Don´t Mistake the Church for a Democracy, Cardinal Re Says

Analyzes Governmental Relation Between Pope and Bishops

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MILAN, Italy, MARCH 5, 2002 ( The Church «is not a democratic structure in which the people are sovereign» but rather an «item of faith,» says Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re.

At an inaugural address for a series of meetings on «The Government of the Universal Church,» sponsored by this city´s Catholic university, the prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops said that the faithful cannot forget that they are before «a society instituted from above.»

«The hierarchical constitution of the Church must not be seen as a limitation to the freedom and spontaneity of Christians, but as one more manifestation of God´s mercy toward men,» in order to remove the Church from the «variations, mutations and competitions» that are possible in history, Cardinal Re explained.

The cardinal said that the function of government, therefore, is «a specific ministry within the Church that does not detract from the co-responsibility of all the faithful.»

There is need in the Church, «today more than yesterday, of a strong collegiality but also of the strong exercise of the Pope´s ministry,» he emphasized.

Cardinal Re mentioned the new international context and globalization, in which, he believes, «the exercise of the primacy and of collegiality will have different manifestations from that of past decades, in which the facilities in communication had not reached today´s levels.»

In his position of prefect, Cardinal Re advises the Pope most directly on the appointment of bishops. The cardinal said that in the above framework, Catholic bishops are called to address challenges such as secularization and the proliferation of sects, by «acting collegially, in harmony of thought and commitment, under the guidance of Peter´s Successor.»

Another key challenge facing the men of the Church are «questions related to scientific, technological and economic progress,» and «a certain culture that proposes confused solutions to problems of living and dying,» the cardinal continued.

Ultimately, the intertwining of the power of the Pope and bishops belongs to the mystery of the Church and, in practice, it will be up to ecclesiastical legislation to determine its specific development according to historical circumstances, Cardinal Re said.

This presupposes that «the nature of the Church and the relations of the Pope and bishops cannot be understood without faith,» he concluded.

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