Theme: A Humble and Listening Church

When addressing the National Conference of Priests of Ireland in October 2004, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said: "As I have already noted, when I was installed in the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin as Coadjutor Archbishop, I spoke of a humble, listening Church. I was not referring to the institution or the bishops alone. I was also referring to parishes and priests. My desire, to foster a humble, listening Church was not just a reaction, a proposal to be different. It is a proposal to make the Church more like Jesus himself and more in line with the discipleship that he proposed and which is best represented in the figure of Mary, through whose humility the plan of God was enabled to enter into our humanity."

In Ireland today, we are witnessing an explosion of spiritual searching. Gatherings for prayer and healing, the practice of transcendental medita¬tion, study of Hindu and Buddhist philosophies, and recourse to New Age beliefs and practices, provide for many people opportunities to explore their own spirituality.

How can the Catholic Church make available to women and men today the wisdom gathered in two thousand years of prayer and spiritual journeying? How can the support of a believing community nourish the people of our time as they discharge their responsibilities in the world? How can the joy and hope of the good news of the gospel be shared with those, especially the young, for whom a reason to live may be hard to find'

How can the Catholic Church meet the spiritual needs of woman and men today' In order to do so we need a Church that is led by the Spirit and is a community manifesting loving trust • Trust that we are in God's hands all the days of our lives • Trust that Christ is with his Church • Mutual trust among all its members, especially those in authority.

In recent times this trust has become seriously impaired. This has come about because of the many well-publicised scandals and the deficiencies in dealing with them. However, trust had already been weakened by attitudes and practices offensive to love and justice experienced over many years that have caused widespread hurt and alienation among lay women and men. The efforts of those in authority to recognise and acknowledge the hurt and the harm so inflicted are to be welcomed.

Much still remains to be done to build up mutual trust, a trust that will lead the Church towards being a community that is truly inclusive. Church leaders must become alert to the deeper needs of people today and must be prepared to discuss more openly the major con-cerns of the laity. Lay people, in their turn, must be prepared to make their views known, recognising their own specific vocation in the Church and in the world. The Conference will address the question of how a humble, listening Church responding to the spiritual needs of people today can be brought about.


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