Catholics for Renewal

Subtitle

News 2020

A broad and  diverse mix of Local, National and International faith-related News, Information and Opinions. 
     Views expressed are those of the Authors and may or may not always represent those of Catholics For Renewal.
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Editorial  - Are our Bishops listening?
Extract, January 2020
Catholics for Renewal is closely monitoring preparations for the 5th Australian Plenary Council.   With the First Session to be held in Adelaide on 5-11 October 2020, just a little over 8 months away, important matters still to be finalised include the selection of lay delegates to the Council and the preparation and setting of the Council agenda.     We have concerns with these matters and with commitment to contribution of the Faithful to the Plenary Council.           ..........Our concerns and suggestions are described in the full editorial HERE.

- Second Summary Document  "Synodal Governance for a pastoral  church" ....(Document No. 93.   Here)
(2nd part of a planned incremental set of  2020/2021 Plenary Council key issue resources).
Editorial (December 2019) How should PC2020 Listen to what the sensus fidelium is saying? - Here
Earlier  Editorials Here
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EVENTS 2020
1. Dr Paul Collins is to speak at Holy Name Church, Wahroonga, 7:30pm Monday 10th February. He will address the themes for the Plenary Council and provide a theological, sociological and historical background. This is part of ongoing Parish preparation for the Plenary.
2. Vice Chancelor Brother Peter Bray FSC: "Visit from Bethlehem University". Life in Bethlehem and the amazing ministry of the only Catholic University in Palestine and its challenge to educate a new generation of young Christian and Muslim leaders in a land ravaged by
injustice, occupation and oppression. Melbourne, 23 February 2019  (Details & Bookings Events 2020 Page HERE
3. Church leadership for a Post-Christendom Era Formation, Partnership, Accountability. Sunday 1 March 20201.30–4.30pm Catholic Theological College278 Victoria Parade East Melbourne 3001.  (Details & Bookings Events 2020 Page HERE
4. Live in Melbourne - Joan Chittister osb:  The Time is Now - Getting Back On Mission, 8 September  (Details and bookings HERE)
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Deciding not to decide… for now
Why the pope has not ruled on married priests or women deacons
Limited extracts from Robert Mickens, subscription journal La Croix International, 13 February 2020
Vatican City. In his new apostolic exhortation on the Church in the Amazonian region, Pope Francis has refused a request by bishops at last October's Synod assembly to formally approve the ordination of married priests and women deacons.            In Querida Amazonia (Beloved Amazon) the pope pretty much ignores these two issues all together.           And this, of course, has provoked predictable responses throughout the variegated world of Roman Catholicism.                Traditionalists and doctrinal conservatives, for the most part, are breathing a sigh of relief. Some are even jumping for joy......Most progressives, reformers and Vatican II types – on the other hand – are deeply disappointed. Some, especially women, are extremely hurt and angry. .........But if you've read some of the commentary on Pope Francis's decision not to change the discipline of priestly celibacy or approve women deacons, you probably have the impression that this is a "win" for old-time Catholicism and a "loss" for the Church's reformers.    Actually, it might be just the other way around.......(source)  Photo: EPA LUCA ZENNARO MaxPPP La Croix International 20200213 
Querida Amazonia has much to offer the Church in Australia
Extract from CathNews, ACBC, 13 February 2020
Archbishop Mark Coleridge says Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia is not just for a distant and alien part of the world, but has much to offer the Church in Australia.          “The Amazon is remote from us but the issues are not,” the president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference said.       “All papal documents are highly anticipated, but this one holds a special interest not just for the peoples of Amazonia with all their needs, but for the Church around the world,” Archbishop Coleridge said.       He said two critical issues addressed during the Synod and in the Pope’s exhortation – indigenous culture and an integral understanding of ecology – must be front and centre in the Australian context as well.       “The Amazon has a unique place in the planet’s ecological footprint and its abuse in various forms is having and will continue to have an impact on the connection between humanity and the planet, our common home,” Archbishop Coleridge explained.      “Here in Australia we see, at times dramatically, the damage done by abuse of the natural world – not only to the environment but also to wildlife, to communities and countless individuals.       “The Church has a God-given duty to care for our common home, made clearer than ever in Pope Francis’ encyclical letter Laudato Si’.     Querida Amazonia builds on the papal teaching and applies it boldly in one particular situation.”       Pope Francis’ focus on indigenous cultures in the Amazon speaks strongly to the Australian context, Archbishop Coleridge said.      “It’s good that the Pope’s words on indigenous peoples come as we in this country consider the woeful lack of progress on closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in key areas,” he said....(more)
What’s in Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the Amazon synod?
Extract from Gerard O’Connell, America - The Jesuit Review, 2020
Pope Francis has again surprised the world with his long-awaited document (“Apostolic Exhortation”) in response to the deliberations of the Pan-Amazonian synod.      He does not address the question of the ordination of mature married men to the priesthood as many had expected. Instead, in the text known as "Querida Amazonia" (“Beloved Amazonia,”) he pitches hard for justice for the region’s 33 million people, of whom 2.5 are indigenous peoples, and for the protection of their lives, their cultures, their lands, the Amazon river and rainforests, against the “crime and injustice” being perpetrated in the region by powerful economic interests, both national and international, that risk destroying the people and the environment.          He declares that the church must stand with these peoples in their struggle but insists that it must also bring the Good News of salvation to them. He devotes almost half of the document to the need for a radical, missionary renewal of the Amazonian church that involves inculturation at all levels, including in the liturgy, church ministries and organization, and the development of “a specific ecclesial culture that is distinctively lay,” that gives a greater role for the laity, and especially for women.          He emphasizes the central importance of the Eucharist in building the church in the Amazon region but, at the same time, highlights the disturbing fact that this is not regularly available to so many communities; some do not have the Eucharist for months or years, others not “for decades” because of the shortage of priests.     However, notwithstanding widespread expectations, Francis does not address the proposal for the priestly ordination of suitable and esteemed married men (deacons) as a solution to this problem, an issue that largely dominated the media reporting of the synod.    He does not explicitly reject the synod’s proposal on this matter, approved by more than a two-thirds majority, he simply does not mention it, not even in a footnote.....(more).    Photo: Pope Francis Amazonian indigenous, CNS,
‘Querida Amazonia’: Commentary on Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation
Extract from Antonio Spadaro, SJ, La Civilita Catolica, 12 February 2020
Splendor, drama, mystery: with these three words Pope Francis offers to the people of God and all persons of goodwill his post-synodal apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia (Beloved Amazon), on the special synod for the Amazon, which took place in Rome, October 6-27, 2019.[1]          With this synod, held at the heart of catholicity in Rome, the Church set out in search of prophecy, shifting its center of gravity from the Euro-Atlantic area and looking to a land full of gigantic political, economic and ecological contradictions.    Francis is seeking solutions that consider the rights of the original peoples, and that defend the cultural richness and natural beauty of the earth. And he seeks to support Christian communities with suitable pastoral solutions. In this regard, the engine of the exhortation – we immediately anticipate – is in the tenth paragraph of the fourth chapter, entitled “Expanding Horizons Beyond Conflicts.” When there are complex issues, the pope asks us to go beyond contradictions. When there are polarities and conflicts, we need to find new solutions, to break the impasse by looking for other better ways, perhaps not imagined before. Transcending dialectic oppositions is one of the fundamental action criteria for the pontiff. It is always good to keep this in mind.....(more)
Disappointment, outrage over papal document on the Amazon
Extract from Heidi Schlumpf, National Catholic Reporter, 12 February 2020
Vatican.     Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation on the Amazon disappointed those hoping for an opening of clerical roles to married men and women, with many noting that the pope failed to extend his prophetic voice about environmental injustice to injustices in his own house, the church. Many women were especially outraged over the document's language of complementarity.     Querida Amazonia ("Beloved Amazon"), the pope's response to last October's Synod of Bishops, did not grant the bishops' request to open priestly ordination to married men and the possibility of women deacons, both in an effort to address the severe lack of ministers in the nine nations of that region.      Reading the document was "demoralizing" and "painful," especially given the pope's lyrical language about his dreams for the region, said Casey Stanton, who works in parish ministry and said she is called to the diaconate.     "But then you get to the paragraphs about women … and it just feels like the dream stops short of including them and including me," said Stanton, a minister of adult faith formation at Immaculate Conception Church in Durham, North Carolina.     She admitted that she did not expect a change in church teaching from the papal document, but "just wanted him to keep the conversation open in this slow-moving church."      "Instead, I think what the pope has done in this document is to close the door," she said.     After the testimony of women at the synod, the pope's response is "willful blindness," Stanton said, adding, "I can't imagine what the women in the Amazon feel."....(more)
In Germany, the synodal path takes a first step forward
Bishops and lay people will spend the next two years looking at four themes — power in the Church, priestly celibacy, the place of women and sexuality
Limited extract from Claire Lesegretain (with Cath.ch), Subscription journal La Croix International, 5 February 2020
Germany. The Catholic Church in Germany has begun its Synodal Path in an atmosphere of free and respectful dialogue. It held its first plenary assembly from Jan. 30 to Feb. 2 in Frankfurt.      The process was launched on Dec. 1 and over the next two years some 230 bishops and lay delegates will engage in dialogue around four main themes — power in the Church, priestly celibacy, the place of women and sexuality.       After the assembly's opening Mass in St. Bartholomew's Cathedral, the delegates began their work in the former Dominican convent in Frankfurt that is now property of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.      "The first image that struck me was the sight of the bishops wearing civilian clothes among the laity," said Klaus Nientiedt, former editor-in-chief of Konradsblatt, the weekly paper of the Diocese of Freiburg im Breisgau, and an expert on the German Church.     A space without hierarchi        In fact, the delegates were seated in alphabetical order. "This clearly showed that bishops and priests are participants like anyone else," Nientiedt told La Croix.       Karin Kortmann, vice-president of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) also welcomed the "space without hierarchy".          She is one of the co-presidents of the assembly along with Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, president of the German Bishops' Conference, and Thomas Sternberg, the ZdK president.       During this initial gathering of the Syondal Path the four commissions reported on opinions gathered via the Internet on each of the four themes.       "These results are not really representative, because groups that are numerically small expressed themselves massively," said Nientiedt.      This is particularly the case on sexual morality, where opinions from conservative groups seem to be over-represented.             Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen described this first synod assembly as a "witness to the true catholicity of the Church in Germany". He said the meetings and discussions were "characterized by an intense spiritual atmosphere and the search for God's will".       "The discussions showed how much we live in a world of freedom," Bishop Overbeck said.       For his part, Bishop Felix Genn of Münster welcomed "the willingness to listen to each other and to treat each other fairly, despite the diversity of positions". He expressed "confidence" that the synodal process will continue "without harming the unity for which we as bishops are responsible"....(source).  Photo:   Synodal Path Mass Frankfurt Cathedral January 30 LaCroix Intermational ANDREAS ARNOLD DPA PICTURE ALLIANCE MAXPPP 20200205
Rewriting History?
Extract from Opinion Piece, Tom Smyth, 3 February 2020
I don’t want to appear to be overly negative but after reading the announcement in the recent Plenary Council Newsletter that ‘The origins of the Council go back almost 20 years, as the Australian bishops considered St John Paul II’s call in his apostolic letter Novo Millennio Ineunte for the Church to consider its place in contemporary society,’ I find it hard not to be.     This statement is a little rich. Yes, there may have been some consideration given to holding a Plenary Council to consider the apostolic letter, but I think the reality is that the Royal Commission that exposed the litany of “ sins" of the Church in Australia highlighted the need for a close examination of the practices of the Church, not to consider the place of the Church in a modern Australia, but as a means to engage with people in order to keep the ‘boat afloat.’ The Church is in crisis.         My concern is that with the little time that has passed since the Royal Commission, the existing oligarchs of the Church have regained a sense of authority and feel confident enough to reassert their power positions, perhaps with some small concessions to the laity.     The choice of the Plenary Council as the implement to make decisions for the future, the lack of enthusiasm shown by many clergy and dioceses, and the lack of publication of the submissions indicates to me that it is business as usual amongst the hierarchy of the church. Using St John Paul 11’s apostolic letter as justification for calling the Plenary Council is unfortunate. St John Paul 11 was hardly the model of a consultative leader that the hierarchy should be following. His notion of a Synodal Church was at odds with Francis’s vision. His unwillingness to address the pressing issues of the time have contributed to the place the church is in at present.          I hope I am wrong but are we being prepared for some peripheral change and substantive change will be avoided at all cost.........(more)
Australian Catholic Women still listening for leadership from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
Extract from  Eleanor Flynn et al. Pearls & Irritations, John Menadue Website, 3 February 2020
As a group of women who seek the equality of Women in the Australian Church, Women’s Wisdom in the Church (WWITCH) are appalled by the recent abolition of the stand-alone Council for Australian Catholic Women, and the closure of the Office for the Participation of Women in the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC).         The Bishops have stated that they wish to focus on evangelization. However, by disbanding and downgrading these organisations they demonstrate that they have no plan to engage actively with the women of the Church.       This is an egregious error. Women are not a special interest group in the Church; we make up more than half of all Australian Catholics and 70% of many congregations and keep most parishes running on a day to day basis.      This restructuring ignores the pleas of national and international renewal groups across the world who understand that full equality for women in the Catholic church, including ordination of women, is central to ridding our Church of crippling clericalism.      The ACBC’s move is particularly bewildering given the closures were announced just after the launch by two bishops of “Still Listening to the Spirit: Woman and Man Twenty Years On”.....(more).
Sydney archbishop: Synodal process doesn’t mean ‘everything is up for grabs’
Extracts from Inés San Martín, Rome Bureay Chief, Crux, 1 February 2020
.......Crux: What brought you to Rome?     Fisher: I’m here for the plenary of the CDF. It happens every two years, all the members gather, and we go through a number of doctrinal and moral messes being considered by the Church. We get a report from all the bodies that report to the CDF - the International Theological Commission, the Biblical Commission, the section dealing with the Anglicans who have become Catholics, the section dealing with the Latin Mass, and the disciplinary section that deals with grave crimes, including above all child abuse - so we get the reports on that and discuss the processes around that.         It’s quite a wide range of things the CDF has responsibility for, and they are actually very good meetings, surprisingly. It’s a meeting where I think, you have something to contribute, you are heard and it’s achieving something.      Next week I have the council for the synod, which I was elected for at the end of the Synod for Youth, and the new synod council is organizing the next one. We don’t yet know what the topic of the next one will be, nor when will it be held........Have you heard about topics being proposed already?         I have heard talk for synodality… A synod on synod seems to me a bit too referential. I always laugh about TV shows that are about TV shows. It’s like this kind of endless mirrors, and there would be useful things to say, but … A bit like some of the national synods that are happening, there is a great risk that it will all become inward looking. “It’s all about us, about our structures, in a language that almost no one else understands.”        Pope Francis often calls us to get out of the sacristy because there’s a whole world out there. I would be a bit wary about just being all internal stuff. Synodality is a very internal concern. But, as I said, there might be some useful things to say about it.......And I think all these Church assemblies have to be mindful of the risk of creating unreal expectations.         This is an issue for the German synodal path and it’s also an issue for the plenary council in Australia. If you say to the world, everything is up for grabs, say anything you want to say, anything could happen; that is not true. We are recipients of a precious tradition, we have the revelation from God, not everything is up for grabs.      If you give people the impression that some proposals or changes are going to happen or could happen, but actually can’t or won’t, that would lead to more disillusionment at the end of that process.      I rather we went down a more constructive line.....(more).   Photo:Archbishop Anthony Fisher, Crux 1 Feb 2020, Simon Caldwell CNS
An Italian bishop goes rogue and blows the whistle
Doing what no other bishop in Italy has ever done, Giovanni Nardini reported a group of priest-pedophiles to civil authorities
Linited Extract from Robert Mickens, Rome, subscription journal La Croix International, 30 January 2010
Vatican City
More cracks are appearing in the teetering edifice of Italy's once invincible Catholic hierarchy.    For the first time ever, it seems, a bishop has gone to the country's civil authorities to denounce priests and religious brothers accused of sexually abusing minors. And by doing so, he's broken ranks with the men who lead Italy's other 225 dioceses.    His name is Bishop Giovanni Nerbini.    The chrism oil from his episcopal ordination was barely dry when Nerbini, who is bishop of the Diocese of Prato just 16 miles (25.5 km) north of Florence, contacted police in late December to report abuse allegations against nine members of a controversial religious community called the Disciples of the Annunciation.    The bishop took the action on his own initiative since – amazingly – neither the State of Italy nor the Vatican requires clerics to report sexual abuse to civil authorities.    Unprecedented action        Nerbini's retired predecessor, Bishop Franco Agostinelli, had already learned of the alleged abuse early last summer, but he reported it only to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which opened an administrative penal process....(source)
Synodal Governance for a pastoral Church
Thursday 30 January 2020
On the verge of the 2020/2021 Plenary Council, the Australian Catholic Church's  5th Plenary Council (the last was 83 years ago), Catholics for Renewal has just published its 2nd brief 'Summary Document' as part of an incremental series of brief resources  on key terminology, phrases and issues  fundamental to, Australian Catholic faith, Church renewal, and objectives of the Australian Catholic 2020 Plenary Council.     This 2nd resource is titled 'Synodal governance for a pastoral church'.   The first Summary Document published December 2019 is titled 'Sense of faith of Christ's Faithful - Sensus fidelium'.      These and a list of planned further incremental resources over the next six months are published under Document No. 93  on the website's Documents page   HERE.  
About the National Themes for Discernment - What happens Next
Extract from Plenary Council 2020 Website, 29 January 2020
.....What happens next?      The six National Themes for Discernment are inspired by the data and call us toward the future. As we move into this second stage of preparation for the Plenary Council, we continue to seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.    In coming months, through the discernment process and drawing on the six National Themes for Discernment, we will develop the agenda for the first session of the Plenary Council.      This discernment process involves establishing Writing and Discernment Groups for each National Theme for Discernment while people in faith communities across Australia are called to participate locally in their own communal Listening and Discernment encounters and to send through their submissions to the Groups.       The fruits of what is discerned during this time will shape the agenda of the first session of Plenary Council in October 2020....(more).
Photo: ACBC
Australian bishops have a transparency problem
Extract from John Warhurst, Eureka Street,  28 January 2020
Australia's bishops have yet to demonstrate the new openness to the Catholic community necessary for a successful Plenary Council 2020. Their inclination to secrecy remains an impediment. They just don't get transparency as a virtue and they have twice demonstrated their adherence to old ways of doing things in recent months. Whether they realise it or not secrecy runs deep in episcopal culture.       The first example came in the conduct of the restructuring of the central apparatus of the Australian church, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC), which was decided last November at the biennial ACBC meeting.       This restructuring involved an overall cut of 50 per cent to funding of the national church administration based in Canberra and some capital cities. Grants to national agencies have been cut, including total removal of the long-standing central funding of Catholic Social Services Australia, and jobs have been lost in a shake-up of the general secretariat. One of the most notable casualties has been the stand-alone Council for Australia Catholic Women with the consequent loss of the Office for the Participation of Women and its executive officer, Andrea Dean.       There is much more, including the disappearance of many jobs in executive support, research and journalism and funding cuts across many offices and commissions. The whole package is so substantial that both its general contours and its administrative detail deserves wider debate beyond the ACBC. The bishops should take the wider Catholic community into their confidence and share the financial difficulties which have led them to take what ACBC President, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, has described as 'a difficult but unavoidable path'.       National church administration is funded by diocesan levies and many dioceses are clearly feeling the pinch. Revenue is falling because of well-known problems such as falling attendance and an ageing church membership. Expenditure is rising, including the significant contributions to the National Redress Scheme and Catholic Professional Services Ltd, the church body set up to implement the new child protection regimes. All Catholics need to own these problems, but to do that we need to know about them.       The second example is.....(more)Image:  Ojimorena / Getty
‘the world has changed and so must the Church’
Extract from Brian Hoban, Association of Catholic Priests, Ireland, 22 January 2020
Overworked priests can blame their bishops.      Pope Francis keeps on beating the same drum, but is anyone listening? His Christmas message was that ‘the world has changed and so must the Church’.              If you wouldn’t mind, dear reader, could you please read those two short sentences again?      Is there anything complicated about them? No. Is there anything that any Catholic, ordained or non-ordained, could possibly misunderstand? No. They simply sum up what Francis has been saying since he was elected pope. And saying again and again and again.     So if Catholics see something that needs to change, what should we do?      A template emerged a few years from a chat Francis had with his friend, Bishop Erwin Kräutler, who worked most of his life in the Amazon basin. Kräutler lamented the scarcity of priests in his area and the resulting fact that so few could attend Mass. Francis told him to work through the Brazilian bishops. The result was the discussion at the Amazonian synod and the expectation that by March of this year, Francis will announce the ordination of married men for specific regional areas.      Here’s another question. At what stage will it become clear that Ireland qualifies as such a regional area and have the help of a married priesthood?....(more)
Germany’s  'synodal assembly'  a step to rebuilding Church’s credibility
Extract from Catholic News Service, 20 January 2020
FRANKFURT, Germany - Catholic leaders in Germany have compiled responses from lay Catholics in areas related to who holds power in the Church, sexual morals, the role of priests and the place of women in church offices in preparation for an upcoming synodal assembly to debate church reforms.       More than 940 suggestions and questions had been submitted by early January in advance of the Jan. 30-Feb. 1 assembly in Frankfurt, reported KNA, the German Catholic news agency.      The synodal assembly is one segment of the synodal path, which the German bishops agreed to stage at their annual meeting last March.       The synodal assembly will include 230 members. It is the highest decision-making body of the synodal path, an effort by the bishops’ conference and lay Central Committee of German Catholics to restore trust following a September 2018 church-commissioned report that detailed thousands of cases of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy over six decades.       Comments will continue to be accepted through Jan. 23 at the website of the German bishops’ conference.        The bishops and the lay group are collaborating in planning the synodal assembly. During a September plenary meeting, the bishops approved statutes to guide discussions at the assembly.          The bishops’ conference and the committee each will send 69 members to the assembly. Decisions of the assembly must be passed by a double two-thirds majority: two-thirds of all participants as well as two-thirds of all members present from the bishops’ conference.       German church officials say the synodal assembly is not meant to be a synod in the classic sense.        In describing the synodal path, KNA reported that the inclusion of the term synodal in the name of the reform process reflects that the dialogue, initially limited to two years, is more than a nonbinding conversation. As with a synod, each respective local bishop will determine whether the decisions reached will be implemented......(more)
2020 could see major Vatican shakeups
Extract from Elise Harris, Senior Correspondent, Crux, 18 January 2019
ROME - At the beginning of the week, the insider Catholic universe imploded when news broke that retired Pope Benedict XVI and Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah had co-authored a new book defending priestly celibacy just as Pope Francis is considering an exception to the rule proposed during the Amazon synod.        In the fierce and polemical debate that ensued, the role of a pope emeritus was questioned while Catholicism’s conservative and progressive camps exchanged arguments over Benedict XVI’s intentions with the book, titled From the Depths of Our Hearts: Priesthood, Celibacy and the Crisis of the Catholic Church, which hit shelves Jan. 15 in France.      The saga culminated with Archbishop Georg Ganswein, personal secretary for Benedict XVI, saying the emeritus pope had asked that his name be withdrawn as a coauthor and removed from the book’s introduction and conclusion. Citing the Chicago Manual of Style, however, the English-language publisher, Ignatius Press, said it considers the publication “coauthored.”      Though unprecedented is perhaps the wrong word to describe the bizarre episode, it was certainly odd, as Sarah, an active sitting cardinal who heads the Vatican’s liturgy office, took to social media to defend his credibility, issuing several statements and publishing correspondence between himself and Benedict - things that heads of Vatican departments don’t typically do.....(more) Photo: Cardinal Robert Sarah, Crux, Paul Haring CNS
Francis finishes work on Amazon Synod text
Extract from CathNews, Joshua McAlwee, National Catholic Reporter,  17 January 2020
Pope Francis has completed work on his highly anticipated response to last year’s Vatican gathering of Catholic bishops from the Amazon. Source: NCR Online.             Catholic bishops around the world are receiving a letter from the Vatican this week, advising them that the document, which may allow for the ordination of married men as Catholic priests in the nine-nation region is nearing publication. The document is also expected to lament devastating environmental destruction in the region and may detail new ministries for women in the Church.       “The draft is currently being reviewed and corrected and then needs to be translated,” states the letter, which is signed by retired Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes and was obtained by NCR.        "Pope Francis hopes to promulgate it by the end of this month or in early February,” writes Cardinal Hummes, who served as the synod’s lead organiser.        Francis’ response to the October 6-27 Synod of Bishops, is among the most awaited documents of his nearly seven-year papacy. The text is expected to address a request from the 185 synod members that he allow for bishops in the Amazon region to ordain current married deacons as priests, in order to meet sacramental needs in the vast, hard-to-traverse area.        The as yet unpublished text received additional attention this week, with unexpected news that retired Pope Benedict XVI had co-authored a volume defending the Church’s practice of clerical celibacy.        Benedict’s intervention touched off fears among theologians that the former pope might be trying to tie Francis’ hands, effectively preventing the reigning Pope from approving the synod’s request.     Benedict’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, has since claimed that the ailing, 92-year-old ex-pontiff did not mean to co-author the volume, and has asked that for the removal of Benedict’s name as a co-author.....(more).    Photo:  CNS Paul Haring CathNews 20190117
Committee to recommend Australian bishops give laity certain controls
Extract from Michael Sainsbury, Catholic News Service, National Catholic Reporter, 15 January 2019
Yangon, Myanmar — A six-person committee charged with reviewing church governance and management is expected to present Australia's bishops with a plan to overhaul the management of the church in the country.     The plan would cede control over financial, human resources and governance functions to professional laity, Jack de Groot, a member of the review committee, told Catholic News Service. The committee, established by the Australian Catholics Bishops' Conference and Catholic Religious Australia in May 2018, expects to present the plan by late March.           It is the latest in a series of responses by the Australian church to the country's Royal Commission Into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, which uncovered and documented the tragic history of abuses in religious and secular organizations, including Catholic-run schools and orphanages across the country.         The commission found the Catholic Church, the denomination in Australia with the most followers, to be the worst offender and, since then, hundreds of millions of dollars have been paid in compensation to victims. Dozens of offenders, including many clerics, have been imprisoned.           In June 2018, the government established a National Redress Scheme to provide support and compensation to survivors, although many have still chosen to pursue perpetrators through the courts. Catholic bishops and religious have been working to act on the series of recommendations handed down by the commissioners in August 2017.         "The past year has seen steady and significant progress made across a range of areas, including in education, in governance reform and in responding to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse," Archbishop Mark Coleridge, president of the Australian bishops' conference, said in a progress report in mid-December. "Clearly, any institution that engages with young people must always be vigilant, working to ensure that strong and effective protocols and procedures are in place, generating a culture committed to prompt and decisive action when allegations arise."      De Groot said the governance review was now the church's key priority.         "We have a draft plan," he said, although he admitted it had been delayed from its original October target by the need to finalize an update for the Australian government on the church's response to the Royal Commission recommendations.      A review of the governance of the Catholic Church was one of commission's central recommendations.....(more)Photo:     NCR NS Maria Grazia Picciarella
Francis appoints first woman to managerial role at Vatican's Secretariat of State
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 15 January 2019
Vatican City — Pope Francis appointed an Italian woman as an undersecretary in the Vatican's Secretariat of State Jan. 15, in the first such appointment of a woman to a managerial role in what is traditionally considered the city-state's most important office.      Francesca Di Giovanni, who has worked for the Secretariat for 27 years, will be one of two undersecretaries in the Section for Relations with States, which is essentially the Vatican's foreign ministry.      The section is led by British Archbishop Paul Gallagher. Di Giovanni joins Polish Msgr. Miroslaw Wachowski, who had been appointed an undersecretary to Gallagher in October.      In making the new appointment, Francis appears to be elevating what normally would be called a capo ufficio, or department head, to a full undersecretary position.      In an interview with the state-run Vatican News shortly after announcement of the appointment, Di Giovanni explained that she will be responsible for the Vatican's multilateral relationships, such as with international institutions, while Wachowski will focus on its bilateral ones, such as with individual countries.     Both roles had previously been filled by one undersecretary, now-Archbishop Antoine Camilleri, who Francis appointed the Vatican's ambassador to Ethiopia and Djibouti last September.       In the Vatican News interview, Di Giovanni, 66, praised the pope for appointing the first woman to such a role.       "The Holy Father has made an unprecedented decision, certainly, which, beyond myself personally, represents an indication of an attention towards women," she said. "But the responsibility is connected to the job, rather than to the fact of being a woman."     There are now about half a dozen women serving in undersecretary or equivalent roles in the Vatican's sprawling bureaucracy.....(more)
Benedict XVI distances himself from new book on celibacy
Limited and edited extract from Nicolas Senèze and Clémence Houdaille, subscription journal La Croix International, 15 January 2019
Vatican City.........The book, written in French, opposes ordaining married men as priests and has raised many eyebrows in the Vatican.       It was seen as a challenge to Pope Francis, but not because of the arguments the two theologians put forth in defence of ecclesiastical celibacy.     'Benedict XVI did not write the book'.   Apart from the fact that the retired pope is breaking his self-imposed silence on the Vatican government and Pope Francis' papacy, the signature that appears on the book is "Benedict XVI" and not "Benedict XVI/Joseph Ratzinger" as had been the case with an earlier book he wrote.    It was done to distinguish his personal writings from that of the papal magisterium.      A person close to Benedict XVI told several Vatican reporters that the Pope Emeritus "did not write the book with Cardinal Sarah."    On the other hand, on Jan. 14, the Guinean cardinal stated that "Benedict XVI knew our project would be published as a book."      "I sent the complete manuscript to the Pope Emeritus on Nov. 19, including the cover, a joint introduction, conclusion, Benedict XVI's text and my own text," wrote the cardinal, who has on many occasions crossed swords with Pope Francis.       "On Nov. 25, the Pope Emeritus expressed his satisfaction, and said, "I agree for the text be published," said the 74-year-old cardinal, whom Pope Francis appointed to head the office of liturgical matters in 2014.         'Delete Benedict XVI's name'.      On Jan. 14, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Benedict's private secretary, went public against the book and Cardinal Sarah.        "On the instructions of the Pope Emeritus, I asked Cardinal Robert Sarah to contact the publishers of the book and ask them to withdraw the name of Benedict XVI as co-author of the book, and also to withdraw his signature from the introduction and conclusions," he told the German agency KNA and the Italian agency Ansa.....(source)
Plenary Council 2020-2021
Nomination as Delegate, 12 January 2019
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has requested that each Diocese nominate four people, who may be laypersons, members of religious orders or Clergy, who are willing to be called as delegates for the Plenary Council Sessions in October 2020 and June and July of 2021.

As a delegate, you will participate in the process of discernment and contribute to a variety of forums before, during and after the Plenary Council Sessions. This is an important and critical role for the life of  Catholic Church in Australia.

To apply, please fill out the following form and submit by the deadline of Friday 24 January 2020. Please note that the application process requires two referees including one active Priest (on appointment).      Delegate Nomination form HERE
Pope Benedict XVI breaks silence to reaffirm priest celibacy
Extract from Nicole Winfield, Crux, 13 January 2019
ROME - Retired Pope Benedict XVI has broken his silence to reaffirm the “necessity” of priestly celibacy, co-authoring a bombshell book at the precise moment that Pope Francis is weighing whether to allow married men to be ordained to address the Catholic priest shortage.       Benedict wrote the book, From the Depths of Our Hearts: Priesthood, Celibacy and the Crisis of the Catholic Church, along with his fellow conservative, Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, who heads the Vatican’s liturgy office and has been a quiet critic of Francis.       The French daily Le Figaro published excerpts of the book late Sunday; The Associated Press obtained galleys of the English edition, which is being published by Ignatius Press.        Benedict’s intervention is extraordinary, given he had promised to remain “hidden from the world” when he retired in 2013, and pledged his obedience to the new pope. He has largely held to that pledge, though he penned an odd essay last year on the sexual abuse scandal that blamed the crisis on the sexual revolution of the 1960s.          His reaffirmation of priestly celibacy, however, gets to the heart of a fraught policy issue that Francis is expected to weigh in on in the coming weeks, and could well be considered a public attempt by the former pope to sway the thinking of the current one.        The implications for such an intervention are grave, given the current opposition to Francis by conservatives and traditionalists nostalgic for Benedict’s orthodoxy, some of whom even consider his resignation illegitimate.       It is likely to fuel renewed anxiety about the wisdom of Benedict’s decision to remain an “emeritus pope,” rather than merely a retired bishop, and the unprecedented situation he created by having two popes, one retired and one reigning, living side by side in the Vatican gardens.       In that light, it is significant that the English edition of the book lists the author as “Benedict XVI,” with no mention of his emeritus papal status on the cover.       The authors clearly anticipated the potential interpretation of their book as criticism of the current pope, and stressed in their joint introduction that they were penning it “in a spirit of filial obedience, to Pope Francis.” But they also said that the current “crisis” in the Church required them not to remain silent.....(more)
Meeting of Church heavy-hitters calls for ‘adjustments’ to priestly formation
Extract from Christopher White, National Correspondent, Crux, 7 January 2019
NEW YORK - A major gathering of ecclesial heavy hitters focusing on the future of the priesthood concluded with a call for a reimagining of priestly formation - one that incorporates the laity and women in the process and better reflects the racial and cultural diversity within the U.S. Church.      The two-day symposium at Boston College took place January 2-3 and was organized around “To Serve the People of God: Renewing the Conversation on Priesthood and Ministry,” a document first published in December 2018, which was the result of a series of seminars sponsored by the college’s Department of Theology and School of Theology and Ministry.          “All consideration of priesthood and ministry must flow from the Second Vatican Council’s affirmation of the Church’s living tradition as it has been received and developed by Pope Francis,” said a communiqué from the conference released on Monday. “He has called the Church to missionary discipleship that goes to “the peripheries” and is responsive to the gifts and challenges of contemporary cultures.”        The document goes on to outline ten pastoral recommendations, among them greater human formation in seminaries to “foster authentic psychosexual maturity and integration,” an evaluation process for candidates that allows i      Some of the strongest language is reserved for the role of women in priestly formation, where organizers noted that women should be included in the faculty of seminaries.....(more)
Pope Francis begins the most important year of his pontificate.
Extract from Robert Mickens*, Pearls and Irritations,  John Menadue website,  4 January 2020
When the history of Pope Francis’ time as Bishop of Rome is finally written, there is a good chance that the Year of Our Lord 2020 will be recorded as the most important of his entire pontificate. Some are wondering whether it may actually be his last.          The pope’s recent decisions to “retire” the powerful Italian churchman Angelo Sodano as dean of the College of Cardinals and to make Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines head one of the most powerful Vatican offices – Propaganda Fide – are being read as signs that Francis is beginning to prepare for the election of his successor on the Chair of Peter.          The 83-year-old Jesuit pope will also be issuing two major documents in 2020, and probably a few others. He’ll continue to travel the globe, possibly going to places where his predecessors had hoped to visit but were denied entry. And there’s no doubt he will add more men to the illustrious red-hatted group from which will emerge the next Bishop of Rome.       So any way one looks at this new calendar year, it will almost certainly prove to be pivotal.        The Synod paves the way to reform        Pope Francis is to publish at least two extremely important documents already in the initial weeks of 2020.         The first of these texts is an apostolic exhortation on last October’s special assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region. Francis has already hinted that he will endorse a number of changes in pastoral practice that the Synod participants proposed to him.        One of these is the priestly ordination of the viri probati (married men of proven virtue), specifically those who are already permanent deacons. Another is the establishment of a new papal commission to study the possibility of instituting the diaconate and other ministries for women. And a third is the compilation of a new liturgical rite to incorporate cultural elements particular to the native peoples of the Amazon.      This highly anticipated post-synodal apostolic exhortation is likely to open up other avenues for reform, as well. So its importance should not be underestimated..........No one can read the future, but the Year of Our Lord 2020 looks like it could be one of the most crucial and important for the recent history of Roman Catholicism.....(more)     *Robert Mickens is Rome Correspondent for La Croix International. This article was first published on Jan 2, 2020. Photo: Pope Francis and Akubra hat with Abp Mark Coleridge, June 2019 ad limina.
Expressions of interest for Diocesan Plenary Council 2020 delegates
Extract from Catholic Outlook, Diocese of Parramatta
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, the Bishop of Parramatta, has invited the faithful of Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains to express their interest in being a delegate for our local Church to the Plenary Council.    Our diocese will be sending a delegation of people to the Plenary Council and this includes    -   Two (2) delegates called from our diocese from the “presbyters and others of Christ’s faithful”         These two people are to be called from among the “presbyters and others of Christ’s faithful” of our diocesan Church, that is: from among the clergy and the laity.       Some characteristics of the delegates to be called to consider are:          The person’s demonstrated commitment to leadership in the Church and/or her ministries (e.g. an active parish ministries leader, Catholic Education staff member, Catholic Social Services worker or ecclesial movement leader, etc.);      The person’s living of the Gospel in their life through both prayer and deeds              Their awareness of ‘the bigger picture’ of Catholic faith, community and works in context of contemporary Australian society;       Previous participation in / leadership of listening and dialogue, or listening and discernment encounters with people in the person’s community, workplace or family.         Ultimately, the foundational characteristic to be considered is the person’s ability and capacity to discern with an open heart, listening to what the Spirit is saying to the Church in Australia.        Any person who expresses their interest in being called by our diocese to be a delegate to the Plenary Council must be available for the following dates....(more)   Photo: Diocese of Parramatta Plenary Council 2020 delegates 2020103 Catholic Outlook
Submission to Plenary Council Phase 2 Working Groups
Catholics For Renewal, 1 January 2020
The Catholics For Renewal submission to the Plenary Council phase-two Theme Working Groups was submitted on 28 November 2019 and is available HERE. It complies with the 1,000 character limit for each of the themes.   The Plenary Working Groups comprise: 
1.Missionary and Evangelising;  2.Inclusive, Participatory and Synodal; 3. Prayerful and Eucharistic; 4. Humble, healing and merciful;   5. A joyful, hope-filled and servant community; and 6. Open to Conversion, renewal and reform.  
It is also published at Document 94 on the Documents page.  Details in support of this brief submission, and further major actions are included in our Plenary Council submission/book Getting Back on Mission (details here)