Chris McDonnell, a frequent contributor at Pray Tell, wrote an article at The Tablet Blog on Pope Francis’ call for greater transformation in the Church. Pope Francis has been challenging the Church to view itself as a loving community of discipleship. In order for the Church to become the loving community Pope Francis wishes it to become, old wounds must be healed and marginalized groups have to be heard.
McDonnell in his article points out how important relationships and dialogue are in helping the Church become a community of discipleship.
One key word must be dialogue, not just the dialogue of words but also of relationships. In recent years, groups have been formed in various parts of the world seeking dialogue, bringing together people whose commitment to the Church is faithful, but who also recognize real problems that cannot, must not, be ignored.
Such groups should not be seen as a threat, for their giving voice to current issues is all part of their pilgrimage as Christian people. They often meet with resistance from many directions, from those who seek the holy comfort zone of what used to be, or are fearful of where we might be heading.
McDonnell then points to some groups that have raised important concerns, but whose voices have been marginalized. He included in his list The Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Call to Action in the United Kingdom, and the Movement for Married Clergy. All these groups have been questioned by the hierarchy and at times for good reason. However, no matter your views on these organizations, their presence shows that there are issues and concerns that the Church needs to reflect on and address. The hierarchy does not have to support or come around to the concerns of these and other organizations; however, it does have to respond in a loving and intentional way to their concerns.
Pope Francis has shown us that dialogue must be sought with others even when we disagree with them. As the pilgrim Church we must reach out to the other and love one another. Our attention and care should be directed to those who are on the margins, whether that be the poor, the disenfranchised, those who hold “unconventional” views, or those whose lives do not meet our expectations.
The Church’s teachings and Gospel message do not need our protection. The truth ensconced within the Church is the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit will ensure that the truth is not lost. Pope Francis knows this, and because of his faith in the Holy Spirit he is not afraid to enter into dialogue and to risk being transformed in the process. This is the greatest contribution Pope Francis has made to the Church. He is calling us to faith. He is calling us to trust the work of the Holy Spirit in the world. But above all, he is calling us to become what we are called to be: a loving community of disciples.