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The role of women in the Catholic Church ‘must be addressed’

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Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

A leading representative of priests in Ireland has warned that the role of women in the Catholic Church must be addressed by the synodal process which was launched today otherwise women are likely to walk away from the Church.

Parish priest, Fr Roy Donovan, a leader of the Association of Catholic Priests which represents over 1,000 Irish priests, told the Irish Independent that Pope Francis wants people in the Church “to speak boldly and without fear” on issues such as the problem of a patriarchal Church.

On Sunday, the Church’s synodal journey got underway in dioceses around the world on Sunday including in Ireland’s 26 catholic dioceses.

In Limerick, Bishop Brendan Leahy said that the objective of this phase of the synod was a consultation of the laity, but he stressed it must not become a ‘talking shop’.

He said the Synod was taking place “at a critical time for the Church” and that the worldwide listening process reflected, “the seriousness of the moment we are in”, a reference to the challenges the Church faces including declining vocations and mass attendances and clerical abuse scandals.

Every diocese in the world has been told by Pope Francis to consult widely with lay people through a structured listening process between now and next Easter. People’s views on reform and renewal in the Catholic Church will be sent to their bishops who will draw up a synthesis for consideration by the Synod in Rome in 2023.

Pope Francis’ openness to listening to the views of the Church’s wider membership through this synod has been hailed as the greatest Church event since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.

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However, Dr Leahy in Limerick warned that the consultation was “not a survey of opinions” or “a political convention”, rather it was about “faith conversations”.

In Dublin, Archbishop Dermot Farrell told a cross section of church members, from ex-prisoners, members of parish councils, priests and teachers, who gathered in St Mary’s Pro Cathedral, that the Church could not be reinvigorated by surveys or questionnaires or by producing a new document.

According to Fr Roy Donovan, “The Church is not used to listening to lay people speaking their minds and undoubtedly this provides a massive challenge to those at the top of the pyramid Church.”

He said he hoped that the structured listening process would provide the building blocks for a very different church but called for the process to be open to discussing all issues.

“Everything – including ‘red button’ issues such as the ordination of women, the celibacy requirement for priesthood and LGBT+ teaching – must be on the table.”

“Let’s hope everyone will follow Pope Francis’ example that gives full permission to speak our minds without fear, judgement and ridicule,” Fr Donovan said.

The parish priest of Caherconlish in Co Limerick said the Church warned, “Patriarchy is a stumbling block to mission.”

“Christianity was founded by women and then men took the ball off them and have yet to give it back. There have been many meetings with women over the past decades; all have ended up the same way – the women have walked away. I fear this is going to be the story of the upcoming Synod.”


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