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‘Shadow synod’ calls for dismissal over remarks about war

A four-day “shadow synod” organized by progressive Catholic activists ended with a call for the dismissal of papal spokesperson Joaquín Navarro-Valls, in response to his recent statements concerning the use of force to combat terrorism.

During Pope John Paul II’s Sept. 22-25 trip to Kazakhstan, where the pope made a strong appeal for peace, Navarro-Valls said the Vatican “would understand” if a leader had to use force to defend his society from terrorist threats. The comment was taken as a green light for an American attack.

“This message is directly contrary to the words of Jesus in the gospel, the social teaching of our church and the statements of Pope John Paul II himself who is calling for a peaceful solution,” a statement from the activists said.

Some 100 Catholics from five continents gathered Oct. 4-8 at the Waldensian Theological Seminary in Rome, a 10-minute walk from the Vatican, to stage what they called “The Synod of the People of God.” Organizers included the We Are Church movement and the U.S. pro-reproductive rights group Catholics for a Free Choice. Participants claimed to represent a network of some 300 Catholic reform groups worldwide.

In addition to demanding Navarro-Vall’s removal, the group:

  • Called for the repeal of the recent Vatican document Dominus Iesus. “We must engage humbly in serious interfaith dialogue, abandon any sense of Catholic superiority and welcome ecumenical cooperation,” the statement said.
  • Asked church leaders to work for the eradication of the death penalty, poverty, discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation and racism.
  • Supported collegiality, subsidiarity and shared responsibility in the church.
  • Proposed that clerical celibacy be optional.
  • Demanded that women be included in leadership roles.

The group attempted to deliver their proposals to the secretary of the bishops’ synod, Belgian Cardinal Jan Schotte, on Oct. 7. After some initial police skepticism based on the fear that the document might be a letter bomb, the group was allowed to deposit the text in Schotte’s mailbox.

In another sign of protest outside the synod, a multilingual banner supporting the ordination of women to the priesthood is on display near the Vatican. Organizers hosted a brief liturgy at the site Oct. 6, also with police surveillance.

-- John L. Allen Jr.

National Catholic Reporter, October 19, 2001