By a Special Correspondent SWEEPSWEEPING democratisation of the Church in ING is likely to be discussed behind closed doors at next week's meeting of the Bishops of England and Wales at Cardinal Heenan's house in Westminster, London.
Although the agenda is secret, a key subject facing the meeting is the Pope's mow proprio decree which spells out steps to be taken in carrying out three Vatican Council decrees : • On the Bishops' Pastoral Office in the Church • On the Renewal of Religious Life • On the Church's Missionary Activity.
Under the moto proprio bishops are ordered to revise the rules governing their status and canonical relationship with priests and laity and with the Curia in Rome. Suggested changes would go on to the Holy See for approval. The moto proprio also recommends the creation of two new channels of communication between bishops and the rest of the Church.
The first is a senate of priests. appointed by the bishop, to represent all the priests of the diocese and make their views known to him. By acting as consultants. says the mow proprio. the senate "can effectively assist the bishop in the government of the diocese". However, it notes, they have "only a consultative vote".
The second channel recommended in the decree is a pastoral council, made up of selected priests, religious and laymen, who would investigate everything concerning parish activities and make detailed recommendations to the bishops. Again, their role would be purely consultative. The decree suggests that all the diocesan councils in a country should be set up in the same manner. Holland has already set up a pastoral council for the whole country. It will meet for the first time on November 27. Hundreds of priests and thousands of lay people are helping prepare for it, and non-Catholics have been asked for their contributions as well.
The general meetings, to be held in public will discuss four main themes: Faith and Christian life in today's world.
Pastoral responsibility. The Christian's education and social responsibility.
His political responsibility and duty to work for peace.
Commissions have been set up, following the pattern of the Vatican Council. Lay people will be full-fledged members of all the commissions, and a special subcommission is considering whether it will be possible to invite Protestant Churches to attend meetings "on a basis of equality".
In Germany. all the Bishops have just finished their annual meeting, having set up 18 permanent commissions whose jobs will include creating senates of priests and pastoral councils for all the country's dioceses. They also studied the setting up of permanent deacons, with families and regular jobs, to improve contact between the Church and the world.
At the end of their meeting the bishops issued a joint pastoral letter warning against misinterpretation and exaggeration of Vatican II decrees.