Last Updated: Wednesday - 01/05/2011
October 29, 2001
Bishops urged to work together
Weisgerber says shared responsibility must include work for justice
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
VATICAN CITY — A Canadian archbishop said questions about shared responsibility in the Catholic Church can be addressed only by promoting trust, respect and a willingness to listen.
Archbishop James Weisgerber of Winnipeg said true communion among all of the world's bishops should not focus on power-sharing alone, but must include joint action for justice and the relief of suffering.
In an Oct. 17 interview during the month-long Synod of Bishops at the Vatican, the archbishop said that, while calls for decentralization of power in the Church drew much public attention, he and many other bishops were feeling the need for a more comprehensive approach.
In the synod hall and in the small working groups, he said, bishops from Africa and Asia shared stories of "tremendous human suffering" because of poverty, war and oppression.
"When we speak of collegiality, so often it is related to power or teaching authority. But, when we say the bishops with the pope are collectively responsible for the Church, that means we also are collectively responsible for those situations," he said.
Weisgerber said the World Mission Sunday collection is one example of the whole Church acting together to meet Church needs, but the College of Bishops itself should have an "institutional mechanism" to speak out for justice and offer concrete aid to bishops whose people are in distress.
The archbishop said issues involving collegiality came up time and time again during the synod and included calls for reforming the synod process, recognizing the authority of bishops and bishops' conferences and improving relations between bishops and the Roman Curia.
The October synod was not the first time bishops tried to bring these matters to the attention of the curia. "I think these things will be mentioned continually until they are solved one way or the other," he said.
Some of the requests may not be possible or appropriate for the Church, but if that is the case it needs to be explained in a better way, he said.
The calls for reform do not mean the Church is quaking at its highest levels, he said. It simply means that Church workers at that level are human too.
"You should not be surprised at this," Weisgerber said. "The big issue is how this conflict is dealt with."
"This is where communion really needs to come in," he said.
"Communion has to do, first and foremost, with trust and respect and then real listening, allowing oneself to be challenged by what the other is saying," he said.
The issues raised by the bishops show they do not feel they are listened to or consulted enough, he said. "There has to be mutuality and that is what's missing."
On a more personal level, Weisgerber said, the synod discussions underlined two things in his own diocese that he needs to pay more attention to: being a teacher and caring for his priests.
"I've had the feeling in my diocese that I haven't been seen as a teacher, and I've come to realize that that is because I am not teaching," he said.
Preaching, although important, is not enough and cannot compete with the values promoted by the media or the mistaken notions of Church beliefs portrayed in the media, he said.
Weisgerber said he is considering giving a monthly lecture in his cathedral, probably using the Catechism of the Catholic Church as his framework.
As for the priests, the archbishop agrees with synod speakers who said their well-being must be a bishop's priority.
With the vocations crisis in North America, "it's difficult to see any light at the end of the tunnel" and any relief from the increasing number of tasks each priest is asked to perform, the archbishop said.
People seem more confused and afraid than ever, so they turn to their priests, but often with unreasonable demands, he said.
"The priests and the bishop are fellow disciples; they don't have all the answers," he said. "They are trying to survive, too."
"This pushes everybody either into depression or onto their knees, and I think that is where the hope lies," Weisgerber said.
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