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By Dr James Kottoor. Editor, CCV
A Church in dialogue, vertically and horizontally, is what constitutes the essence of a living Church. It becomes a living community only when it dialogues constantly between the so-called leaders and followers. Jesus did it with his discouraged disciples, Pope Francis does it with the entire church and the world in conflict and confusion, a living example!
But what about bishops with their flock, Christians or otherwise in the diocese?
Now think of the scandalous state of affairs all over the world in dioceses everywhere or in countries with well established national conference of bishops? Constantly, daily we hear complaints from the faithful whose concerns are met with mute silence by their bishops. How can this be the Church of Jesus? It can’t. A Church with leaders, bishops. who don’t speak to those below, who don’t even acknowledge letters from below is a MUTE Church. A mute church is dead. It must be buried immediately before it does further damage.
On the road to Emmaus, we see a bunch of dispirited disciples in despair thinking of going back to their known trade of fishing for a living. It is here Jesus intervenes uninvited and strikes a conversation with them to uplift their hopes: just the opposite of what our bishops do today. Even when the faithful want to talk to them or write letters, they never even bother to respond.
In India we have umpteen examples. When we tried to start a vertical dialogue with the Syromalabar hierarchy on many burning issues we failed miserably. We regularly send our publications --- articles and questions requiring immediate answers --- but never receive even an acknowledgement. Is there any semblance between the way Jesus treated his followers and the way present day bishops treat their faithful?
The crying child gets the milk, it is said, but that does not happen in the Catholic Church. No wonder many thinking sections are deserting the Catholic Church and join friendlier charismatic churches. No use calling it “sheep stealing”. They are leaving on their own accord, disgusted and in despair.
In contrast see the example of Pope Francis, “I desire a church that knows how to insert itself into the conversations of people, that knows how to dialogue. It is the church of Emmaus, in which the Lord ‘interviews’ the disciples that are walking discouraged. For me the interview is part of this conversation of the church with the men and women of today.”
“Ask me your questions” is the title of his new book to be released on 21 October. Francis delights in interviews and what he says always at the beginning of any interview is: “I desire a church that knows how to insert itself into the conversations of people.” We will be sending this editorial also to all Indian bishops, of course with no hope of receiving response from any one.
In case anyone responds we shall let you know. May our bishops learn to imitate Jesus and his exemplary servant Francis. If they can’t, let them stop calling themselves, “Vicars of Christ” which is an insult to JESUS!
The parish is the presence of the Church in a given territory, an environment for hearing God’s word, for growth in the Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and celebration. In all its activities the parish encourages and trains its members to be evangelizers. It is a community of communities, a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey, and a centre of constant missionary outreach. We must admit, though, that the call to review and renew our parishes has not yet sufficed to bring them nearer to people, to make them environments of living communion and participation, and to make them completely mission-oriented.
( Evangelii Gaudium, from paragraph 28)
by Martin Pendergast STL, MA
Pope Francis is very fond of referring to “time and space”. In his first Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, he writes,
“Time” has to do with fullness as an expression of the horizon which constantly opens before us, while each individual moment (space) has to do with limitation as an expression of enclosure … Here we see a first principle for progress in building a people: time is greater than space. This principle enables us to work slowly but surely, without being obsessed with immediate results. It helps us patiently to endure difficult and adverse situations, or inevitable changes in our plans. It invites us to accept the tension between fullness and limitation, and to give a priority to time … Giving priority to space means madly attempting to keep everything together in the present, trying to possess all the spaces of power … Giving priority to time means being concerned about initiating processes rather than possessing spaces. What we need, then, is to give priority to actions which generate new processes in society and engage other persons and groups who can develop them to the point where they bear fruit in significant historical events. Without anxiety, but with clear convictions and tenacity.1
The close associate of Pope Francis, Cardinal Walter Kasper commented shrewdly that The Joy of Love
“doesn’t change anything of Church doctrine or canon law - but it changes everything! 2 Let’s apply this, then, to our reflections on the development of LGBT pastoral practice and the development of theological reflection which can come from this. When we stand in the midst of a particular space such as this today, perhaps as passionate subjects of the concerns before us, it is often hard to recognise all that is going on. I’d like to suggest that recognising past developments can help us move into a time-filled future, hence “back to the future”!
It was in 1979 that the Social Welfare Commission of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England & Wales, in response to a request for such guidance from the then National Conference of Priests, published An Introduction to the Pastoral Care of Homosexual People. 3 This could now be seen as an example of the kind of Synodal Church activity envisioned by Pope Francis, all these years later.4 The document was produced following consultation with some key moral theologians at the time, as well as a number of lesbian and gay Catholics. It attempted to respond to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1976 Declaration on Sexual Ethics within the context and reality of the Church in England & Wales and the experience of LGBT Catholics.5 Avoiding a head-on collision with the Vatican, it sought to provide the foundation for intelligent and pragmatic pastoral care within the social, cultural, and legal environments of England and Wales. As such it was acclaimed by English-speaking Catholics across the globe and promoted in the United States and Australia, among other places.
“I desire a church that knows how to insert itself into the conversations of people, that knows how to dialogue. It is the church of Emmaus, in which the Lord ‘interviews’ the disciples that are walking discouraged. For me the interview is part of this conversation of the church with the men and women of today.”
from Adesso fate le vostre domande, published 19 October 2017
on 2 July 2015 by Dave Szollosy to Toronto York Region Labour Council
Laudato Si’ was addressed to the whole world, rather than senior leaders of the Church, because of the enormity of the ecological crisis which looms. The last time this happened was in 1963 when Pope John XXIII wrote “Pacem in Terris”.
Laudato Si’, in which Pope Francis talks about the “Gospel of Creation” (Chapter II) is authoritative teaching added to the body of the Church’s Social Teaching.
Dave's slides speak better than mere words.
“If there is one word that we should never tire of repeating, it is this: dialogue. We are called to promote a culture of dialogue by every possible means and thus to rebuild the fabric of society. The culture of dialogue entails a true apprenticeship and a discipline that enables us to view others as valid dialogue partners, to respect the foreigner, the immigrant and people from different cultures as worthy of being listened to. Today we urgently need to engage all the members of society in building ‘a culture which privileges dialogue as a form of encounter’ and in creating ‘a means for building consensus and agreement while seeking the goal of a just, responsive and inclusive society’. Peace will be lasting in the measure that we arm our children with the weapons of dialogue, that we teach them to fight the good fight of encounter and negotiation. In this way, we will bequeath to them a culture capable of devising strategies of life, not death, and of inclusion, not exclusion.”
[Pope Francis in his Address upon receiving the Charlemagne Prize, May 6, 2016]