I live in Dublin, Ireland. Sometimes. Most times I live in my head, quite unaware of my surroundings – if you know what I mean… If you succeed in tracking Sean Walsh, please let me know, ok? I've been searching for him for years…
(The lay apostolate
is a participation in the saving mission of the Church itself.
Through their baptism and confirmation,
all are commissioned to that apostolate by the Lord Himself.
– Vatican II Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity.)
One year on from his election Pope Francis has already changed the image of the papacy, and modelled an entirely different style of leadership from that of his two predecessors. Reflecting the amiability and simplicity of his namesake, St Francis of Assisi, he may even be setting out to respond to the same challenge that the Italian friar heard from Jesus: to ‘rebuild my church’.
However, Pope Francis is now in his late seventies – and many younger bishops appointed by his predecessors may well be wondering if this new wind from Rome will last long enough to oblige them to amend their own way of going.
So far no Irish bishop has become quite so accessible, so open, so eager to meet people and hear their stories and grievances.
For example, not even Archbishop Martin of Dublin has projected the holding of a diocesan synod – something his predecessor had done in his final years in office.
FOA – fear of assembly – still grips Ireland’s bench of bishops in a vice – that fear of ‘stirring up a hornets nest’ by, for example, arranging regular open diocesan forums to respond to the missionary challenge issued from the heart of the church.
Where is the Irish bishop who will call all of his people to read and discuss Evangelii Gaudium and to feed back to him their vision of the future church, in a truly ‘developed’ diocesan synod?
And where is the Irish bishop who will commit himself to regular interface with a diocesan pastoral council – to respond, for example, to questions such as those that arise out of Ian Elliott’s concerns for the integrity, independence and strength of the NBSCCC?
If co-responsibility is the challenge of the moment, no Irish bishop has yet fully risen to that challenge – or responded to the Pope’s clearly given invitation to all national bishops’ conferences to freely consider the particular needs of their own societies, and to be proactive in finding solutions – even at the cost of making mistakes.
Here’s Pope Francis again:
“I dream of a ‘missionary option’, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.” EG 27
What are Irish bishops dreaming of these times? Why can’t they tell us? And listen to our dreams too? Which of them will show the same confidence in the Irish people of God, and in the power of the Holy Spirit to lead us?
And when will they ever change the closeted style of their quarterly meetings in Maynooth – those funereal huddles to prepare statements so guarded that they merely add to the mountain of verbal ash that buries the embers of the Irish faith.
They speak now of St Columbanus and his impending 1400th anniversary.
– Sean O Conaill,
Voice of the Faithful.
Keep the Faith – Change the Church.
(layout by Sean Walsh. Lent, 2014.)