Pope urges church to back jus­tice, equal­ity for women

The Buffalo News - - WORLD NEWS - By Chico Har­lan

ROME – In a new ma­jor doc­u­ment ad­dressed to “all Chris­tian young peo­ple,” Pope Fran­cis called for a church with “open doors” that can acknowledge past ills and be at­ten­tive to women seek­ing “greater jus­tice and equal­ity.”

The 33,000-word let­ter re­leased Tues­day by the Vat­i­can showed the pope’s hall­mark ad­vo­cacy for a ver­sion of Catholic teach­ing that is will­ing to evolve with the times. But the doc­u­ment did lit­tle to ad­vo­cate for con­crete steps that would change the role of women in the church. Nor did it break ground on two other is­sues crit­i­cal to young peo­ple: the church’s han­dling of sex­ual abuse and its teach­ing on ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity.

With­out men­tion­ing crit­i­cism from tra­di­tion­al­ists, who feel the pope has pulled the church away from its morals, Fran­cis wrote that a church al­ways on the de­fen­sive stops lis­ten­ing to oth­ers, “leaves no room for ques­tions” and “turns into a mu­seum.”

“How, then, will she be able to re­spond to the dreams of young peo­ple?” Fran­cis wrote in the so-called apos­tolic ex­hor­ta­tion, en­ti­tled “Christ is Alive.”

The pope’s doc­u­ment comes at a time when young peo­ple across the West are aban­don­ing or­ga­nized re­li­gion, in­clud­ing the scan­dal-hit Catholic faith. Bish­ops met at the Vat­i­can last Oc­to­ber for a meet­ing on the topic of youth in the church, and the pon­tiff’s doc­u­ment was a fol­low-up to that meet­ing. The Vat­i­can in Fe­bru­ary held a sep­a­rate meet­ing to ad­dress the sex­ual abuse of mi­nors, and though the prob­lem has thrown the Catholic Church into cri­sis, it was not a pri­mary fo­cus of Fran­cis’s lat­est doc­u­ment.

In­stead, the pope de­voted sev­eral para­graphs to the cler­i­cal abuse issue, mostly reit­er­at­ing words from pre­vi­ous papal speeches or from a church doc­u­ment pro­duced af­ter the bish­ops meet­ing in Oc­to­ber. Fran­cis, in his lat­est en­cycli­cal, wrote that anger to­ward the church is “jus­ti­fied,” and he thanked those who “had the courage to re­port the evil they ex­pe­ri­enced.”

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