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German bishops elect new conference leader amid reform talks

BERLIN (AP) — The German Bishops' Conference elected Bishop Georg Baetzing of Limburg as its new leader on Tuesday. Fellow Roman Catholic bishops picked the 58-year-old Baetzing to follow Cardinal Reinhard Marx as conference chairman. Marx, 66, said last month that he would not seek a second term and wanted younger bishops to lead.

As chairman, Baetzing will oversee bishops from Germany's 27 Catholic dioceses for the next six years. Baetzing became bishop of the Limburg diocese in 2016. He has been in charge of the German Bishops' Conference commission for inter-religious dialogue.

Germany's most influential Catholic lay group, the Central Committee of German Catholics, lauded Baetzing as a churchman who is willing to unite different factions within the church. The bishops' conference and the lay group are leading a period of reform-oriented discussions in the the German Catholic Church, the two-year “synodal path” initiative.

The discussion topics include the Catholic Church's clergy sexual abuse crisis, the position of women in the church, the priesthood and sexual morality.

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