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Ratzinger regrets Church centralism

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has admitted that there have been times when the Vatican has intervened too often in the affairs of a local church, according to a report in The Tablet at the weekend.

According to the paper, Cardinal Ratzinger - Prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - made the surprise remarks to journalists following the Requiem Mass in Vienna of its former Archbishop, Cardinal Franz König, who died last month.

Cardinal Ratzinger frequently clashed with Cardinal König over church governance. In a Tablet article in March 1999, König deplored what he described as the Vatican's "inflated centralism" and accused the curial authorities of appropriating the tasks which properly belonged to bishops' conferences.

"Perhaps we could sometimes be more generous in certain matters," Cardinal Ratzinger told journalists after the Requiem, which the doctrinal congregation prefect conducted on the Pope's behalf. The German word he used - grosszügig - is variously translated as "generous", "magnanimous" or "tolerant".

Cardinal Ratzinger also said he was prepared to think about where less centralism and more decentralisation could be applied in the Church. There was "no absolute ban" on the part of the Holy See as far as making readjustments was concerned, he said, adding that it was important both to maintain unity and to allow local Churches to develop their charisms. Local bishops should not be afraid to make unpopular decisions and should not shun conflict, he said. But the right balance between the central authorities and local Churches had not always been found, he admitted.

Ratzinger regrets church centralism at König funeral (The Tablet 3/4/04)

Ratzinger denies Rome wish to crush local churches (CathNews 6/2/04)
Vatican diplomat Cardinal Koenig dead at 98 (CathNews 15/3/04)
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Cardinal Ratzinger Fan Club

5 Apr 2004