BENGALURU, India — The hierarchy of the Catholic Church would have to undergo deep structural changes and share administrative powers with all Catholics if it is to create a synodal church as envisioned by Pope Francis, a leading Indian theologian has said.
Father Felix Wilfred, former secretary of the theological advisory committee of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, said the synodality Pope Francis insists on calls for “a transition from the synodal of bishops as an institution to the church Synod” as a means of being. Ucanews.com reported that he said it required “profound structural changes” and should resolve “major theological issues”.
In a speech delivered at a synodality seminar in mid-March to some 600 Catholic leaders, theologians and scholars, the 74-year-old theologian, who has served as a member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission, formulated a series of recommendations, insisting that the Indian church must change radically to embody Pope Francis’ vision of a synodal church.
“Synodalism is the key concept of Pope Francis’ ecclesiology and the way for the Church in the third millennium. Pope Francis offers a macro vision, a 1,000-year program for the Church in the third millennium,” he said.
“When the spirit of synodality is practiced, it would make the church an inverted pyramid. Canon law needs to undergo a profound change, because the current code clearly states that the power of governance is reserved for those who belong to holy orders “, did he declare.
Ucanews.com reported that Wilfred said that through baptism everyone is equal and all Catholics are expected to cooperate in the exercise of power.
He questioned that the Indian Church continues to have two different synodal structures – Eastern Rite and Latin Rite – although both have the same socio, cultural and economic backgrounds.
The Indian Catholic Church includes the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara churches, which claim the apostolic tradition of Saint Thomas, and the Latin Rite church introduced by the Portuguese in the 16th century.
Each Eastern Rite church has its own episcopal synod, and Latin bishops have a separate episcopal conference, ucanews.com reported. The Indian bishops of the three rites together are members of a fourth body called the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.
Wilfred told the Bangalore gathering, which included bishops and seminary professors, that until the Council of Trent, provincial councils even decided on the appointment of bishops in communion with the pope.
“So we have to be able to think, decide and act for ourselves,” he said.
At least 57 papers were presented during the March 21-23 program hosted by the Department of Missiology at St. Peter’s Seminary in Bengaluru, formerly Bangalore.