A few weeks ago, Macron addressed the French bishops in the handsome Collège des Bernardins in the heart of Paris and told them: “Relations between the Church and state have been damaged and it is up to you, as much as us, to repair them.” He went on: “A French president who takes no interest in the Church and its Catholics would be failing in his duty,” and he called on Catholics to “engage once again with the French and European political scene”.
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“I’ve got a deep excitement at what lies ahead. I know this is the fulfilment of who I am; I can’t wait to embrace this new identity.” In a few months from now, Matthew Roche-Saunders will be ordained to the Catholic priesthood in Swansea. It will be the culmination of six years of formation, which followed his three years at Exeter University, studying psychology.
Emmanuel Macron’s long address to Catholics on the evening of Monday April 9 in Paris sparked sharp reactions from part of the political class. This is a two-part opinion piece on the place of religion in French society, following Macron’s speech.
We are living through perilous and polarizing times as a nation, with a dangerous crisis of moral and political leadership at the highest levels of our government and in our churches. We believe the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith are now at stake.
There are various aspects to what might be better called a priesthood crisis. La Croix International recently published two articles that looked at one of those aspects – the clericalist mentality that seems to be a disease (or at least a temptation) inherent in the very ethos of the ordained.
“On the call to holiness in the contemporary world”. Much of the document was written in the second person, speaking directly to the individual reading it. "With this exhortation I would like to insist primarily on the call to holiness that the Lord addresses to each of us, the call that He also addresses, personally, to you," he wrote near the beginning.
Gaudete et Exsultate: A help for our conversion and fulfilment, not an instrument for ideological wars
The day the Papal Exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, was released a tweet was posted noting it was probably best not to read the document trying to find lines to disagree with or delighting in how the Pope called out one’s ideological enemies. It concluded “simply read and ask the Holy Spirit to help us become holier!”
300 hundred young people met in Rome 19-24 March to talk about the topics that they would like bishops to discuss during their meeting for the Synod on ‘Young people, faith and vocational discernment’ next October. Chosen by their respective bishops’ conferences, they were joined by 15,000 others who took part via Facebook groups.
Young people said that they want to see an 'attractive, coherent and authentic' church - to help them in their search for meaning and fulfilment. Young people want to know they are valued members of the Catholic Church and that their questions and struggles are taken seriously enough that someone will spend time with them discussing issues.
The Catholic schools are successful and popular with parents. They outperform the national averages for Key Stage 2 by 5% and GSCE results by 4%. The schools are not however Catholic-only communities. Over 300,000 non-Catholic students attend the schools, some 35% of the total. Nor is the teaching staff exclusively Catholic – 49% are from other faiths or none.
A Vatican magazine has highlighted how nuns cook and clean for senior Catholic clergy and work as indentured servants and said that the male hierarchy should stop such widespread exploitation.
The world needs popular leadership, but not the sort that exploits and cultivates cynicism and resentment. Yet that type of populism is increasing across the globe. The one great exception is Pope Francis, who for five remarkable years has provided a civilising, humanising, compassionate influence wherever he has turned his gaze.
It is five years since I stood in a rain-sodden St Peter’s square to watch Pope Francis greet the world. In those first moments, I remember the authentic, unscripted feel to the occasion as a new Bishop of Rome looked out with a blank, almost uncertain expression into a sea of flashing cameras and smartphones.
Archbishop John Hung Shan-chuan of Taipei has claimed that the establishment of diplomatic relations is hyped up once a year but never comes true. "The pope will not give up his flock in Taiwan and China," he said. The archbishop said diplomatic relations must be built on similar values.
In any case, the needed reconciliation between different kinds of Catholics cannot take place only through political, theological, or intellectual debate — urgent and necessary as such debate is. There can be no reconciliation between Catholics that does not involve some kind liturgical reconciliation, given the liturgy’s primary position in the life of the church.
Its time for the Religious to pick up the cudgel for missionary dynamism. The "Year of the Parish as Communion of Communities" focused on building up the parish into a network of small communities, of Basic Ecclesial Communities or BECs. There have been lots of efforts made in forming BECs as agents of communion, participation and mission. This should continue.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin this week put his finger on the single most important issue that has become the driving force of the small, but tenacious opposition to Pope Francis and his pontificate. It is the full-scale “paradigm shift” the pope is working so diligently to bring about within the global Catholic Church.