Admitted in another interview with the organiser of the Pro Pope Francis Initiative. See also Organiser of Pro Pope Francis letter hits out at critics of the Pope and Progressive Catholic "big-guns" attack Correctio Filialis.
Why the Pope now needs support
Why the Pope now needs support
Over 160 Bishops, theologians and other celebrities have now signed an open letter to Pope Francis. Katholisch.de spoke with the co-initiator of the initiative, Paul Zulehner, about lack of support in the Vatican and the (so far) silent majority of the church population.
"Conservative Catholics have recently criticized the Pope with a" childish Correction ". Now bishops, theologians, politicians and other celebrities respond. They defend Francis in an open letter, which is accessible on their website and can be signed by everyone. In the letter, the Pope is asked not to deviate from his previous course and to provide him with support. The co-initiator is the Viennese pastor theologian, Paul Zulehner. In this interview with Katholisch, he talks about the emergence of the initiative, about the correct approach to the critics of the Pope and the many people who are involved.
Question: Mr. Zulehner, with all due respect: Does a Pontifex Maximus need the support of an initiative like yours at all?
The University Dean
Zulehner: Asztrik Várszegi, the archbishop of Pannonhalma, who is also a bishop, has told us that, of course, he is very sorry to say that such a thing is necessary. And I can already connect a little to this statement. On the other hand, we also know from the Pope himself that he loves the plurality and the open exchange of opinions and does not suppress them. And to this extent, this conflict, which we want, is quite creative for the life of the Church.
Question: Critics could still speak of a "poor testimony" that now a group has to come and "help" the head of the world church. What do you oppose?
Zulehner: I think that thus the Pope comes less into the firing line. It is also a matter of a fair discussion in the church people themselves, among the bishops, the theologians, the cardinals. And we are participating in this fair debate - with an open visor.
Question: One reads from your public letter that it is an answer to the "Dubia-Brief"and the last published “childish correction” . Behind it are rather smaller groups, but with the "loud scream". Do not these little groups get more attention by your action?
Zulehner: We had the impression that just these small groups were enjoying attention. The bishops are silent, and even in the media, little will be done in favour of the silent majority. And we want to bring this silent majority now. This is extremely successful. The support is overwhelming. We now have over 4,000 supporters and well over 160 signatories of the letter. And these are some very prominent people, such as former Bundestag president, Wolfgang Thierse or the former state president of Hungary, László Sólyom. There are new people around the world, such as Anselm Grün from Germany or David Steindl-Rast from the USA, the "gurus" of the world church.
Question: Why is the majority silent, even the bishops? Why do only a few critics make their voice heard?
Zulehner: It is remarkable that there is so much silence among the bishops. But it must also be noted that a considerable number of the bishops are from the time before Francis. The courageous path of the Pope does not seem to be quite certain for them. And then they just wait and see what happens. I also have responses from bishops and cardinals, who precisely signal this noble restraint, to our initiative. I do not share them, but one can understand their motives.
Question: You said "noble restraint". Are there not perhaps many who think like the critics, but do not dare to say anything?
Zulehner: There certainly is. It has already been seen in the Family Synod that there is an argument in this sensitive point of the admission of remarried divorced to the Sacraments. But this, as the Pope himself says, is a normal development. It takes a vanguard, which starts the development, there are brakemen and there is the big centre, which moves, if one can convince them. And now we want to convince church people.
Question: Were the "Dubia letter " and the "Correctio" legitimate paths of criticism or have the groups gone too far?
Zulehner: I do not want to judge that. I think they have thought of this and have reasons and arguments that may not be the right ones, but they must be heard from their point of view. I am a very peaceful and discreet conversation partner for such groups. And I believe - this is also a concern of the initiative - that the bridge building is needed between the different groups in the church. This could also be aroused by our open action. (Cathcon: calling your opponents childish is hardly going to get them around any table)
Question: The Pope is silent on the criticism of his person. Should he not better answer himself instead of letting other people like you "do it" for him?
Zulehner: I was busy with "Amoris laetitia" and wrote a book entitled "From the Law to the Face". And I agree with the Pope when he says, "Just read the text well." I have also discussed this with Cardinal Schönborn. Like me, he is of the opinion that it is theologically free of knots, which has been made in "Amoris laetitia". And I believe that the Pope is silent because he says, "People can read and understand, if they so wish, and if there are any doubts, this is to be discussed among the theologians but not in the public sphere."
Question: The composition of the signatories is varied. How was this group formed? Are you targeting people, including bishops and cardinals?
Zulehner: It was Tomas Halik, who had the idea of the initiative and persuaded me, to go along with him on this path. And he has a huge network in the Anglo-Saxon area, where he has won prominent people and will still win them. I will do this more intensively in Europe, but also in Asia such as Taiwan. We have really good contacts all over the world and look to hand-pick signers individually, while the supporters can register themselves directly on the homepage.
Question: Hand-picked means you have created lists of potential signatures in advance?
Zulehner: Yes, and we have written to the desired persons. Then it is like a snowball system, as we ask the people to promote our initiative in their own circle of contacts.
Question: From whom do you want to gain support?
Zulehner: For example, we are also trying to win support among the religious, and we have already General Superiors and Provincial Superiors. We want to have not only cardinals and bishops. They are welcome, but basically, it is an action of the thoughtful and committed people of God - this applies to the signatories as well as the supporters. It is intended to cover the entire range of the church, whereby we would like to make explicit the prominent figures of theology and politics and therefore list them. We would also like to get signatories from among the German bishops.
Question: And how did a man like Wolfgang Thierse get there?
Zulehner: This was presumably via the ZdK (organisation of the German Laity)and Professor Thomas Sternberg. We maintain intensive relations not least with the lay organizations and initiatives. Also ,the President of the Catholic Action Austria, Gerda Schaffelhofer, is among the signatories. We are targeting these people. It is, however, astonishing that we have also found an incredible acceptance among the absolutely serious top theologians- whether from America, Eastern Europe, Germany or Austria. "Finally," people say, "good luck!"
Question: What is your goal? How many supporters should there be?
Zulehner: I do not know what's going to happen. I am amazed at the moment, how fast this is now. That in a few days so much fire has be generated. That means: The ground was already very dry and ready to burn. How many of them will be at the end is probably not very important in detail. In any case, we will get incredibly many supporters. If it goes on like this, I count on over 10,000 people. And that cannot be overlooked in media terms. "Vatican Radio" has already reported it. Those in Rome have long since come to terms with what we are doing.
Question: What do you do with all the signatories at the end of the initiative?
Zulehner: In the end, we want to send this letter to the Pope, in which all the signatories and supporters are listed. And I think that his not always easy exercise of office will be supported . The Vatican journalist. Marco Politi says the Pope has too little support in the Vatican. So now he gets it from the outside, from us.