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Mary Vallely reports:-
“Robert Mickens, the respected Vatican correspondent of The Tablet, spoke for nearly an hour to a 400 seater hall packed to its capacity in Dublin’s Regency Hotel on Friday 15 November 2013. The theme was “Can Pope Francis deliver real Church reform?” The atmosphere was genial and good humoured and patience was tested when the sound system broke down after Tony Flannery’s initial words of welcome. However the crowd demonstrated their true Vatican II spirit as they gently sang “We shall overcome”. The Holy Spirit heard, sound was restored and Robert began his talk.
It was challenging and entertaining with some lovely insights into this new Pope. This is a Pope who trusts people. He is genuine and really engages with people. He leads by example, and Robert spoke of Francis as “breaking the casing of fear and mistrust.” He acknowledged that we need real reform and not just window dressing and I thought of his words in Cleveland exactly a year ago which painted a very bleak picture of a papacy where “the cancer” of clericalism was all too prevalent. However, this is a new papacy and “this is a Kairos moment” claimed Mr Mickens. He believes that the people will convert Francis, that our two Associations, the ACP and the ACI, along with other reform groups, have helped bring us to this Kairos moment. He urged us to continue to press for open discussion and for a change in church structures. We must be persistent but this persistence must be characterised by humility and respect. We must continue to try to open the hearts of bishops and we must never cease to pray.
There are several disturbing areas still, the obsolete anachronistic structure of the Church, the fact that women are forbidden full and active participation in the life of the Church and the lack of accountability for child sex abuse, but by his own witness, Pope Francis is attempting to redress the injustices suffered by the marginalised. He needs our prayers and we need to make our voices heard as never before.
I certainly came away renewed and filled with some hope that change will happen. Unfortunately looking around me at the faces in the hall it may be too late for many but we are an Easter people, a people of hope and this is indeed a Kairos moment. Come, Holy Spirit.”
Mary O Vallely
Photographs: (1) Capacity Crowd, (2) Noel McCann, Robert Mickens and Cathy Molloy, (3) Robert Mickens and Tony Flannery, (4) ACI membership enquiry (5) ACI Steering group members
“The Robert Mickens lecture marks an historic moment in the evolution of the ‘Church Reform Movement’ in Ireland. This is the first event jointly organised by the ACI and the ACP. The two associations share a very similar vision of a revitalised and reformed church characterised by compassion, transparency and collegiality. A church where the rightful role of the laity – women as well as men – is encouraged and enshrined at all levels in support of our bishops, priests and religious. At this time of great hope the ACI looks forward to continued cooperation with the ACP in the months and years ahead as we work towards achieving the model of reformed church envisaged by Pope Francis in his recent pronouncements. We highly recommend this event which will provide a unique insight to the Papacy of Pope Francis from one of the most experienced and respected Vatican correspondents of recent decades ”
[Noel McCann, ACI Steering Group]
“The ACP are delighted that Robert Mickens is coming to Dublin at this very propitious time for the Church, and that the reform groups are coming together to welcome him.”
[Fr Tony Flannery, Association of Catholic Priests, Ireland]