Cardinal slams synod commission which includes NZ prelate

A South African cardinal has admitted signing a letter to Pope Francis criticising the make-up of a commission which includes New Zealand’s Cardinal John Dew.

Cardinal Wilfred Napier of Durban told Crux that he shares concerns about “the choice of the people that are writing up the final document” for the synod.

Pope Francis appointed a 10-member commission to put together the final synod document, which will be submitted to the Pontiff.

“If we’re going to get a fair expression of what the synod is about, [such as] what the Church in Africa really would like to see happening,” Cardinal Napier said, then different people should be chosen.

“We wouldn’t like to see the same kind of people on that committee who were there the last time, who caused us the grief that we had.”

Cardinal Napier was referring to a controversial interim report in 2014 that seemed to embrace a progressive line on some debated questions.

One reported version of the letter, allegedly signed by 13 cardinals and given to the Pontiff on the first day of the synod, was sharply critical.

It stated the synod process “seems designed to facilitate predetermined results on important disputed questions”.

Four of the alleged signatories subsequently said they had never signed the document or supported its arguments.

After he received the letter, Pope Francis reportedly told synod participants not to give into a “hermeneutic of conspiracy” that is “sociologically weak and spiritually unhelpful”.

Cardinal Napier acknowledged signing a letter, but said its content was different from that presented in early news reports.

The letter he signed, he told Crux, was specifically about the 10-member commission preparing the final document.

US Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who is a member of the final document drafting commission, defended its make-up.

“It looks to me like it reflects the makeup of the synod,” he said.

There have been reports that the initiative to send a letter to Pope Francis complaining about the synod process came from Cardinal George Pell.

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, one of the alleged signatories, said a letter highlighting several perceived problems with the synod process was sent to Pope Francis before the synod began.


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