Irish Catholics seeking reform of their church are among 100 groups around the world who have jointly written to Pope Francis asking him to make major changes to the way the faith is governed.
Their letter — which includes a request to allow women and married priests — was delivered to Francis and eight cardinals he selected to advise him on possible reforms ahead of their three-day think-in which begins in Rome today.
Among the signatories to the letter are the Association of Catholic Priests and two lay organisations — the Association of Catholics in Ireland and We Are Church Ireland.
They make several key main requests, urging the Pope to deal swiftly and definitively with the ongoing child sex abuse scandals, to allow women and married men become priests, to open top administrative positions within the Vatican to lay Catholics, and to allow open dialogue and dissent within the clergy and faithful.
This last request was included at the urging of the Irish groups who added the demand that priests, including several Irish clergy, who have been censored for liberal views, have all imposed sanctions removed.
Brendan Butler of We Are Church Ireland was one of 12 international representatives who drafted the letter, a process which began by teleconference early last month.
“It went back and forth to all the organisations to get different views.
“It has gone right around the world. That was the amazing thing about it — the same issues came up everywhere,” he said.
The group of eight selected by Francis to come up with proposals for change are Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Governorate of Vatican City State, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa of Chile, Cardinal Oswald Gracias of India, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Germany, Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of the Congo, Cardinal Seán O’Malley of the US, Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, and Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano who will be their secretary.
Mr Butler said the letter had been sent to the Pope and hand-delivered to each of the cardinals last week and that Cardinal Maradiaga had promised to personally give it to Pope Francis.
“Ideally we would get a meeting with Pope Francis to discuss these issues with him. We’re not naive enough to think anything is going to change immediately, but this time last year when Benedict was Pope, there was no hope of anything like this happening and now there does seem to be a move towards reform and we want to be part of that.”
*The full text of the letter can be read, and electronically signed, on www.wearechurchireland.ie
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