Australia’s bishops stress Church unity after Vatican meetings

AustraliaBishopsRomeCNA Pope Benedict and many of Australia's bishops gather for the Oct. 19 inauguration of the Domus Australia

The Australian Catholic bishops’ delegation to Rome has issued a statement about the Vatican’s response to the dissenting Bishop of Toowoomba. They described their multiple “candid” meetings with Vatican officials about the matter and urged the healing of divisions.

“What was at stake was the Church’s unity in faith and the ecclesial communion between the Pope and the other bishops in the College of Bishops,” said the Australian bishops’ Oct. 22 statement.

Because Bishop Bill Morris of Toowoomba was “unable to agree to what this communion requires,” they said, Pope Benedict XVI “acted as the Successor of Peter, who has the task of deciding what constitutes unity and communion in the Church.”

The Australian bishops said their recent meetings with Vatican officials have given them a more adequate understanding of the actions taken to try to resolve “the difficulties with Bishop Morris.”

These difficulties concerned “not only matters of Church discipline but also of Church doctrine definitively taught, such as on the ministerial priesthood.”

In a 2006 pastoral letter, Bishop Morris proposed considering the ordination of women and married men. He also proposed allowing Anglicans, Lutherans and other religious figures to preside at Mass.

Over the next five years, he declined Vatican requests for immediate discussions and then repeatedly refused to resign even when personally asked to do so by Pope Benedict.

In May 2011, Pope Benedict dismissed Bishop Morris because of his long track record of dissent from Catholic teaching and practice.

The Australian bishops issued their joint-statement following the conclusion of their “ad limina” visit to Rome, where they have discussed the health of the Church in their country with the Pope and other Vatican leaders.

In the past 12 days they have had individual meetings with Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as well as a subsequent joint-meeting with both men. The bishops also met as a group on several occasions.

They described their discussions as “substantial, serious and candid” and they thanked both cardinals for their “personal and pastoral concern.”

The Australian bishops concluded their letter by expressing their acceptance of “the Holy Father’s exercise of his Petrine ministry.” They reaffirmed their “communion with and under Peter.”

They now return to Australia “to heal any wounds of division, to extend our fraternal care to Bishop Morris, and to strengthen the bonds of charity in the Church in Australia.”

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