Rome, …. March 2014
One year ago, our Catholic Church showed real potential for self-reform. Reform for which we had hoped and waited for a very long time. The resignation of Benedict XVI was instrumental in the election of Francis which has given hope to Christian people that a new course in the history of the Church has begun. The crisis at the top had reached such a low point that it is impossible to believe that the Holy Spirit did not breathe on these events.
Pope Francis has put the Gospel and the joy of living in the present moment at the centre of his ministry. Those who feel healed and saved by the Word of Jesus are able, therefore, to love much, to forgive, to suffer with all.
This is Francis’ basic message, a simple message for all ordinary people; all those who are poor in spirit, of whom is the kingdom of heaven. This message has been obscured for too long. Often in many situations, it was hardly visible, buried by the stiffling situation in the Church. Now everything is easier. There was great expectation for this to happen. Movements at the grassroots desired to make the message of Jesus more visible and understandable, even to those who are not believers or are in search of the truth.
Pope Francis seems to us, with some contradictions, an interpreter of these hopes and expectations:
- The Church, if it is poor and of the poor, can never support the negative values of the world, which threatened world peace at the beginning of this millennium. The Church must bear witness to the alternative values of justice that emphasise peace, freedom and the respect for the rights of every man and woman.
- In our globalized world the economy is still to be judged by the harsh words of Jesus to the merchants in the Temple (Mk11, 15). These words have been uttered again, in today words, in paragraphs 53-56 of Evangelii Gaudium, the Apostolic Exhortation issued by Pope Francis in November. In this way, the Church moves away from its predominantly European and Western position, to become credible in the eyes of the people in the South.
- Those who try to live according to the Gospel, and to bring the Gospel to the world, listen, understand, practice mercy and participate on the margins of existence. They know that there is a hierarchy of truths and commandments. The "Sabbath" and Doctrine should never take precedence over solidarity and goodwill. Ministries have meaning if they express a pastoral care that goes beyond the rigid application of Canon Law. The suffering of the People of God with regard to sexual and family issues has to be heard, and this is beginning to happen‘
- The whole structure of the Church, in particular its central organisation in the Vatican, must be decentralized. This applies not only in the relationship of the Vatican to the bishops but also to the role of the People of God (cfr. Evangelii Gaudium, 102), if the Gospel is to be brought to all cultures in the world, and unity in diversity is to be practiced. The structure needs to encourage the many energies present everywhere in the Church so that the people really become the leading actors in the new evangelization. A reduction in the weight and size of the Roman Curia is required for this radical reform, which is essential for a new ecumenism in which all Christian churches are equal.
- Corruption has to be eradicated and financial structures organized in accordance with Gospel ideas of poverty, austerity and aid to the poor. We also look forward to a real discussion about the symbols, powers and diplomacy used by the Vatican as a State on the world stage.
These points, proposed by the new Bishop of Rome, are widely appreciated by the People of God to be a clear change from the previous regime.
We do not know whether there will be success. It may be slow or only partial. Our hope is that these changes will be seen more and more in the essence and action of every believer and Christian community. We trust in the Holy Spirit.
We are concerned that these expectations for reform may be dashed. We appreciate the strong resistance that the clerical structures have already tried to organize. For this reason, the We Are Church movement will maintain its independence from hierarchical control and continue to express its opinion about Pope Francis and his Curia with absolute freedom.
We expect that Francis will soon explicitly acknowledge the role of those, inspired by the Second Vatican Council, who have expressed critical views. Some have spoken out as individuals and others in organised groups. They have helped the emergence and circulation of opinions that will only strengthen in the future. Many critical theologians, Ministerial Priests, laymen and women have been unfairly and unjustly excluded over the years. We expect them to be fully readmitted to make a full contribution to their ecclesial communities.
The Church in following her new course must welcome all, and involve all in a genuinel new evangelization. We place our hope and trust in Francis. May the Holy Spirit enlighten him!
The International Movement We Are Church, founded in Rome in 1996, is represented in more than twenty countries on all continents and is networking world-wide with similar-minded reform groups. We Are Church is an international movement within the Roman-Catholic Church and aims at renewal on the basis of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). We Are Church was started in Austria in 1995 with a church referendum.