home page links quotes statistics mission statement success stories resources Lighter Side Authors! Search Page
Posted March 28, 2006

On this website we have posted a number of articles and documents that point to dialogue as the primary means of church renewal. In the encyclical Ecclesiam Suam by Pope Paul VI, we are given a model for conducting dialogue. It must be clear, humble, well disposed, and be on the wave length of the person with whom we are dialoguing.

In a recent talk by Bishop Tod Brown in Origens [posted on our website], we learned how dialogue and a humble spirit helped him and his diocese of Orange successfully cope with the enormous difficulties of the sex abuse scandals.

In several articles we have posted, we have heard prominent writers counsel us that if the Church is to be renewed there must be a conversion, meaning a new disposition toward the way we do business and the people with whom we do business.

In this news release by the Catholic News Service, we get a good glimpse of Pope Benedict XVI and the manner of dialogue he encourages. We also see his efforts to bring back into the fold the Lefebverites an indication of his desire to be well disposed and devoid of invectiveness.

A close read of this report gives pastors a good model of how to unite parishioners and create the faith community we all desire through dialogue and qualities that make it effective.

Pope, cardinals discuss several issues,
including dialogue with Islam

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

Pope Benedict XVI and most of the world's cardinals sat down for closed-door discussions on a number of administrative and pastoral questions, including dialogue with Islam.

The pope presided over the day of reflection and prayer March 23, the day before he was to hold a public consistory to induct 15 new cardinals. The cardinals-to-be, dressed in bishops' purple, were also invited to the meeting in the Vatican's synod hall.

There was no formal agenda, but in an opening talk the pope mentioned three specific concerns for discussion, according to a Vatican press statement:

-- "The condition of retired bishops."

-- "The question raised by (Archbishop Marcel) Lefebvre and the liturgical reform desired by the Second Vatican Council."

-- "Questions connected with the dialogue between the church and Islam."

The pope invited the cardinals to raise issues of their own. Given the time constraints, global poverty was the only other topic that generated substantive discussion, cardinals told Catholic News Service.

In the morning session, several cardinals spoke about recent Vatican efforts to reconcile with the followers of the late Archbishop Lefebvre. Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, head of the Congregation for Clergy, described in broad terms his recent efforts to bring the Lefebvrites back into communion with the church.

The comments were varied, with some questioning the terms on which such a reconciliation could and should occur. More than one cardinal reportedly questioned the idea of granting personal prelature status to the Lefebvrites' Society of St. Pius X.

In an interview with CNS, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington said the cardinals were in favor of reconciliation, but that no definite consensus emerged on how to do it. There was a strong sense that an eventual agreement must bring real unity, he said.

"We all feel certainly that there is one faith and one church, and we all want to avoid having two churches and two faiths," Cardinal McCarrick said.

Cardinal Wilfrid F. Napier of Durban, South Africa, told CNS that he did not think the pope was looking for a "yes or no" response from the cardinals on the Lefebvrites.

For one thing, Cardinal Napier said, the situation among Lefebvrites is so different in various parts of the world that a thorough investigation would probably be needed before any global solution is reached.

Another topic raised by the pope was the possibility of an enhanced role in the church for retired bishops.

As one cardinal explained to CNS, bishops have a triple office of teaching, sanctifying and governing, and the question is how those gifts can be best used for the church, even among retired bishops. One bishop suggested raising the retirement age from the current limit of 75 years.

Cardinal McCarrick said the discussion on Islam reflected the shared recognition that "somehow we've got to relate to Islam, because it's such a major force in the world."

"I think (the pope) is concerned that fundamentalist Islam is hostile to every other faith. That's a concern of all of us and was brought up by a number of us," Cardinal McCarrick said.

He said participants were worried about the fate of Christian minorities in some Muslim countries.

In his own remarks to the assembly, the cardinal said he stressed the need to encourage moderate Islamic leaders to "speak out and proclaim an Islam which is tolerant and able to work with others."

Others said that, while interfaith dialogue was important, perhaps more important right now is practical cooperation with Muslims -- as a sign of dialogue in action.

Cardinal McCarrick said the pope listened carefully in both sessions. At the end of the meeting, the cardinal said, the pope took off his glasses and spontaneously offered a "masterful" and precise summary of their discussions.

"I think he was pleased with it," Cardinal McCarrick said. "He was very impressive. We have such a brilliant Holy Father."

New York Cardinal Edward M. Egan described the talks as "worthwhile and helpful."

"The Holy Father spoke, but mainly let the cardinals who stood up speak," Cardinal Egan said. Others said the pope at times encouraged comments from cardinals from different geographical areas, making sure that no region was left out of the discussion.

"The atmosphere was very friendly and offered many opportunities for interaction with the cardinals," said Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore.

It was the pope's idea to convene the meeting, and Vatican sources said it signaled a strong advisory role for the world's cardinals under the new pontificate.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, opened the encounter by thanking the pontiff for seeking their advice on "the great pastoral challenges of the present hour."

"The convocation of the present consistory reveals to us how much importance Your Holiness attributes to the College of Cardinals," Cardinal Sodano said.

The first part of the meeting, including 20 minutes of prayer, was broadcast in a live feed to journalists. At the end of his remarks, Cardinal Sodano said the pope would list a few primary themes; when it was the pope's turn to speak, the live feed was cut.

For many cardinals, the meeting was a reunion of sorts, evoking their daily encounters ahead of the conclave last April. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger -- the future pope -- presided over those meetings, too.

When the cardinals began filing into the synod hall before 9 a.m., they were each handed a green folder that contained a prayer book, notepaper, applications for permission to speak and two lists of cardinals -- one alphabetical, the other by seniority.

Before taking seats, the cardinals warmly greeted each other and chatted informally. They rose and applauded the pope when he entered the room at 9:30, then recited prayers together.

The pope sat facing the cardinals and was flanked by three officials of the College of Cardinals: Cardinal Sodano, the dean; Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, the vice dean; and Archbishop Francesco Monterisi, the secretary.

It fell to Archbishop Monterisi to explain a few practical details: where to tune into simultaneous translations in four languages -- English, French, Italian and Spanish, how to request the microphone and how to turn up the headphone volume on the consoles.

Above the pope's dais was a relief of Mary and Jesus and a large crucifix. To the side were several flat-screen monitors that focused on each speaker as he took the floor.

Each cardinal was allowed four minutes to speak; a bell rang out the expired time, then the microphone was turned down. In the afternoon session, some cardinals were allowed to speak a little longer, sources said.

Although the pope's plan to streamline the Roman Curia was on the minds of many cardinals, it did not come up for detailed discussion during the meeting, one cardinal said.