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UK's Murphy O'Connor questions Benedict's way

In a homily preached last Sunday in his cathedral of Westminster, Cardinal Murphy O'Connor strongly if implicitly opposed Pope Benedict XVI's approach to the world, the Financial Times reports. The subject of the homily was the Vatican II Gaudium et Spes: (Joy and Hope) the Church in the Modern World.

It is a clear sign of the unhappiness of the minority of liberals in the hierarchy with the pronouncements of a Pope who has said he would welcome the Church shrinking in size, so long as it could become purer in doing so.

In the service, broadcast by BBC Radio 4 as one of its regular Sunday morning worship series, both the Cardinal and the Cathedral's administrator, Monsignor Mark Langham, endorsed the spirit and substance of the Second Vatican Council in 1965, and of "Gaudium et Spes" - the most liberal of its four main documents.

"Christians have a duty to scrutinise the signs of the times," the Cardinal said. "They need to walk with, co-operate with, journey alongside. This was the new language of Gaudium et Spes, surprising to Christians not used to the Church using the humble language of the fellow-seeker."

Pope Benedict has opposed what he sees as the too-liberal consequences of Council, and especially of those of Gaudium et Spes, the only document proposed from the floor of the council, and not introduced by the hierarchy. Pope Benedict has laid even greater emphasis than John Paul II on both doctrine and authority of the Church.

But Gaudium et Spes makes clear that Church authority is not to be employed simply to perpetuate structures, the Cardinal affirmed. The Church leads individuals and society to a fuller understanding of who they are and can be, and - in a radical turn of the scales - itself listens to the wisdom of the age, to discern more fully the will of God.

"Gaudium et Spes cast an eye over the great questions of humanity, and declared that these, too, were the great questions of the Church. The followers of Christ could no longer retreat or withdraw," the Cardinal said.

"Gaudium et Spes makes clear that true freedom comes through solidarity with others. We are most free when we are entangled in healthy relationships, not when we are lone rangers," Cardinal Murphy O'Connor said.

Pope Benedict has drawn sharp lines between Catholics and all other believers, including other Christian religions, and made clear that only those who find the Catholic way to Christ can expect salvation.

In his first reaction to the papal election, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor had suggested in a radio interview that the Pope might temper some of his views, saying that he "now has a platform and a place he didn't have before. Now he has much wider responsibilities and I think he's aware of that".

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor ended last Sunday's homily by saying:

"In Gaudium et Spes the world is no longer divided between allies and enemies, believers and non-believers. With love, Gaudium et Spes considers the great questions that human beings put to themselves. Whatever troubles humanity troubles the followers of Christ. Solidarity with the human family also unites us with the family of heaven, so that concern for our brothers and sisters becomes our own hymn of praise to God."

Cardinal Murphy O'Connor is considering a trip to Australia, which may occur in 2006.

  • Cardinal Ratzinger's homily on Gaudium et Spes, one month before his election.

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