Belgian bishops could back women deacons and ending priestly celibacy in a Church more ‘present in the digital world’

David Nas (right) pictured during a ceremony for the ordination to the priesthood of the Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels, at the National Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Basilique nationale du Sacre-Coeur – Nationale Basiliek van het Heilig-Hart) in Brussels, Belgium, 3 February 2024. Newly ordained priest Nas, 32, is married and has three children; he is a member of the Chaldean Catholic Church.

By Elise Ann Allen

In the lead up to this year’s closing session of the Synod of Bishops on Synodality, Belgian bishops have reportedly opened a national discussion on allowing women deacons and ending the requirement of priestly celibacy.

According to Belgian Catholic news site Kerknet, the Belgian bishops’ conference ahead of the October 2-27 synod happening later in the year have sent a letter to all dioceses proposing, among other things, an openness to the women’s diaconate and an end to mandatory priestly celibacy.

The draft text, apparently sent to various diocesan discussion groups and councils throughout Belgium, makes three basic points, the first of which is that “a synodal missionary church requires open dialogue with the world around us”.

The Church, it says, cannot limit itself “to a one-way street” when it comes to sharing the Gospel with the world.

In a second point, the bishops ask that the Synod of Bishops “define our Church tradition(s) as dynamic and in constant development”.

They also asked for encouragement in pursuing “concrete form to the decentralisation” of certain topics of discussion in the Church, “allowing us to work together in unity with more legitimate diversity”.

“We ask for a concretisation of the ‘accountability’ of the bishops in a synodal church,” they said.

The bishops then apparently call for a deeper reflection on the role of women in the Church, proposing that the decision regarding women deacons be left up to individual dioceses or national or continental bishops’ conferences.

Asking for “the green light to take certain steps per bishops’ conference or continental bishops’ meetings”, the bishops said that by doing this, “the giving of increasing pastoral responsibility to women and the ordination of women to the diaconate need not be universally obligatory or prohibited”.

They also weighed in on the longstanding debate over priestly celibacy, saying: “There have long been strong questions about the obligation of celibacy for priests and deacons who become widowed.”

In this regard, they said there is a need to “rediscover the symbolic-sacramental nature of the ordained ministry”.

They said the relationship between priestly ordination and absolute authority in decision-making requires new clarification and asked that both priests and deacons involve more laypeople in the decision-making process, working “within teams in which lay people also have their place and task”.

Regarding the controversial debate over ordaining viri probati, or tested married men of proven faith and virtue, to the priesthood – one of the major proposals of the 2019 Synod of Bishops on the Amazon that Pope Francis chose not to act on – the bishops also weighed in, signalling an openness to the proposition.

“The priestly ordination of viri probati should not be universally obligatory or prohibited,” the bishops said in their memo.

They also stressed the need to prioritise communication with young people and to invest more resources in how to spread the Gospel in and through the digital world.

To this end, they suggested that a mechanism local bishops’ conferences and continental assemblies be established, “so that every local church has the necessary opportunities to be present in the digital world”.

Going forward, according to Kerknet, the Belgian bishops’ letter containing the proposals will be submitted for discussion in the country’s various dioceses. The results of this discussion must be gathered and submitted to the bishops by 7 April 2024, and will then be sent to the Synod of Bishops office in Rome.

A theological committee within the Belgian bishops’ conference will also explore the issues addressed in the letter, delving further into questions surrounding Church tradition and the various offices and ministries in the Church.

A multi-year process formally opened by Pope Francis in October 2021, the Synod of Bishops on Synodality is based on a global consultation process that has unfolded at the local, continental and universal levels, and is set to close with this year’s second Rome gathering, scheduled for Oct. 2-27.

Aimed at making the Catholic Church a more collaborative, welcoming and inclusive place for all of its members, the synod has been controversial due to the hot-button topics being discussed, including women’s priestly ordination, the female diaconate, the married priesthood, and outreach to the LGBTQ+ community.

Issues related to women, specifically women’s ordination to the priesthood and the diaconate, and LGBTQ+ issues have so far been the most divisive and contentious, with synod participants sparring far more than they agree.

The Belgian bishops have previously pushed for more liberal reform in the Church, openly going against the Vatican at times, amid a country considered one of the most secular in the whole of Europe.

While Pope Francis has welcomed discussion on women deacons and the ordination of viri probati throughout his nearly 11-year papacy, and has had repeated occasions to take action, he has yet to make a move on either, and has not indicated what decision he will make, if any, at the close of this year’s synod process.

Complete Article HERE!

No, Married Priests will not Solve the Abuse Crisis

By Mary Pezzulo

They’ve been talking about married priests on X/Twitter lately.

A Vatican official brought up ending the usual requirement for priestly celibacy in the Roman Catholic Church as a possible way to help priests not feel the need to live “double live.”  He didn’t draw any links between celibacy and sexual abuse, but since he also investigates clerical abuse he mentioned how it’s changed his point of view. And people got to talking. The question was asked, as I’ve often heard it asked: could letting priests have a wife help prevent the horrific sexual abuse scandals that just seem to keep happening? And as I always do when it’s asked, I cringed.

I am all in favor of examining the expectation that priests should be celibate. There are many reasons it might be good to have a married priesthood more like they do in the Eastern tradition. But it’s very dangerous to claim that giving priests wives will stop them from abusing. I don’t think there’s any evidence that not being allowed to have sex makes people abusive, and I think it’s dangerous to claim that it does.

If a vow of celibacy was really the cause of sexual abuse, we wouldn’t be having a depressingly familiar crisis in Evangelical Protestant churches right now, but we certainly are. Baptist pastors are men who can marry; in fact, a married pastor is not merely permitted but presumed to be the norm. They’re supposed to have a helpmate and children. It hasn’t stopped them from acting eerily like Catholic priests have been caught acting time and again. Anybody, from any walk of life, can abuse, but what is it about those religious traditions that makes sexual abuse by clergy so endemic there? What do they have in common? It’s not clerical celibacy.

And in any case, if you say that being married will keep a man from abusing, you’re putting the responsibility to stop him onto his wife.

You’re suggesting either that the wife will hold him accountable and protect any potential victims, or that she’s supposed to sexually gratify him so he doesn’t seek victims in the first place.

If you believe that married priests would end the abuse crisis because women would hold their husbands accountable: I don’t know how to begin to explain how crass it is to instrumentalize Catholic women and the sacrament of Holy Matrimony by using it as a pair of handcuffs for an abusive man. But most of the people who support giving priests wives to end sexual abuse seem to be claiming the latter. They seem to think that sexual abuse happens because priests are celibate, so having an outlet in the form of a wife will satisfy them so they don’t find a victim to force themselves onto.

This is also a disgusting instrumentalization of women, and of sex, which is supposed to be a free gift of love from one spouse to another. And it assumes that abusers abuse because they’re craving sex, which isn’t the case– most abusive people abuse because they get off on dominating others and making them suffer, not because they’re desperate to have sex. Sex and sexual abuse are fundamentally different things. But in addition, this idea betrays an extremely disturbing notion about how sexual urges and self control are supposed to work.

You don’t have to accept the Church’s teaching on sexuality to see the problem.

Any kind of healthy or ethical relationship with sex begins with the understanding that people don’t have to act on their urges. Sex, or at least sex with another person, is one of those things you can’t have merely because you think you’d like it; it always involves another person’s consent, and even if the other person is willing you can’t just have it wherever and whenever you think might be fun. No one can constantly be sexually gratified exactly as they’d like. Everybody is, in practice, celibate most of the time. You have to have self-control to exist among other people.

Being a functioning human involves being able to say “no” when your urges say “yes–” whether your urge is to shoplift Nutella and eat the whole jar in the supermarket, or to drive your car at 120 miles per hour in the middle of the city, or to have sex. If you can’t handle that, you shouldn’t be a priest;  you shouldn’t even be allowed around other people. You should be locked up.

I am deeply disturbed that a sizable number of people don’t seem to understand that having an outlet for his sexual urges isn’t going to fix a man who can’t control himself– even if that were fair to his wife.

If you want to say that expecting a man to be celibate for his entire life is bad for his mental health, we can have that argument. If you want to say that a vow of celibacy, combined with the Church’s stance on sexual issues, is only going to be attractive to a man who’s prone to abuse, we can argue about that too. We can sure talk about ordaining married men for other reasons. But if you think that sexual abuse is something that happens because a man needs an outlet one way or another so we’d better give him a wife, that’s not a position that can be defended. Because women are people, and because that’s not how sexuality works.

Complete Article HERE!

Will the Catholic Church allow married priests?

— Should it?

A Catholic priest’s life can be lonely

By Richard Ostling

The new year began with the surprise revival of this perennial issue by a prominent Catholic insider who asserted that the mandate for priests to be unmarried and celibate “was optional for the first millennium of the Church’s existence and it should become optional again.”

This came in a media interview with Archbishop Charles Scicluna, 63, named by Pope Francis in 2015 to lead the church in the nation of Malta. As he indicated, celibacy for all priests, not just those under vows in religious orders, was not made an absolute rule till the Second Lateran Council in A.D. 1139. Back then, one reason was to stop corrupt bishops from handing sons their lucrative posts.

Catholicism is the only branch of Christianity that imposes this requirement.

Sciclina is an especially influential figure due to his 2018 appointment by Francis to a second post as Adjunct Secretary of the Vatican’s all-important agency on doctrine. Over the years, the Vatican has also entrusted the archbishop, who holds doctorates in both secular and canon law, to prosecute delicate cases of sexual abuse by priests.

Married priests already exist

As Scicluna pointed out, the Catholic Church has long welcomed priests who marry prior to ordination in its Oriental Rite jurisdictions, centered in Ukraine, India, Lebanon and elsewhere in the Mideast. Such is also the tradition in Eastern Orthodoxy. (Catholicism occasionally ordains married Protestant ministers who convert.)

The archbishop demanded, “Why should we lose a young man who would have made a fine priest just because he wanted to get married? And we did lose good priests just because they chose marriage.” He said “experience has shown me this is something we need to seriously think about.” For one thing, some priests cope with the rule “by secretly engaging in sentimental relationships” and “we know there are priests around the world who also have children.” Therefore “if it were up to me I would revise the requirement.”

Was Scicluna nudging delegates who next October will attend the second and final session of Pope Francis’s Synod of Bishops at the Vatican? After all, the delegates’ guidebook said local and national discussions leading to the Synod had raised this: “Could a reflection be opened concerning the discipline on access to the priesthood for married men, at least in some areas?” Any such historic proposal voted by the Synod would be merely advisory. The Pope has full power to implement Synod conclusions, or not.

What would Francis do?

How might Francis lean? Last March, he reminded an Argentine news outlet that celibacy “is a temporary prescription” in the western Latin Rite, not a dogma that is unchanging. He added the ambiguous remark that “I do not know if it is settled in one way or another.” In 2019, Francis told journalists “I do not agree with allowing optional celibacy, no,” though he also said he saw leeway to consider exceptions for “pastoral necessity,” as with remote regions that lack priests.

The following year, a book co-authored by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI championed the traditional celibacy discipline. The modern case for celibacy was officially formulated by Pope Paul VI just after the Second Vatican Council in his 1967 encyclical Sacerdotalis Caelibatus (“Priestly Celibacy”).

The encyclical candidly addressed objections raised against the celibacy discipline starting, appropriately enough, with New Testament. Jesus commended workers who “have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it ” (Matthew 19:12). St. Paul wrote concerning unmarried believers that “it is a good thing for them to remain as they are, as I do” (1 Corinthians 7:8). However, neither mandated singleness for the 12 apostles or subsequent Christian ministers.

In the earliest Christian communities, 1 Timothy 3 teaches that a bishop should be “married only once” while “keeping his children under control,” and Titus 1:5-6 says presbyters  must be “married only once, with believing children.” The Pope’s encyclical admitted all that. The clear inference is that most or all would be married as a matter of course. But over later centuries, the practice of clergy celibacy became widespread and, in some areas, a requirement.

Notably, the Pope’s encyclical cited a dozen passages in 1 Corinthians but skipped 9:5, where St. Paul asks “do we not have the right to take along a Christian wife, as do the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?” (another name for St. Peter). In other words, the man who in Catholic belief was the church’s first pope was married and traveled with his wife as a Christian evangelist.

A Bible verse ignored

The Catholic Answers Web site likewise ignores the 9:5 verse, thereby demonstrating devotion to celibacy in its treatment of St. Peter. This site admits Peter had been married at one time because we know Jesus cured his mother-in-law (Matthew 8:14-154, Luke 4:38-39). But it echoes a tradition (not any official Catholic view) that he was a widower whose wife “died prior to the ministry of Jesus.”

On other objections, the Pope granted that “some” think celibacy underlies the obvious shortage of priests, and sets up temptations for sexual “waywardness” that damage the church’s witness. Then there’s the contention that the rule prevents development of “a mature and well-balanced human personality,” “disparages human values,” and imposes “loneliness.”

But the Pope insisted that with proper spiritual formation the priest can control his “temperament, sentiments and passions.” And he questioned whether the end of celibacy would “considerably increase the number of priestly vocations.”

Most of the text was a heartfelt argument that the church always makes celibacy voluntary as priests’ “tranquil, convinced and free choice.” It was portrayed as “the total and generous gift of themselves to the mystery of Christ, as well as its outward sign,” that allows full devotion to “pastoral service of the People of God,” with “maximum efficiency and the best disposition of mind, mentally and emotionally.”

Complete Article HERE!

Conservative U.S. Catholics watch with dread as pope opens major meeting

The Rev. Joseph Strickland, the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Tyler, Tex., and pictured in 2015, is a critic of Pope Francis’s who has become a hero to many conservative Catholics.

By

Conservative Catholics in the United States — home to perhaps the wealthiest and loudest concentration of Pope Francis’s right-wing critics — are watching the major Vatican meeting opening this week with dread and deep mistrust. Concrete organizing against the “Synod on Synodality” or against Francis is rare, but lobbing of the word “schism” is not.

From the most radical traditionalist to the mainstream conservative, many U.S. Catholics are wary about the opening Wednesday of the synod, which has been planned for more than two years. Despite worldwide listening sessions offered at every level of the Catholic Church, many conservatives feel that the long process of gathering opinions and representatives for the synod was stacked against them.

They see the free-flowing synod structure, which involves laypeople and women in equal roles to clergy, as un-Catholic, and they see as dangerous program documents such as those asking for “concrete steps” to better welcome LGBTQ Catholics and people in polygamous marriages. They feel that Jesus’ name was downplayed in synod documents.

“The primary concern is that the pope will authorize things that are not contained in Catholic doctrine or that will contradict it such as women deacons, blessing gay unions” or weakening Catholic teachings against contraception and abortion by emphasizing individual conscience, said the Rev. Gerald Murray, a New York City priest who will be in Rome during the synod doing commentary for several conservative media outlets. “We’re not Protestants.”

Such anxieties may have grown Monday with the Vatican’s release of a letter from Francis suggesting an openness to Catholic blessings for same-sex couples — so long as the ceremonies were not confused with sacramental marriages — and to further study the idea of women’s ordination to the priesthood.

Francis was responding to a letter from five conservative retired cardinals, asking him to reaffirm traditional teachings ahead of the three-week synod. The five asked him to reaffirm that sex outside marriage between man and woman is a grave sin, and to answer whether the synod will have powers that have been understood to belong only to the pope and bishops.

In addition to the involvement of women and laypeople, the synod is different from similar past events in how it has been organized. Instead of being divided into language groups, the makeup of conversation groups will be regularly changed through the weeks. Supporters of this approach see a chance to expand perspectives; conservatives see something more like speed-dating or the chaos of a preschool classroom.

“Why has it gone from a synod of bishops to include others? Bishops have a divine role in the governance of the church. Bishops’ powers are priestly power, governance power, teaching power. It’s by virtue of that power that they have the authority to tell us what to do, what to believe, tell us how to act. Laypeople can give opinions but don’t have an authoritative voice,” Murray said. “It changes the nature of the church.”

Alejandro Bermudez, a longtime journalist covering the Catholic Church in English and Spanish, said conservatives fear “that the whole thing is a bait and switch,” he said. “The synod is on ‘synodality,’ meaning discussion, is supposed to be how the church can function better, how to govern the church. But the questions are related to gay blessings, women priests, married priests. How is that related to synodality?”

Conservatives have also been offended by Francis’s at times scolding his U.S. critics. Last month, the Catholic publication La Civilta Cattolicà quoted him as saying there is a “strong reactionary attitude” among American Catholics. He characterized them as backward-looking, closed.

>“Instead of living by doctrine, by the true doctrine that always develops and bears fruit, they live by ideologies,” Francis was quoted as saying.

Conservatives are conservative by nature, and the prevailing mood could be described by those who are paying attention as an angry wait-and-see. Several close watchers of the ideological span of this group say the vast majority in it are unaware of the synod or are indifferent to it. They are said to be consoling themselves with the knowledge that Francis’s liberalizing talk has not yet resulted in change to doctrine and are looking ahead to the next conclave — the selection of a pope — where they hope Francis’s ethos will be stamped out.

“We’re leading to the next conclave. When Pope Francis dies or resigns, it’ll be a clear choice,” Murray said. “That’s the unstated thing in where this struggle is leading. If there are major changes [at the synod] and they elect someone like Francis [at the next conclave], then there will be a split. But not before that.”

Use of the word “split” or “schism” is not uncommon when the U.S. Catholic right wing is asked what the stakes of the coming years are. What exactly that would look like, however, isn’t clear. It is not new for Catholics to have sprawling disagreements, but recent years have seen more overt challenges to the church’s hierarchy.

Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández, an Argentine who is the Vatican’s new chief of doctrine, said in an interview last month that bishops on the right and the left who think “they have a special gift of the Holy Spirit to judge the doctrine of the Holy Father, we will enter into a vicious circle and that would be heresy and result in schism.”

The activism for now among conservative U.S. Catholics is primarily talk online, on huge media channels like EWTN and on popular blogs or YouTube channels including “First Things” and “Return to Tradition,” whose tagline is, in part, “Dealing with Modernism, Vatican 2, and all the rest of the mess that is the present state of the Church.”

“There is no unified action of movement that people will take or follow. A lot depends on the next conclave, which people shouldn’t try to predict the outcome of ahead of time,” Anthony Stine, who runs Return to Tradition, which has about 150,000 followers, wrote to The Washington Post.

“Catholics all want the same Catholic faith as their ancestors,” Stine said. “They don’t want the tough moral teachings of the Church changed to reflect the whims of a secular culture that is increasingly hostile to the faith and increasingly unstable.”

Stine has said in interviews that he doubts the synod will lead to changes such as a full embrace of homosexuality or female deacons. He said his main concern is that it may produce a document that is vague, allowing breakaway liberals to implement changes.

“So, the circus won’t be over,” he told the Catholic YouTuber Joe McClane this summer.

But some are not waiting.

Conservative activists and experts on the Catholic Church say some people are lobbying and advocating to like-minded U.S. clerics who are going to the synod. They include Winona-Rochester Bishop Robert Barron, the founder of the mega-ministry Word on Fire, whose recent chat with the right-wing activist and writer Chris Rufo drew 46,000 views; Archbishop Timothy Broglio, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York.

Stine says some Catholics are preparing to have “independent” traditional priests offer Mass in homes and businesses on Sunday mornings, as happened in the years after Vatican II.

Since Francis took office, there have been other signs of fed-up conservatives taking matters into their own hands — if not breaking away, then taking unprecedented steps.

In 2018, a group of laypeople aimed to raise $1 million and hire dozens of workers to create dossiers on every cardinal, reportedly in an effort to influence the next conclave. This year, The Post reported that a group of wealthy conservatives in Colorado had poured millions into buying mobile app tracking data that identified priests who used gay dating and hookup apps and then shared the data with bishops around the country — feeling that church leaders were not doing enough about the issue of gay priests.

Some high-profile conservative priests have sharpened the rhetoric ahead of the synod. They include the Rev. Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Tex., who in recent weeks tweeted that he “rejects” Francis’s program and that Catholics should “follow Jesus.” In a letter to his diocese, he said people who propose changes to “that which cannot be changed … are indeed the true schismatics.”

Strickland has become a hero to many conservative Catholics.

Last week, a further-right critic, the Rev. James Altman of La Crosse, Wis., posted a video calling for Francis to be killed. Altman’s bishop barred him from saying Mass in 2021 after he criticized coronavirus vaccines and said that victims of lynchings were criminals and that Catholics cannot vote Democratic. Some conservatives took to social media in recent days to ostracize Altman, but others have cheered him on. Altman also drew attention in September with a video saying Francis is not a legitimate pope.

Stine said the reactions to Altman’s declarations show that conservative Catholics “are as fractured as anything else in society.”

“Every traditional Catholic I know, as well as more mainline conservative Catholics who oppose [Francis’s] program for the Church, all pray for him daily. That’s the biggest mark of support you can offer to anyone, honestly,” Stine wrote to The Post. That said, most traditional Catholics with whom he speaks “think we’re in a state of de-facto schism and have been for a long time now,” he said. “If anything, the state of the Church will be made more obvious at the end of the synodal process.”

Complete Article HERE!

The Pope’s African pilgrimage

— Does the continent represent the future of Catholicism?

By

As milestones go, the recent sight of three leading men of God together in Africa was quite something — a rare chance for Christian leaders to spread the word and challenge rivals for hearts and minds.

Pope Francis and the Vatican media machine might have led the way, but alongside him went Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields. They shared the Papal plane on the way home with the kind of bonhomie and mutual understanding that highlights the importance of Africa in the contest to be the world’s leading faith.

There they were, the three of them, in the war zone of South Sudan, the Christian stronghold that broke away from the Muslim north amid terrible conflict. Today that newest of countries represents a small but symbolically important piece of the continent’s religious jigsaw that will see Christianity grow by more than 40 per cent, the hierarchy believes, by 2050, and so ensure their faith will continue to stay just ahead of Islam in global per centages.

Some walked for days just to see and hear him

Ahead of that historic appearance of a Christian triumvirate, Pope Francis had spent days in Congo, sub-Saharan Africa’s largest country, home to more than 100 million, half of them Catholic, and the crucible of a conflict that has claimed more than five million lives, displacing millions more. It was a grim sign of the continuing murder and mayhem that the Pope had to cancel a trip to Eastern Congo, the epicentre of the war, because of fighting near the regional capital of Goma.

At his main mass in the capital, Kinshasa, more than a million Catholics joined him, some having walked for days just to see and hear him. Everywhere he went, thousands lined the streets and overpasses to glimpse the man many Congolese call simply “Our Father.” Francis, deeply moved, found the voice that has eluded him in recent times.

“This country, so immense and full of life, this diaphragm of Africa, struck by such violence like a blow to the stomach, has seemed for some time to be gasping for breath,” he told followers, clearly energised by the sight of so many worshippers. “But you are a diamond, believe in yourselves, and your future.”

The numbers do tell. According to the Vatican’s news agency, Africa accounts for 265 million members of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics — 20 per cent, and growing fast. The Anglican church is smaller but with significant followers in those countries with a footprint of the British empire: Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa (think the late Desmond Tutu)

“Africa offers Christianity such opportunity, born out of tragedy and suffering maybe, but such potential,” to quote one of the Pope’s advisers, noting that the Pontiff insisted on making the trip despite poor health of late and being now wheelchair-bound. “Francis, better than anyone, knows where we have lost ground, and where we need to work.”

It is ironic to consider it but, yes, the Argentinian Pope does indeed know where Catholicism has seen the faithful flee elsewhere. In Latin America, once the vanguard of his own Jesuit mission and home to the largest Catholic country on the planet, Brazil, Church leaders acknowledge that tens of millions have been lost to rivals, especially the Evangelical and Pentecostal faiths.

Even in the Pope’s beloved Argentina, you can see the exodus and not just in the major cities, Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Rosario. In the foothills of the Andes, in conservative, rural Mendoza, the Catholic church is often half-empty. In contrast the Evangelical arena, often a large, multi-purpose room on the main street, or a schoolroom not used on the weekends, can be packed to overflowing — with the devout outside in sizable numbers.

“Ours is Christianity that speaks to people’s needs, and people’s lives,” says Evangelical minister Jose Hernandez in Mendoza, pinpointing how Rome’s hard line on “social issues” (code for contraception, abortion, and the role of women in the Church) especially during the long years of the Polish Pope, John Paul the Second, opened the floodgates. “Ordinary people have flocked to us.”

The religious battle for Africa has been joined

Fascinatingly, the attempts of Pope Francis to soften the conservative line of his predecessors — taking for example such a relaxed view of homosexuality (“who am I to judge?” he says, “they are children of God too”) — has produced blowback, the likes of which Christianity may not have seen before. Such appeasement seems to have come too late for his Church in Latin America — and in Africa, his open voice on gay life is the seed of clear dispute between his Vatican and some fiercely traditional Bishops, let alone communities, on the ground in the likes of Congo and South Sudan.

“The Pope can have his view on homosexuality, and we have ours,” said one Catholic Bishop in attendance as the Pope celebrated that mega-mass in Kinshasa. “It is a sin.” Justin Welby and the Anglican church heard likewise in South Sudan from their flock. “Better to have two wives than to be gay or lesbian,” according to one Protestant Archbishop there.

The religious battle for Africa has been joined, and Christianity, losing out elsewhere in the Global South, sees the continent as the go-to arena tomorrow. So much so that inside the Vatican — where I was once a young correspondent back in the day when they dared to elect a Pole as Pope — they say the next Pontiff could well be an African.

Complete Article HERE!