Cardinal says Rome should cede more authority to local churches

Posted: Friday, December 19, 2003

VATICAN CITY (AP) A top Vatican cardinal is calling for a Third Vatican Council to give more authority to local churches, saying Rome should listen more to them and dictate less.

Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao of Japan, who heads the Vatican office for migrants, told the Italian Catholic newsweekly Famiglia Christiana that the issue could only be dealt with in such an extraordinary meeting, since bishops conferences have so far been unable to make progress.

''Local churches, which aren't made up of children, should have more autonomy to evangelize and give pastoral care to their people,'' Hamao was quoted as saying.

He cited the example of Asia, where Christianity arrived well after Buddhism and Hinduism had taken root.

''If in such a context I proclaim that Jesus Christ is the only savior of humanity, I risk preaching to deaf ears,'' he said. ''The proclamation of the Gospel must be gradual. In Rome, many think that this isn't the way you evangelize. In Asia, we are convinced that this is effective evangelization.''

Although the issue of ceding more power to local churches has long been discussed among cardinals, Hamao's comments were among the strongest voiced by a top Vatican official recently. Hamao, 73, was one of the 30 new cardinals created by Pope John Paul II in October.

Hamao said another problem was the Vatican requirement that it approve translations of the Bible and other religious texts. Rome enforces the requirement to ensure conformity as well as to bar ''gender inclusive'' language, which has crept into some English-speaking translations.

''Here, no one speaks Japanese, yet before being able to be issued, a text in this language must have the scrutiny of the Roman Curia,'' Hamao said. ''Observations like this have been made many times in (bishops') synods, uselessly,'' he said.

The first Vatican Council dealt with doctrinal issues, including papal infallibility, and was adjourned in 1870. The Second Vatican Council was held in 1962-65 to modernize the church.

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