Reports yesterday from the Czech Republic describe a letter by Czech theologian and Charles University Professor Tomas Halik in support of Pope Francis and his positions on marriage. Those reports stated that the letter has been signed by “several dozens of personalities” and supported by “hundreds” of others
Here’s the text of the letter, from their website:
Dear highly esteemed Pope Francis,
Your pastoral initiatives and their theological justification are currently under vehement attack by a group in the church. With this open letter, we wish to express our gratitude for your courageous and theologically sound papal leadership.
In a short time, you have succeeded in reshaping the pastoral culture of the Roman Catholic Church in accordance with its origin in Jesus. Wounded people and wounded nature go straight to your heart. You see the church as a field hospital on the margins of life. Your concern is every single person loved by God. When encountering others, compassion and not the law shall have the last word. God and God’s mercy characterize the pastoral culture that you expect from the church. You dream of a “church as mother and shepherdess.” We share your dream.
We ask that you would not veer from the path you have taken, and we assure you of our full support and constant prayer.
The letter was released just yesterday – October 17th. Today, website lists 199 formal signatories (including at least six bishops that I can see, from )the original “hundreds” of supporters has become several thousand (4366 at 13:45, BST), and is increasing rapidly – up by 80 in just the last 35 minutes. It’s also notable that the initial formal signatories are overwhelmingly from the Czech Republic and the adjacent Germany. Past experience (eg, from the German “theologians’ revolt) suggests that as news of this initiative spreads, many more prominent theologians, pastors and bishops from Western Europe, the Americas and elsewhere will add their signatures.
When news first broke of the “filial correction”, it soon became clear that not only were the numbers of signatories limited, but their status was low. That is certainly not the case with the counter initiative. Even in these early stages. signatories include bishops from Austria, Hungary, Brazil and South Africa as well as the Czech Republic, and professional theologians from several universities, including Marie-Jo Thiel, president of the European association for Catholic theology and Professor Thomas O’Loughlin, President of the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain.
There are strong parallels here with the earlier German theologians revolt, in which thousands of theologians, priests and lay Catholics from around the world joined in the original German pressure for fundamental reform. Many of their ideas have since entered the mainstream of Catholic debate, especially under Pope Francis. In the same way, those behind the current letter are urging much more than simple support for the pope. They are looking well beyond current cosmetic tinkering, to a thorough reform of Christianity appropriate for the third millennium.
Halik said the open letter was to encourage the formation of an international community of theologians that would be thoroughly considering “the very necessary reform for Christianity of the third millennium.”
A future church council needs intellectual and spiritual preparation, same as the reforms of the 16th century Council of Trent and the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s were preceded by new movements in theology, Halik said.
He said he helped set up teams of theologians and sociologists from several countries who are working on this.
This is an important, exciting development. You can add your support to this initiative at this link, or see the list of original signatories here, or download a collection of (German language) press material here
UPDATE: the number of supporters signing on now stands at 6318 (22:35 BST). That’s an increase of nearly 2000 since I last checked at 13′:45 – going up by roughly 220 an hour, or 7 every two minutes.