality in personnel selection, the body wanted to jointly discuss with the delegates a list of three Vatican approved candidates.
But the election procedure laid down in the concordat stipulates that only the cathedral chapter should receive a list of three proposed candidates from the Vatican and elect the archbishop from that list. “In order to preserve the legitimacy of the election, we therefore have no possibility to continue to involve you in the process of electing the bishop,” Goebel informed the 14 selected laymen in a letter. A corresponding “clear answer from Rome” had been sent via the Pope’s nuncio.
After consideration it had now been decided that a further participation of persons beyond the members of the cathedral chapter was not possible. Previously, the group of persons had already been involved in the preparation of a list with three proposed candidates, which was submitted to the Holy See. This was intended to make the search for suitable bishop candidates as transparent as possible.
Dean Goebel expressed regret at the “no” from Rome. The request for greater participation of lay people in the search for and election of suitable bishops had been presented and explained to the Holy See from very different quarters and at different levels, he said.
Germany’s most wealthy diocese has been vacant since Archbishop Hans-Josef Becker resigned on 1 October last year. The election and appointment of a new archbishop is expected by the end of the summer.
Originally reported by KNA Germany.