IRISH bishops have been urged to “put their shoulder behind the agenda of Pope Francis and his vision of the Church” following an international conference of Catholic reformers in Limerick.
The four-day event was hosted in the Radisson Hotel by Fr Tony Flannery and the Association of Catholic Priests and brought together over 30 priests and lay reformers from Europe, Asia and the USA.
Fr Flannery, a former rector of the Redemptorists in Limerick, was censured by the Vatican for his writings in 2012 and the ACP has clashed with the Irish hierarchy on church reform, celibacy, the ordination of women and other matters.
But Fr Flannery hopes that the changes at the top in the Vatican will see the involvement of all priests and church citizens in an open discussion on how the church is organised.
The resignation of Pope Benedict and “the election of Francis has brought about a new era in the Church and this is a time of opportunity”, Fr Flannery said.
He said he was “personally very disappointed with some of the lack of real response from some of the Irish bishops”.
“We are really calling on bishops, and as far as I’m concerned Irish bishops, to put their shoulder behind the agenda of Pope Francis and his vision of Church. A key issue we say will be to devolve authority away from the Vatican to the local churches.”
And central to this decentralisation would be the empowerment of parishes.
Among those to take part in the Limerick conference was Helmut Schuller, head of the Austrian Priests Initiative; Deborah Rose-Milavech, head of one of the main American reform groups FutureChurch; Dr Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, an Indian Catholic writer and theologian and Sister Jeannine Gramick, an American nun who was herself censured by the Vatican for her minister with lesbian and gay people.
Fr Flannery said attendees had agreed on the need to “give women full equality in church life”.
And the conference has also urged “the full participation of Catholics who are LGBT, divorced or remarried, members of inter-faith families” or otherwise marginalised at the upcoming Synod on the Family in Rome.
Catholic bishops attending this synod had been urged by Pope Francis to consult widely with church grassroots in advance.