- Reform, rebuild and renew
On Thursday Pope Francis will have completed a year as Bishop of Rome, a year in which he has begun to transform the Church. But be in no doubt, argues our Rome correspondent, of just how wide and how deep go his aims for change
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".....we must remain vigilant and, above all aware....that if the Pope is not helped by the bishops, priests and people, he will not be able to bring about any reform."
In the midst of what seems like near univeral euphoria amongst Christian people at the words and behaviour of Pope Francis, this caveat from Brother Enzo Bianchi, Prior of the Bose Ecumenical Monastery near Turin, (The Tablet, 14 December), is sobering indeed.
It raises important questions. Apart from generally agreeing that the Pope is a very wonderful man who exhibits what many of us regard as Christ-like characteristics, what have we done? What have our priests done? Most significantly, in the context of reform, what have our bishops done? We are aware, for example, that Bishop Egan of Portsmouth has announced in his diocese a "Year of Faith in Action", encouraging his flock to "...transcend (their) comfort zones in order to serve those on the margins" (The Tablet, 30th November).
It is almost certain that other bishops will have made similar commitments but these ideas need to be shared, and resulting action followed up. We need to learn from each other. These are exciting and stimulating times for Catholics. They are times for change, times for reform, times for action. Unfortunately we have for so long been burdened by bureaucratic strictures that many of us have become moribund. Our aging and declining parish communities have come to seem an inevitable consequence of the largely secular society we inhabit. The laicization of so many of our younger priests is a cause of great sadness but what do we know of the reasons for this trend? Are we expecting too much of our priests? Is the Holy Spirit telling us that we have got something very wrong? Is there information we should be passing back to the Pope? I wonder if it would be possible for The Tablet to enquire of initiatives that are being taken both in our own diocese and in other parts of the world to seek to implement the "good news" that Holy Father Francis is proclaiming so coherently in his actions.
William P Walker, Stockport, Greater Manchester