“A Pope for the Time to Come”

U.S. Gay Catholics Join Over 140 International Groups in Issuing Challenging Statement About Leadership in the Roman Catholic Church

Washington, D.C., October 15, 1998 — For the 20th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's election as the head of the Roman Catholic faith community, over 140 groups in 27 countries, including DignityUSA, have issued a statement entitled A Pope for the Time to Come: Bishop of Rome and Universal Pastor. The group statement challenges their faith community by calling for a model of church built on a "discipleship of equals" and a style of universal leadership that is collaborative, dialogic and open to fundamental change.

As the United States' oldest and largest organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics, and their families and friends, DignityUSA President Robert F. Miailovich said:

"Dignity recognizes that if progress is to be made in the cause of justice and social improvement, it will be done in collaboration with other like-minded organizations and in dialogue with everyone. We support the full statement, but we particularly are pleased with its inclusion of matters of special concern to gay, lesbian, bisexualand transgender Catholics."

DignityUSA Executive Director Charles L. Cox pointed out that:

"The statement calls for a pope who will consider welcoming all persons to ministry regardless of sexual orientation; who is a respecter of the consciences of those who seek dialogue on theologies, moral teaching and policies in the church; who is a reconciler of all factions in the Church; who is a leader that recognizes and celebrates diversity; and who is a prophet that is tireless in promoting justice, equality, peace and nonviolence."

"Because we want the gospel message heard in our own time, we seek to build a church that is welcoming for all people and open to restoring Christian unity in the coming century. To do this, we have focused not on 'candidates' for pope, but on qualities of leadership." said Elfriede Harth, spokesperson for the International We Are Church Movement (IMWAC) that issued the statement. The statement and list of endorsing organizations was sent in mid-September to all members of the College of Cardinals and to Pope John Paul II himself.

IMWAC is an international network of Church reform movements. DignityUSA President Miailovich was one of the American representatives at an October 1997 IMWAC meeting in Rome that gave impetus to the present statement and other collaborative efforts.

A copy of the statement in Spanish, and contact information for each of the endorsing organizations is available upon request.

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A Pope for the Time to Come: Bishop of Rome and Universal Pastor

Preface: Now is the Time

"Now is the acceptable time" (2 Cor. 6) for Catholics throughout the whole world to reflect on what type of leadership, indeed what model of church, we need for the new millennium.

The Second Vatican Council (1962-65) invited all of us to read the signs of the times in the light of the gospel. It called our faith community to perpetual renewal. We have tried to be faithful to that call as we examine the life of our church and our need for a Bishop of Rome who can lead our faith community in a "universal agap=E9," or assembly of charity.

The millennium now passing away has been an age of division among Christians. It is our hope that the third millennium will become an age of reconciliation and unity.

In this spirit, Pope John Paul II invited all Christians to reflect on the future of the Papacy "...that we may seek - together, of course - the forms in which this ministry [of Peter] may accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned ... to find a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation." (Ut Unum Sint, No.95).

At the same time, voices within the World Council of Churches are calling all Christian churches to commit themselves in the year 2000 to begin preparation for a Universal Christian Council.

We join our voices with these calls, and declare our readiness to renew our faith community in light of the signs of our times, and to dialogue and work with other churches on the basis of equality.

To realize these dreams, we offer our reflections on the qualities needed by our age in the next Bishop of Rome. We share our thoughts in the spirit of the woman in the gospel who mixed yeast with flour so that her bread might expand and nourish a community. This is our "yeast."

 

A Model of Church for our Times: Ever Ancient, Ever New

To build a vibrant church in the new millennium, we need to listen once again to Jesus and his first disciples who preached the equality of all persons (Matt. 23; 11-12; Luke 22: 24-26; Gal. 3:28). We need to build structures in our church which reflect that equality so that we may live, pray and minister to one another as a "discipleship of equals." Only then will we follow the example of Jesus who sends the Spirit, not to a small group, but to the whole community of faith. Only then will we live out the teaching of Vatican II which recognizes us all as the People of God, co-responsible for decision- making in the life of our church.

We need to restore a church that values dialogue and justice in its internal life as well as its approach to the world. We need to reestablish a church that respects and celebrates our worldwide diversity, a church in which there is freedom to live our faith in different ways in different cultures. We need to resurrect a church that recognizes the importance of local churches where the Word is preached in ways that local cultures can hear it. The building of this restored church is the work of the whole People of God, not only the Bishop of Rome, other bishops and the clergy.

We begin by urging that we restore the practice of the early church and develop structures that permit the People of God to participate in a prominent way in the election of all church leaders. This would include the election of the Pope, the Bishop of Rome. This renewal of an ancient tradition will acknowledge the action of the Spirit in community of the faithful.

The Next Bishop of Rome

We would be greatly helped in renewing our church by a leader who reads the "signs of the times" in concert with the people, a collaborative Bishop of Rome who can listen as well as preach, and dialogue as well as teach. We need a leader who truly embraces and consults the sensus fidelium (sense of the faithful).

We especially need a leader who recognizes the awakening of women's consciousness as a significant "sign of our times." Women, more than half of our church, have grown conscious of their dignity and equality with men. They are calling our faith community to respect and implement that equality in its own life.

We need a Bishop of Rome who respects the differences among us as well as challenges us to live the gospel.

We need a Pope who distinguishes between his pastoral ministry as the Bishop of Rome, and the ministry of Peter in which he is in dialogue with the universal church. As Bishop of Rome, he serves the faithful of Rome as any bishop serves a diocese. He would retire at the age established for all bishops. As president of the worldwide agape, he would act as a brother bishop who invites the world's bishops to share leadership with him and with other members of the People of God who are called forth by the faithful. In that spirit, he would reform the Curia (papal cabinet) so that it might serve, rather than dominate, other bishops and the church universal.

But most of all, we need a Bishop of Rome and a Universal Pastor who is:

  • a visionary leader who promotes a profound discernment on church ministry by all the People of God and calls them to consider the possibility of welcoming into ministry all those qualified whatever their gender, marital status or sexual orientation;
  • a respecter of the consciences of Catholics who calls forth a genuine public dialogue on the theologies, moral teaching and policies in the church so that our faith community might share experiences, begin to heal its alienation and resurrect a sense of unity and enthusiasm for the faith;
  • a pastor who encourages academic freedom for theologians and other scholars in order to foster a healthy diversity of opinions in the church;
  • a reconciler who welcomes "liberals" and "conservatives" to share the same church;
  • a leader who recognizes the cultural pluralism of the church and celebrates the diversity that flowers in different parts of our world;
  • a collaborator with a sense of history who is willing to restore the tradition of full participation of the people in church and who invites all Catholics to share governance and decision-making, including the election of church leaders;
  • a pioneer who encourages initiative and experimentation and calls Catholics to develop an adult sense of responsibility for their faith community;
  • an ecumenist who engages in serious dialogue with Christians of the Reformation and Orthodox traditions in an effort to bring about the dream of Christian unity;
  • a brother to the Jewish people who will work to dismantle any vestiges of anti-Semitism and build strong bonds of spiritual kinship that recognize our common heritage flowing from Abraham and Sarah;
  • a student of religious traditions other than Christianity and Judaism who welcomes interfaith dialogue, and seeks to learn from the rich diversity of insights in these traditions;
  • a lover whose arms embrace the world and whose policies express a special solidarity with the poor and oppressed;
  • a prophet who is tireless in promoting justice, equality, peace and nonviolence in our world and in our church;
  • a lover of the earth who recognizes and promotes the integrity of all creation;
  • a gentle soul with a sense of humor; and
  • a Brother Bishop who can happily shed the trappings of the powerful of this world (Luke 22: 25-26) and walk with us as we together re-create our community of faith to make the Spirit of Jesus come alive in the third millennium.

What we need in the new millennium is a Bishop of Rome who is a Universal Pastor.

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Attachment 2: 139 GROUPS ENDORSING THE STATEMENT "A POPE FOR THE TIME TO COME"

Totaling: 139 groups in 27 countries (or: 29 countries/regions) and 6 continents

AFRICA (1)

SOUTH AFRICA (1)
WOSA (Women's Ordination: South Africa)

ASIA (4)

INDIA (1)
We Are Church Coalition (Bombay)

PHILIPPINES (1)
Philippine Federation of Married Catholic Priests

SRI LANKA (1)
Hetadina Katholikaya (Paranambalama)

EUROPE (63)

AUSTRIA (2)
Impuls-Pfarrzentrum Endach
Plattform "Wir Sind Kirche"

BELGIUM (23)
Flandres (13)
Een ander gezicht van de kerk
Europees Netwerk Oscar Romero Comite's
Evangelisatie Levensnabij
Evreux-zonder-grenzen, Comité van
Waakzaamheid
Inspraak
Jebron, Open Huis Voor Vorming En Pastoraat
Netwerk van kritische christenen en
basisgroepen
OIKOS GoE
Priesters en Religieuzen voor Gerechtigheid en
Vrede
Steungroep Rechtvaardigheid En Vrede In
Guatemala
Vier- en Leerhuis
Vlaamse Werkgroep Mensenrechten in de Kerk
Werkplaats voor Theologie en Maatschappij
Walloonia (9)
Communauté de l'Escaux-de Schelde
Communautés d'Eglise du Monde Ouvrier
(CEMO's) - Charleroy
Evangile et Vie
Evangile sans Frontieres (ESF)
Hors-les-Murs
Libre Pensée Chrétienne
PASSAGES
PAVES-Mons-Borinage
PAVES-Tournai
Réseau Résistance

FRANCE (7)
Chretiens pour une Eglise Degagee de l'Ecole
Confessionnelle
Collectif de la Valée d'Aigues
Groupe des Amis de Témoignage Chrétien de
l'Indre et Loire
Nous Sommes Aussi l'Eglise (NSAE)
NSAE HAZEBROUCK
NSAE Pays Basque
PLEIN JOUR

GERMANY (7)
Initiative Christenrechte in der Kirche
Kirchenvolksbewegung Wir sind Kirche
Netzwerk Rhein-Neckar, Das andere Gesicht
von Kirche
Wir sind Kirche-Bruchsal
Wir sind Kirche-Diözesanbewegung Speyer
Wir Sind Kirche- Diözese Freiburg
Wir Sind Kirche - Paderborn

IRELAND (1)
BASIC (Brothers And Sisters In Christ)

ITALIA (1)
Noi Siamo Chiesa

NETHERLANDS (12)
Bestuur Acht Mei Beweging
Bestuur Passionisten
GOP (Vereniging tot Vernieuwing van het Ambt)
Initiatiefgroep Andreas
Katholieke Basisbeweging "De Duif"
Kerk Hardop
Mirjam Werkgroep
Oecumenische Basisgroep 'Het Kompas'
Open kerk
Speling
Stichting Magdala
Vereniging Pastoraal Werkenden - bisdom
Haarlem

PORTUGAL (1)
Nos Somos Igreja

SPAIN (4)
Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir en España
Comunidad cristiana de base San Alberto
Somos Iglesia
Cataluña (1)
Col·lectiu de dones en l'esglesia

UNITED KINGDOM (5)
Catholics for a Changing Church
LGCM Roman Catholic Caucus
Son Flowers
St. Joan's International Alliance (GB Section)
We Are Church

 

LATIN AMERICA (16)

ARGENTINA (3)
Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir en Buenos
Aires
Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir en Córdoba
Proa-Argentina (Asociación Latinoamericana de
Comunicación Grupal)

BOLIVIA (1)
Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir en Bolivia

BRASIL (4)
Católicas pelo Direito de Decidir, Brasil
Movimento dos Padres Casados (M.P.C)
Movimento dos padres casados de Florianopolis
"Tempo de Agir"

CHILE (1)
Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir en Chile

COLOMBIA (3)
Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir en Colombia
Colectivo Ecumenico de Mujeres biblistas
(CEDEBI)
Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia

MEXICO (1)
Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir en México

PERU (1)
Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir en Per²

VENEZUELA (2)
Centro de Mujeres (Gaia)
Grupo Somos Iglesia

NORTH AMERICA (51)

CANADA (6)
Catholic Network for Women's Equality
Catholics for a Free Choice in Canada
Catholics of Vision: Canada
Coalition of Concerned Canadian Catholics
Concerned Catholics of Ottawa
CORPUS/Canada

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (45)
The Association for the Rights of Catholics in the
Church
Association of Pittsburgh Priests
Call to Action - USA
Call to Action - Arizona
Call to Action - Baltimore
Call to Action - Chicagoland
Call to Action - Connecticut
Call to Action - Michigan
Call to Action - Nebraska
Call to Action - New England
Call to Action - Northern Virginia
Call to Action - San Antonio
Call to Action - San Diego
Call of Action - South Florida
Call to Action - Western New York
Catholics for a Free Choice
Catholics Speak Out - Quixote Center
A Chapel for Baltimore
Chicago Catholic Women
Chicago Women-Church
Church of Reconciliation (Upper Darby, PA)
The Community of the Christian Spirit
CORPUS (National Association for a Married
Priesthood)
CORPUS - Baltimore
CORPUS - San Antonio
Dignity (GLBT Catholics)
Federation of Christian Ministries
Fellowship of Southern Illinois Laity
FutureChurch
Good Tidings
The Green Nation
Loretto Women's Network
National Coalition of American Nuns
New Ways Ministry
North Dakota Peace Coalition
The Open Window (Texas)
Parish Renewal Consulting Services (San
Francisco, CA)
Pax Christi/Maine
Priests for Equality
Renewal Coordinating Community
Save Our Sacrament/Annulment Reform
Southeastern Pennsylvania Women's Ordination
Conference (SEPA WOC)
Southern California Women's Group (Indio, CA)
Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual
(WATER)
Women's Ordination Conference

OCEANIA (4)

AUSTRALIA (3)
Australians Networking For Reform (ANFR)
Women and the Australian Church
Women Of The New Covenant

NEW ZEALAND (1)
Catholic Women: Knowing Our Place

 

Attachment 3: Cover letter sent to members of the College of Cardinals

International Movement We Are Church (IMWAC)
Movimiento Internacional Somos Iglesia (IMWAC)
Luigi de Paoli
Noi Siamo Chiesa
Via U. Vivaldi, 10
I-00122 Roma
Tel.: ++39-(0)6-56 47 06 68
Fax: ++39-(0)6-56 47 06 68
e-mail: luigi.depaoli@eurodatabank.com

Maureen Fiedler, SL
National Coordinator,
Catholics Speak Out
P.O. Box 5206
Hyattsville, MD 20782 USA
Tel.: ++1-(0)301.699-0042
Fax: ++1-(0)301-864-2182
e-mail: cso@quixote.org

Dr. Thomas Plankensteiner
Plattform "Wir sind Kirche"
Salurner Str. 10
A-6020 Innsbruck
Tel.: ++43-(0)512-56 57 66
Fax: ++43-(0)512-56 57 66
e-mail: t.plankensteiner@tirol.com

Elfriede Harth
Spokesperson
International Movement
We Are Church (IMWAC)
28, rue des Etats Généraux
F - 78000 Versailles
Tel.: ++33-(0)1-39490554 Fax: ++33-(0)1-39490244
e-mail: imwac@aol.com


Versailles, September 20, 1998

Dear Cardinal....,

We are faithful Catholic women and men of the People of God worldwide. Inspired by the Second Vatican Council, we feel impelled to assume co- responsibility for our Church and for the effective preaching of the gospel in the world today. This sense of CO-responsibility has led us to reflect on the leadership needed in the Roman Catholic Church for today and the time to come.

Pope John Paul II, the present Bishop of Rome and Pastor of the Church Universal, has now completed twenty years of faithful service to our community worldwide in this double ministry. In those years, he has been a strong and unique presence in the world at large as well as the church. He played a pivotal role in the demise of totalitarianism in Poland and Eastern Europe. He has promoted peace and non-violence, urged an end to racism and ethnic hatreds, advocated for the needs of the poor and tried to heal long-standing antagonisms between the Christian and Jewish people.

Pope John Paul II is aware that the ministry of unity in our church and the leading of God's people will be enormously significant in the Third Millennium. Consequently, in Ut Unum Sint (n.95), he asked all those who are concerned about the future of the church to reflect on the "forms in which this ministry [of Peter] may accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned to find a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation."

With great respect, we accept this challenge. We want to contribute our reflections to the worldwide process of discerning the characteristics needed by the person who will be called to be the "Servant of the Servants of God."

Pope John Paul II's health is a matter on constant speculation in the media, and some commentators have begun to analyze the gifts and backgrounds of those who might succeed him. But neither the Pope's health nor media speculation prompts our statement. Indeed, we seek to encourage public discussion on this important and delicate issue at a time when Pope John Paul II himself can take part in it.

The gospel urges us to be prayerful and reflective. The Second Vatican Council calls us to read the signs of our times. We have tried to follow that path as we considered the type of leadership we need and developed a statement to share with our brothers and sisters worldwide. We believe that this process must precede any examination of the qualifications of specific candidates for Bishop of Rome.

Thus, we Catholic women and men from around the world have reflected with great care on the model of church which we believe we need, and on the qualities needed in the next Bishop of Rome in order to maintain the unity of our church. The Universal Pastor we envision would be collaborative in style, inviting the world's bishops to share leadership with him and with other members of the People of God. He would listen as well as preach and dialogue as well as teach. As a brother bishop, he would retire at the age established for all bishops. He would respect the equality of all the faithful and end any discriminatory barriers to participation in ministries and decision making. This leader would embody the spirit of ecumenism, recognizing the Spirit of Jesus in all Christian churches, and dialogue with them to bring about the dream of Christian unity. And he would be a lover of the poor and marginalized, promoting justice in our world as well as our church. We encourage you to read and reflect upon our full statement that is enclosed.

This letter has been sent to Pope John Paul II and to all members of the College of Cardinals. Within a few days, it will be released to the media worldwide so that we may share our reflections with our global faith community.

Please know that we will pray for your deliberations and decision making from now until the time that the conclave selects a new "Pope for the Time to Come."

On behalf of the hundreds of thousands who authorized us to send you this statement, and especially those groups who formalized their agreement and whose names appear at the end of the statement,



Elfriede Harth, Spokesperson
International We Are Church Movement (IMWAC)
Movimiento Internacional Somos Iglesia

P.S. If you wish to respond to our reflections personally, please feel free to send them to:

Elfriede Harth, Spokesperson
International We Are Church Movement (IMWAC)
Movimiento Internacional Somos Iglesia
28, Rue Des Etats Généraux
F - 78000 Versailles
FRANCE
Fax: +331-39490244
E-mail: IMWAC@aol.com

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Attachment 4: Cover letter sent to Pope John Paul II

International Movement We Are Church (IMWAC)
Movimiento Internacional Somos Iglesia (IMWAC)

Luigi de Paoli
Noi Siamo Chiesa
Via U. Vivaldi, 10
I-00122 Roma
Tel.: ++39-(0)6-56 47 06 68
Fax: ++39-(0)6-56 47 06 68
e-mail: luigi.depaoli@eurodatabank.com

Maureen Fiedler, SL
National Coordinator,
Catholics Speak Out
P.O. Box 5206
Hyattsville, MD 20782 USA
Tel.: ++1-(0)301.699-0042
Fax: ++1-(0)301-864-2182
e-mail: cso@quixote.org

Dr. Thomas Plankensteiner
Plattform "Wir sind Kirche"
Salurner Str. 10
A-6020 Innsbruck
Tel.: ++43-(0)512-56 57 66
Fax: ++43-(0)512-56 57 66
e-mail: t.plankensteiner@tirol.com

Elfriede Harth
Spokeperson
International Movement
We Are Church (IMWAC)
28, rue des Etats Généraux
F - 78000 Versailles
Tel.: ++33-(0)1-39490554 Fax: ++33-(0)1-39490244
e-mail: imwac@aol.com

14th of September, Feast of the Holy Cross
Pope John Paul II
Palazzo Apostolico Vaticano
I 00120 Citt=E0 del Vaticano


Dear Brother John Paul II,
Bishop of Rome and Minister of the Unity of the Church,
Servant of the Servants of God,


As your brothers and sisters in the faith of Jesus Christ, we write to share with you a statement that is the fruit of deep prayerful reflection by thousands of faithful Catholics around the globe. It expresses a vision of church and church leadership animated by the Spirit of Pentecost that calls us to "see visions" and "dream dreams" that bring our faith community ever closer to living the ideals of the gospel (Acts 2: 17).

We share this statement in a spirit of respect, offering you our prayers and congratulations on the occasion of your 20th anniversary as the Bishop of Rome and Minister of Unity in our Church.

We share with you a deep love for our church and a desire that it be a sacrament of liberation and sanctification in the world of our own time and in the millennium about to begin. In the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, we assume our responsibility for announcing and implementing the message that Jesus proclaimed and entrusted to us: "The Spirit of Our God is upon me because the Most High has anointed me to bring the Good News to those who are poor. God has sent me to proclaim liberty to those who are captive, recovery of sight to those who are blind, and release to those in prison - to proclaim the year of Our God's favor" (Luke 4,18-19).

The institutional church plays a particularly important role in making God visible among us. The Second Vatican Council encouraged us to participate fully in the life of our church. Thus we are all charged with watching carefully that the "body language" of this institution is congruent with the message of love and liberty proclaimed in the gospel and revealed to us as God guides us through history. This concern has moved us to urge a fundamental institutional renewal so that the gospel message might be heard by future generations.

Your writings and homilies attest to your love for the Church and your deep sense of responsibility for the institution. Although your vision of church and ours diverge in several respects, we are both animated by our faith, by the quest for a more loving and unified community and by an ardent desire to spread the gospel of Jesus with new vigor and enthusiasm in the coming millennium.

In your apostolic letter, Ut Unum Sint (n.95), you asked all those who care about the future of the church to reflect on the "...forms in which this ministry [of Peter] may accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned...to find a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation."

We have accepted your challenge with our enclosed statement. You have called us to think about the future, about the qualities necessary to lead the next generation and ultimately about your successor as the Bishop of Rome. Because of your leadership, we have chosen this significant date in the history of your ministry to encourage a widespread public dialogue about these questions which are raised in UT Unum Sint.

Our statement matured through a rich dialogue process among groups that span the globe. We hope this is only the beginning of a process of wide participation by the Catholic faithful, as well as those of other faith traditions, in reflecting on the church of the future and the type of leadership that is needed. Ours is a modest contribution, but we offer it as our answer to your challenge in UT Unum Sint.

May we all have the courage, as a community of faith, to incarnate the love of God in our world. May we all follow the example of the young Mary of Nazareth that called us 2000 years ago to be open to the Spirit of God so that we might share the fruits of that Spirit with the world. And may we follow the example of Jesus who welcomed everyone as sisters and brothers, children of one God in a discipleship of equals.

Yours respectfully,





Elfriede Harth


Spokesperson, International Movement We Are Church

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