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Martini says Church should be more democratic

Influential former Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, has said the Church should be more democratic, allow women to be deacons, and give laypeople a say in selecting bishops.

Speaking to the Rome newspaper Il Tempo, Cardinal Martini said secret conclaves to select popes should not be restricted to cardinals but should include the chairmen of national bishops' conferences in order to make the selection more representative.

The 77 year old Jesuit cardinal, who for years before he retired in 2002 was the favourite candidate of liberal Catholics to succeed Pope John Paul, said power should not be a monopoly of the hierarchy.

He called for a "permanent reigning council" to help run the Church together with the pope.

Martini stopped short of speaking about women priests but he said women should get more power and influence in the Church and that their merits should be "recognised and promoted."

He suggested that the Church should study ways of allowing women to be deacons, give sermons and assist priests at mass.

Martini said the synod of bishops, which meets every few years, could be more effective, with bishops given more of a decision-making role rather than a consultative role.

Church Should Be More Democratic-Leading Cardinal (Reuters 7/4/04)

Cardinal Calls for Church Governing Body (The Guardian/Associated Press 7/4/04)
Cardinal Martini repeats call for decentralized Church government (Catholic World News 7/4/04)

8 Apr 2004