“Solidarity with francis should be a given”

The Catholic Church finds itself in troubled waters. Abuse probe makes big waves – all the way to the Vatican. Pope Francis faces headwinds, but also episcopal encouragement. An overview.

Interviewer: Solidarity with the Pope. Is that not actually natural for a bishop?

Jan Hendrik Stens (Liturgy Editor): This should even be self-evident for every Catholic. It seems all the more remarkable that the expression of this actual self-evidence is probably necessary. Criticism of popes, including demands for resignation, is nothing new. There have been those with Francis' predecessors as well. What is new, however, is that the criticism is also voiced by high-ranking officials. In this sense, with the text of Archbishop Viganò, a new level of criticism has been reached.
Interviewer: From whom are the declarations of solidarity coming now??
StensThey come from very different countries and regions. The president of the U.S. bishops' conference, Cardinal DiNardo, had also said shortly after the publication of Viganò's letter that these were difficult days, and the U.S. bishops expressed their "fraternal affection" for the pope. Shortly thereafter, the Argentine bishops spoke out, calling the events a "ruthless attack in which various and narrow secular interests come together.". In Europe, the Spanish Episcopal Conference expressed its solidarity to Francis with the words "Holy Father, you are not alone". The president of the EU bishops' commission COMECE, Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich, also demonstratively supports Francis and complains that there are tendencies that want to divide the church.

Interviewer: And what reactions came from Germany?

StensAmong the German bishops, Bishop Oster of Passau, Bishop Kohlgraf of Mainz and Bishop Furst of Rottenburg have so far spoken out. Oster defends Francis especially against criticism of trying to overturn church doctrine. His confrere from Mainz writes on the website of his diocese that with the current accusations against Francis the ground of an objective criticism has been left behind. Bishop Furst declared via Twitter that he stands behind the pope and supports "his efforts to clarify and come to terms with the situation".

Interviewer: And yet, with all the solidarity, there is also the demand for clarification.

StensTrue, and so do those bishops who have pledged their support to Francis. As an example, one can mention Cardinal DiNardo, who would also like to address Francis in an audience for this reason. On the Internet there is an open letter of about 30.000 Catholic women in the U.S. calling on the pope to take a stand on Viganò's accusations. His statement "I will not say a single word about this" they call inappropriate.

Last Sunday, incidents occurred in some church services in the U.S. While Cardinal Wuerl was reciting an intercession for Pope Francis, one participant left the church loudly grumbling. So we can see that the situation is quite complicated. There are those who simply demand enlightenment, there are liberal and conservative Catholics united. But then there are also those who, by criticizing Francis, want to weaken him and, in the best case, even get rid of him. Of course, they are now jumping on this bandwagon with joy.

Interviewer: And also Archbishop Viganò has intervened once again?

Stens: Yes, he took a stand once again on the account of abuse victim Juan Carlos Cruz, who had a conversation with the pope. In it, Francis is said to have explained to him that he had his difficulties with Viganò as nuncio in the USA. In particular, a meeting with a prominent opponent of same-sex marriage during his visit to the U.S. had been set up more or less surreptitiously by Viganò, he said. But Viganò now writes in detail that Pope Francis was well informed about who he was receiving there. We see the drama is far from over.

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