Updated Wed 27 Nov 2013, 2:01pm AEDT
Pope Francis has outlined a mission statement for his papacy, arguing the power of the Roman Catholic Church is too concentrated in the Vatican.
The Pontiff also called on Catholics to be more engaged in helping the needy and to welcome those of other faiths.
Continuing his markedly different path, Pope Francis says excessive centralisation within the church is complicating life and the papacy does not have all the answers to issues facing the world.
The Catholic leader said he was “open to suggestions” on how his role should change, using an informal style in his first “apostolic exhortation”.
“Nor do I believe that the papal magisterium should be expected to offer a definitive or complete word on every question which affects the Church and the world,” he said.
Bishops should have “genuine doctrinal authority”, he said in the document – a type of long open letter used by popes to communicate with their faithful.
We asked if you agreed with Pope Francis’s comments. Here’s what you had to say.
Pope Francis has instituted a council of cardinals to advise him on reforms including a shake-up of the Vatican bureaucracy after a series of high-profile scandals in recent years and disgruntlement in many local churches.
He added the church had to embrace change rather than stick to old habits.
Pope Francis said he would rather a church that was bruised, hurting and dirty because it had been on the streets rather than one unhealthy clinging to its own security.
The pontiff said ordination of women priests was not open to question, but said the church needs to do more to support pregnant women who are victims of rape or in extreme poverty.
The Vatican this month also launched a worldwide consultation of Catholic dioceses including questions about pastoral care for same-sex couples and re-married divorcees, but there was no mention of any changes foreseen on these hot-button issues.
Emphasis on helping the poor, reaching out to other faiths
In the document Pope Francis stressed the importance of the Church’s social message, which he has made a priority.
“The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode,” he said.
Turning to other faiths, the pope said ties with Islam had taken on “great importance” for the Catholic Church because of the growing number of Muslim immigrants in many traditionally Christian countries.
“We Christians should embrace with affection and respect Muslim immigrants to our countries in the same way that we hope and ask to be received and respected in countries of Islamic tradition,” he said.
“I ask and I humbly entreat those countries to grant Christians freedom to worship and to practice their faith, in light of the freedom which followers of Islam enjoy in Western countries.”
Much of the exhortation was devoted to spiritual issues, particularly the need for a more joyful approach to faith reflected in the document’s Latin title “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel).
“There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter,” he said, adding that the Christian message should not be “a catalogue of sins and faults” and should be about striving for “the good of others”.
The document included practical tips from Francis for priests on how to give better homilies as well as a call for them to be closer to their parishioners.
“Our church doors should always be open, so that if someone, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door,” he said.
“I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures,” he said, condemning “structures which give us a false sense of security… while at our door people are starving”.
Topics:catholic, religion-and-beliefs, community-and-society, holy-see-vatican-city-state
First posted Wed 27 Nov 2013, 8:51am AEDT