Friday, April 03, 2009

French bishops rally to Pope's defence

French bishops have launched a "dialogue offensive" in response to criticisms of recent Papal pronouncements on the rehabilitation of Catholic traditionalists and the use of condoms to combat AIDS.

"One should remember the key fact that the Pope isn't a politician who has to count on opinion reactions when taking decisions," the bishops’ conference spokesman, Fr Bernard Podvin, told Vatican Radio.

"But we must work on the Pope's image, and also seek improved contacts with public opinion, so it can get to know the Catholic Church better."

The priest was speaking as Bishop Jean-Paul Mathieu of Saint-Die invited "nervous and enquiring" French citizens to write to him about their "suffering and rage" and promised to read all letters and emails.

Meanwhile, another Church leader said he was also ready for dialogue in an effort to show "Christ came not to condemn but to save".

“We are witnessing a series of skids which are provoking a media lynch - everything is mixed up in an implacable and perverse logic of culpability," Bishop Claude Dagens of Angouleme told Catholics in a pastoral letter.

"We must now move on from the shock to a reflection on what is profoundly at stake in the Church's human and spiritual mission in the world.

“Some people would like to see relations of opposition and hard confrontation between the Church and modern world. My conviction is that we should above all practice understanding and dialogue, and be ready to listen".

The French Church has faced strong media reactions to recent Papal controversies, including a January decision to lift the excommunication of bishops from the arch-traditionalist Society of St Pius X, or Lefebvrists, half of whose 400,000 members live in the country.

In a March survey, 47 per cent of citizens said they hoped Benedict XVI would resign after rejecting the use of condoms to combat AIDS during a flight to Africa, although over half said they also disagreed with "negative evaluations" of the pontiff.

Meanwhile, in an open letter to an Alsace newspaper, a leader of France's Protestant Federation, Pastor Francois Collange, said the Pope's views contradicted the Gospel and "cast a shadow over the whole of Christianity".

The president of France's Bishops Conference, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris, said he also believed the "unreasonable reactions" amounted to a "media lynching".

Meanwhile, Bishop Mathieu condemned "simplifications" of the Pope's views, and said he hoped to make a "useful synthesis" by responding directly to concerns, especially among young people.

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(Source: TC)

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