CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 16 December 2017

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Get out and support the pope

ROME (SE): Pope Francis has been criticised for some time now by a small group of people, including a handful of bishops and even some red-hatted cardinals, who got the ball rolling earlier this year when they served a please explain or else note called a dubia on the pope.
 
Now the most recent attack has come from an American Capuchin, Father Thomas Weinandy, a former adviser on doctrine to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, accusing the pope of stirring up confusion, appointing theologically erratic bishops and generally behaving in a manner demeaning to doctrine.
 
But a resurgence of public and articulated support for the pope has been coming out of central Europe with the release of a letter posted online by Father Tomas Halík in Prague and Father Michael Zulehner in Vienna.
 
The filial please explain letter launched like a skyrocket with much fanfare earlier in the year by the Doubting Thomases, with only around 250 supporters behind it, but like its decorative counterpart in the sky, it fizzled out almost as fast as it lit up.
 
On the other hand, the support the pope letter was released quietly, but within a couple of weeks had been signed by some 60,000 people.
 
However, as La Croix reports this is not just a numbers game, as who has signed the two letters is arguably of greater importance than how many.
 
Many of the supporters are university professors from German-speaking Europe and the Czech Republic, but there are also eminent leaders from around the world both in public and Church life who have put their names to the list of supporters.
 
The philosopher, Charles Taylor; South Africa’s Bishop Kevin Dowling; the former president of Hungary, László Sólyom; spiritual writer, David Steindl-Rast; a former president of the Bundestag in Germany, Wolfgang Thierse; and Erwin Kräutler, the legendary bishop of the Xingu in the Amazon; are all on the growing ever longer list.
 
However, it is not even just the numbers or the personalities that differentiate the letter of support from the letter of doubt.
 
The motivating forces behind the two are poles apart. Father Halík and Father Zulehner are not trying to influence Pope Francis. Neither is the letter an attempt to engage the pope’s critics in an argument—something they believe would be better done somewhere else.
 
Rather, it is to give witness to their confidence in what Pope Francis has done and is trying to do in reshaping the pastoral culture of the Church in accordance with its origin in Jesus.
 
Although some have said that an open letter of this kind is inappropriate, because it ought to be assumed that Catholics support the pope as a matter of course, it can be dangerously presumptive to claim to know exactly what the silent majority are not talking about.
 
While open letters online have little to do with proving the orthodoxy of what Pope Francis is doing and talking about, in a world of fake news where sensationalism spreads its deceiving tentacles through cyberspace like an octopus embracing its victim, a bit of alternative noise can help to keep the conversation a bit saner.
 
It is more of a call to get onside with the pope and support him and to date, comments on the original letter do not contain denunciations or attacks, nor give any sense of being in the boxing ring with ideological foes.
 
And ironically, despite being prompted by conflict, the letters of support are more a testimony of gratitude.

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