The failure of the Irish Church to hold a nationwide mission as requested by Pope Benedict is “disappointing”, a Rome-based priest has said.
In his March 2010 Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, the then Pope had listed concrete actions the Church in Ireland could take to renew itself, among which, he said, should be a nationwide mission for all bishops, priests and religious.
Such a mission, he hoped, would allow Ireland’s clergy and religious to reach “a more profound appreciation of your respective vocations, so as to rediscover the roots of your faith in Jesus Christ and to drink deeply from the springs of living water that he offers you through his Church”.
Writing to The Irish Catholic this week, however, Kerry priest Fr Bernard Healy, says that while the Irish Church has made “huge strides in the area of safeguarding and some progress in confronting the sad history of abuse”, it has perhaps not responded as well as it could have to the Pope’s request for rejuvenating mission.
“That no apparent action has yet been taken with respect to that request is disappointing. Surely the spiritual renewal of priests and religious must be part and parcel of any broader renewal in the Church as a whole,” he writes, adding: “Given the importance that Pope Francis places on spiritual discernment, such a mission would surely be in line with his thinking as well.”
Papal biographer Dr Austen Ivereigh told The Irish Catholic that a focus on serious retreats has been one of the Pope’s key reforms of the Vatican curia, with the American bishops’ similar retreat this January being experienced by many as a transformative experience.
“Really what Francis is seeking in both situations, for the curia and the American bishops, is really a retreat on the Ignatian model,” he said.
“You go away, you separate yourself from your environment, it’s in silence, there’s an austerity about it, and the whole idea is that you’re listening for the Holy Spirit. These retreats are all about allowing space for the Holy Spirit to renew you.
“When you do it as a body, the idea is that you’re renewed as a body, so the unity of apostolic body isn’t the result of an intellectual consensus, but is the fruit of the Holy Spirit acting in you as a body.