My dreams and hopes for the new pope — an English perspective
In 2010, prior to Pope Benedict’s visit to the UK, I wrote a short piece, my pipe dreams for what the Pope might think and say during his visit. I offer an edited version in 2013 for whoever may become the new Pope:
1) I would like the Pope to say that, alongside all the official engagements, the protocol , the large scale liturgical celebrations, he is a humble man, the servant leader of a Church, which though very far from being perfect, has a mission and a message for the world in 2010. The message is for all with no one excluded.
2) He would tell us all, Catholics, people from the other Churches and faiths as well as those of none that God’s love extends to all, that in response to this love, we have responsibility for one another, for our society and for the world of which we are caretakers.
3) He wants the Church to grow in respect for all its members, that, far from being weekly customers at their Parish Church, lay women and men share in the mission given to the Church by Jesus Christ and that he recognises that they will carry out this task most effectively if those in positions of leadership show trust and confidence in them. He wants to listen to the views of all.
4) The Church respects the goodness to be found in all women and men, their hopes and dreams, that far from wanting to supress such goodness, it wants to add to it and to ask for forgiveness for past failures to do so. The Church rejoices in diversity and wants to reach out to those who feel rejected and broken by manmade rules and regulations.
5) He would like to see the Church develop in ways that most appropriately respond to local need. The local Church will be freed from many of the detailed constraints currently set by the Vatican, thus giving real meaning to the concept of subsidiarity. Local Bishops will have greater autonomy in their dioceses. This would reinforce the notion that consistency with the fundamental Gospel Message is very different from rigid conformity in every detail.
6) He wants to hear the voices of those with questions and doubts, those disillusioned by the scandals, cover-ups and hypocrisy in the Church, that they too are precious in God’s eyes and that their views and opinions matter. He wants to protect children and those who are vulnerable and to root out those people and processes that have hurt them in the past.
7) He is keen to listen to the young and not so young women and men, whose gifts and idealism has often been ignored, because they have been naive and brave enough to say they have found some aspects of Church life old fashioned or irrelevant to their lives. He would assure them that he too wants to shift the jetsam and flotsam, be they processes or practices.
8) He agrees that it is a priority for local communities to have informed access to the Word of God, broken and shared, and to the Eucharist and other Sacraments. The Church is very concerned about the diminishing number of priests and is reviewing options including the requirement of mandatory celibacy.
9) He longs for Christian unity and greater communication and understanding across all faiths. Real progress will be achieved, not by proving that others are wrong and coercing them to accept our ways of thinking, but by walking forward together towards a common goal.
10) He will tell people that he wants to lead the Church in a renewed emphasis on it social doctrine, particularly its commitment to protect the environment, a sacred but delicate gift to be nurtured for the generations yet to be born. This is as important any other God-given commandments.
Postscript: Well, we can all dream and hope and pray.