Tuesday, November 26, 2013

OPINION: International Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs. ICMICA-Pax Romana White Paper


Executive Summary

This White Paper argues for increased attention to lay participation, dialogue, and co-responsibility throughout the life of the church. In hopes of adding some points of reflection to the important work of the Committee of Cardinals for Curial Reform, this paper humbly makes three proposals:

1. The reinstitution of structures of lay participation and dialogue at all levels in the church, including the organization of a Fourth World Congress of the Lay Apostolate and creation of a Pontifical Congregation for the Laity, 

2. The mobilization of resources to support international lay initiatives and in particular those initiatives and movements concerned with training youth, students and young professionals.

3. The relocation of certain curial offices from Rome to other continents, as a witness and a sign of the universality of the Catholic mission and communion.

"Is pastoral discernment a habitual criterion, through the use of Diocesan Councils? Do such Councils and Parish Councils, whether pastoral or financial, provide real opportunities for lay people to participate in pastoral consultation, organization and planning? The good functioning of these Councils is critical. I believe that on this score, we are far behind.”

Pope Francis (Address to CELAM Leadership, 28 July, 2013)

Pax Romana-ICMICA warmly welcomes the initiatives of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, to renew the Roman Curia and the leadership structures of the global church. Over the past few years, we have seriously reflected on the need for a new evangelization in light of the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and our apostolic mission among professionals and intellectuals. We have taken the liberty to synthesize three concrete proposals for the reform of the Curia in light of these reflections.


The complex and ambivalent reality of globalization accentuates the need for organized apostolic efforts at the international level. No one local church or church movement can effectively evangelize culture alone. New strategies and structures, guided by the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, are needed to support efforts at the parish, national, continental and global levels. A more coherent way to engage the participation of the international associations of the faithful in the structures of the Holy See, as envisioned by Apostolicam Actuositatem no. 26,

would strengthen the Curia’s bridge-building role. The proposal by H.E. Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga for the creation of a Congregation for the Laity is an  opportunity to strengthen intra-ecclesial dialogue (Cf. Ecclesiam Suam no. 113-17).

A Congregation for the Laity has a great potential to engender and strengthen a common sense of mission among international associations, communities and congregations with different charisms, spiritualities and methodologies. Greater reflection is needed to consider the place of all internationally recognized associations within the Church; their relationship to the Curia; their relationship to one another; and their participation in the Church’s single mission. Care should be taken to engage voices from different types of legitimate organizations, regional representations, and understandings of mission. The impression that one type of organization or national group is privileged over another, even if it is not the reality, can cause division within the Church.

“It is important to remember Aparecida, the method of gathering diversity together. Not so much a diversity of ideas in order to produce a document, but a variety of experiences of God, in order to set a vital process in motion….There is need, then, for a greater appreciation of local and regional elements. Central bureaucracy is not sufficient; there is also a need for increased collegiality and solidarity.” Pope Francis (Address to Brazilian Bishops 28 July, 2013)

Therefore, we propose the organization of a World Congress of the Apostolate or a similar gathering that would bring together the leadership of all international associations of the faithful recognized by the Holy See together with regional representatives. Pax Romana is proud to have been involved in planning the three World Congresses of the Lay Apostolate (1951, 1957, and 1967) as well as with H.E. Pietro Parolin in the organization of the two Forums of Catholic-Inspired NGOs (2007 and 2010). These meetings provide models for a future World Congress, in that representatives of diverse organizations in collaboration with members of the Curia planned the events in a sprit of co-responsibility. 

The three congresses of the lay apostolate were also importantly preceded by regional conferences and inductive surveys.  2017, the fiftieth anniversary of the last congress may provide an opportune time to organize a Fourth World Congress. Continental and national meetings could also be organized in conjunction with this process.  Lay participation at the international level will only be effective if it is accompanied by similar efforts at the parish, diocesan and national levels.

In seeking increased lay participation and co-responsibility in the work of the Curia, greater efforts are needed to include the voices of lay women. Pax Romana is proud of the contribution we have made through one of our former leaders, Rosemary Goldie, the first lay woman to work in the Curia. Unfortunately, the number of lay women, and in particular those who are not in consecrated life, in the Curia has not grown much since Paul VI appointed Goldie to her position. International lay associations can help the Curia to identify qualified women with diverse experiences to share their gifts with the Church.

“Let us not reduce the involvement of women in the Church, but instead promote their active role in the ecclesial community. If the Church, in her complete and real dimension, loses women, she risks becoming sterile.” Pope Francis (Address to Brazilian Bishops 28 July,


We believe that the Curia has great potential to help strengthen and support the work of international lay associations. Unfortunately, many of the international lay associations, and in particular the youth-led movements, are struggling to find financial support for their apostolic efforts—this is despite vibrant initiatives locally and nationally in many parts of the world. More is needed than occasional thematic conferences and large-scale events like the World Youth Day. 

While these are important, special attention should be given to support the day-to-day apostolic efforts and training programs of international associations of young people, students, and young professionals. These movements go a long way to build solidarity and counteract what Pope Francis has called the “globalization of indifference.” A liaison position or specific office within the curia (more robust and proactive than the present youth desk of the Pontifical Council for the Laity) could serve as a resource for the apostolic initiatives and movements aimed at forming responsible lay leaders in Catholic social doctrine.

In Gaudium et Spes (no.90), the Council Fathers recognized the importance of international lay associations and called for greater financial and logistical support for their work. To this end, the Pius XII Foundation was created to aid the global work of international Catholic organizations. Last year, we were informed that the work of the Pius XII Foundation, an important source of support for many movements, would be suspended. We propose a reconsideration of the decision to suspend the Foundation or the creation of another fund that would support the international secretariats of the lay movements.

“Catholic associations on an international level which can contribute in many ways to the building up of a peaceful and fraternal community of nations. These should be strengthened by augmenting in them the number of well qualified collaborators, by increasing needed resources, and by advantageously fortifying the coordination of their energies…

Gaudium et Spes, no. 90

As the largest community in the world, the Catholic Church has a tremendous potential to transform the global reality in light of the Gospel of Christ. The international associations of the faithful in all their forms contribute greatly to this potential. Greater support, coordination and consultation of these bodies by the Curia is an important task as we seek to engender and strengthen a common sense of mission.


As a witness and a sign of the universality of the Catholic mission and communion, we believe that certain curial offices could be relocated to major centers outside of Europe (e.g., Bogotá, Hong Kong, Nairobi, Beirut). We recognize the positive logistical benefits of having all curial offices in the same location and the symbolic power of being in proximity to the Chair of St. Peter. 

However, we believe that the relocation of some curial offices and/or the opening of satellite offices outside of Europe would be an important witness to the call and example of the Holy Father for the church to “go to the margins” and for the church to become a “church that is poor and for the poor.” For example, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue could consider an office in Asia. Such actions, we believe, would be positively received throughout the Church and would be echo the efforts of other international institutions (e.g., United Nations, major NGOs) to decentralize their coordinating structures. 

This effort should be separate from but also linked to the decentralization of specific tasks along the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity. Regional and national episcopal conferences have a great potential to strengthen communion, dialogue and co-responsibility among all the people of God.

Where do I find hope? In the poor Jesus, Jesus who made himself poor for us...Poverty demands that we sow hope. It requires me to have greater hope, too. This seems a little hard to understand, but I remember that Fr Arrupe once wrote a good letter…He spoke of how the social problem must be studied. But in the end he told us, he said to all of us: “Look, it is impossible to talk about poverty without having an experience with the poor”... It is impossible to talk about poverty, about abstract poverty. 

That does not exist! Poverty is the flesh of the poor Jesus in this hungry child, in the sick person, in these unjust social structures. Go, look over there at the flesh of Jesus. But do not let yourselves be robbed of hope. Pope Francis, (Address to the Students of the Jesuit Schools of Italy and Albania, 7 June, 2013

The article was authored by Dr Kevin Ahern, a member of Pax Romana in the US. 

If you are interested in joining Pax Romana ICMICA Africa, please contact Fredrick Wamalwa on fredwamalwa@yahoo.co.uk