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Pope commends collaborative governance to US bishops

In the wake of the sex abuse scandal, US bishops should be open to a more collaborative style of governance that shares responsibility with lay Catholics, Pope John Paul II has told a group of New Jersey and Pennsylvania bishops in Rome for their ad limina visit.

Speaking on Saturday, the Pope said a consultative approach should not be seen as an abandonment of episcopal authority or a concession to democracy, but as a necessary way of strengthening a bishop's effectiveness.

The Holy Father's theme was episcopal governance, and he said he wanted to explore it in the context of the sex abuse crisis. He said many of the bishops had spoken to him of a "crisis of confidence" in church leadership provoked by the abuse scandals and about the general call for accountability in the church's governance on every level.

The pope said the bishops should be willing to critique certain styles of governance that, in the name of efficient administration, "can run the risk of distancing the pastor from the members of his flock."

He recalled that the 2001 Synod of Bishops had acknowledged the need for each bishop to "develop a pastoral style which is ever more open to collaboration with all." Although bishops remain responsible for making authoritative decisions, this presupposes participation in decision-making by "every category of the faithful," he said.

Bishop Edward Cullen of Allentown, Pennsylvania, told Catholic News Service that the Vatican's doctrinal officials had done an excellent job clarifying the procedural issues. He also said the bishops received strong encouragement about their efforts to address the needs of sex abuse victims.

Pope urges U.S. bishops to have collaborative style of governance (Catholic News Service 13/9/04)

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14 Sep 2004