By Susan Gately - 14 December, 2013
The Church in Ireland has been given a mandate by Pope Francis and must now discover ways and structures to involve the laity and women in its decision-making, Bishop Brendan Leahyof Limerick has said.
The former professor of theology at St Patrick’s College Maynooth told CatholicIreland.net that in his letter, the Joy of the Gospel, the Pope had given a “very definite directive” that this sharing in the decision-making of the Church was something the bishops “should be looking at”.
Bishop Leahy said that already this was beginning to happen naturally.
A lot of women now are involved in pastoral councils and are beginning to be involved in diocesan agencies and national Church agencies, he said, and there are women who are heads or leaders of movements. “That’s beginning,” he commented.
He continued, “We probably need to take another step forward.”
The Limerick Bishop suggested this might entail an assembly with representatives of, for example, movements, religious orders and pastoral groupings from around the country, which could be represented by women.
These he said could once or twice a year, perhaps, meet up with the bishops “for a consultative discussion on topics of interest and concern here to the Church in Ireland,” Dr Leahy said.
As the Pope’s letter was only out a few weeks, the bishops had not yet met to discuss it, but Bishop Leahy said a firm mandate had been given to begin a process.
“Pope Francis himself has said that we need more laity, and more women directly involved in the decision-making of the Church. That is an important step and I think we have to discover the ways, the structures to do that.”
The Bishop commented that the way the Pope was also underlining the teaching authority of local bishops’ conferences in his letter was “very significant”.
“In his new letter he quotes very often bishops’ conferences from all over the world, as if to make a very definite statement: ‘I believe that the bishops’ conferences have a teaching authority.’ So that seems to be what he’s saying, that we need to be more aware of that teaching authority.”
Commenting on the ending of the Year of Faith, Bishop Leahy said the year had “captured people’s imaginations more than had been expected”.
“I know of a lot of places that put on small courses, or seminars or a lecture series and it was a theme that crept up all over the place so I think there is a legacy.”
A lot of people had begun to study the catechism and the gathering of teenagers at Knock was a “wonderful occasion” that he felt would be repeated.
“In Ireland we have the project called, Share the Good News, which we have to re-launch. Now we’ve got the Pope’s letter. So all of these things are going to come together now in a new re-launching,” he told CatholicIreland.net