Campaigning group We Are Church issued the following statement last night: We Are Church (UK) wishes to express its faith, trust and confidence in the continued presence of God's Holy Spirit guiding the People of God in its pilgrimage through history. The choice of Joseph Ratzinger to be the new Bishop of Rome, and servant of the servants of God, will of course provoke controversy, vigourous debate and be seen as potentially divisive by many people within and beyond the Church. Many Catholics who were exhilarated by the reforms and renewal of the 2nd Vatican Council, and the theological creativity of those years, will appreciate the inspiring contributions made by the younger Professor Joseph Ratzinger. However, the conservative transformation which he underwent - some would say provoked by his reaction to what he perceived as the anarchy of social unrest in the late 1960s - is a source of anxiety to many Catholics today. Nevertheless, his choice of the name, Benedict XVI, causes us to hope that like Benedict XV he will be a peace-maker, a reconciler. It must be remembered that Benedict XV brought an end to a theological 'reign of terror' which had existed within the Church at that time. Pope Benedict XVI's past experience as a theologian, diocesan Bishop and Vatican official will offer him the possibility of responding to the complex reality which is the contemporary Catholic Church, of both East and West, North and South. We earnestly hope that Pope Benedict XVI will be encouraged and strengthened by all the people of God to regain his earlier theological courage and creativity and to place this at the service of the Church in the new role which he has described himself as 'a simple, humble worker in God's vineyard.' We Are Church wishes to affirm its strong sense of being part of the body of Christ receiving the essential teaching of the Church, yet called to be voices that challenge the pastors of the Church, including the Pope, that they might respond more authentically and transparently to the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the people of our time.
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