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"Can the church become more people friendly?"

Ignatius Desmond Sullivan (Oxford, England)


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Preparing for Vatican III

Religious people often find it difficult to admit mistakes. The holier they are, or the higher they are in the church the more difficult it seems. They really think it would be harmful to the church!

For example, when Pope Gregory XIII (1582) wanted to update the Julian Calendar on scientific grounds, his officials said he could not because that would mean the church had been wrong for hundreds of years! Such an abuse of authority, as "creeping infallibility", has often been invoked by Popes but also by the lower orders - minor officials in Rome, bishops and even parish priests and laity.

Pope John Paul II put an end to this in his brave encyclical Ut Unum Sint and later in his public act of penance in St Peters in the holy year and in his prayers for forgiveness in Jerusalem. It will of course take years for such shifts in theology to become realities in pastoral life at parish level. It may be longer for such lessons to be digested into the structures of the institutional church and the Roman Curia.

A tentative agenda, however, can emerge for the preparation for the Third Vatican Council.

1. A clarification of the role and autonomy of the "local church" as in paragraph 23 of Lumen Gentium.
2. An elaboration of the "primacy of the pastoral" in the administration of the Curia, both local and Roman.
3. Conceding to the local church the same autonomy as in The Eastern Churches in Orientalium Ecclesiarum no.5
4. To affirm with vigour that the sole purpose of the church is to win people to a personal love of Christ, away from the over centralised authority, avoiding the jargon of religion, shedding the encrustacian of ancient human traditions and customs, and speaking to each in his own language.
5. Renew the liturgy according local customs, and redesign the sacraments to be truly a meeting with Christ.
6. To proclaim and practice the glory of the diversity of God's creation in the diversity as the full meaning of Catholicity.