A new way of being Church

Timothy Radcliffe OP

Timothy Radcliffe OP is a former master of the Dominican Order. He believes that this Papacy could mark the most fundamental change in the governance of the Church in centuries, from monarchy to collegiality.

- America magazine

As a Dominican, I am delighted that at last the Society of Jesus has a pope. We Dominicans have had four and since the time of Pope St Pius V in the 16th century, the Pope has even worn a form of Dominican habit!

As a Jesuit, the Pope gives a central place to discernment.

This implies patience, taking the time to think, pray and consult. This is vital for understanding what is happening in these early days of his pontificate.

He says, 'I believe that we always need time to lay the foundations for real, effective change.... I am always wary of decisions made hastily.'

Pope Francis says that 'the structural and organizational reforms are secondary—that is, they come afterwards. The first reform must be the attitude.'

Structural change to the government of the Church is vital, but it must follow from a new way of being Church, in which we get out of the sacristy, engage with people, know their suffering and their puzzlement from within.

At this stage, the Pope is showing the way forward by what he does. He has a capacity to make expansive gestures that open up new perspectives.

His first trip outside Rome was a visit to Lampedusa, where so many immigrants have died trying to enter Europe; or think of his visit to the favella in Rio de Janeiro.

From the moment that he stepped onto the balcony of St Peter’s, Francis has shown that this is his intention that the pope ceases to be a monarch, presiding over the Church from a remote height, and becomes again the Bishop of Rome, embedded in the college of bishops.

Francis insists on the return to models of synodal government and on real consultation. Lay people will have a voice, as they often did in the early Church.

I would conclude with two profound hopes. That a way will be found to welcome divorced and remarried people back to communion.

And, most important, that women will be given real authority and voice in the Church. The Pope expresses his desire that this might happen, but what concrete form can it take?

He believes that the ordination of women to the ministerial priesthood is not possible, but decision-making in the Church has become ever more closely linked to ordination in recent years.

Can that bond be loosened? Let us hope that women may be ordained to the diaconate and so have a place in preaching at the Eucharist. What other ways can authority be shared?

Read full article: A New Way of Being Church (America)

More reflections:

Cardinal Stafford: Lenten reflection (Vatican Radio)

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