News and Views
Museveni asks Pope to reform church
President Museveni has asked Pope Francis to reform the crisis-plagued Catholic Church to accommodate aspirations of developing countries.
Mr Museveni made the appeal as he joined world leaders to congratulate Argentina’s Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio upon his election as Pope. “Your Holiness, there is [an] added significance that you are the first Pope to come from the Third World where the majority of Christians now live,” Special Presidential Assistant for Communications Sarah Kagingo, quoted President Museveni as having said. “I am sure you will use your life experience to bring the necessary changes in the Catholic Church,” he added. Catholics are the majority in Uganda.
Pope Francis is the first in about 1, 300 years to be chosen from outside Europe to lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. His meteoric rise from humble beginnings and preference as an adult to live a modest life when his stature would enable profligacy, has struck a chord that he is a Pope for the poor.
Mr Museveni did not, in his Thursday congratulatory message, specify the reforms he liked the 76-year-old to execute to turn round the Catholic Church, and when consulted yesterday through Ms Kagingo, he simply said his message was “okay the way as it is”.
Demands for reform
Liberals have, among other things, nudged the Vatican to permit priests to marry; endorse same-sex marriage and the consecration of women as bishops; prescribe punishment for clergymen involved in sexual abuse and overhaul its near dysfunctional bureaucracy as desirable reforms for a modernising Catholic Church.
They also want the Church to tackle head-on alleged sexual abuse by clergymen by punishing perpetrators and compensating victims, instead of shielding the former from likely prosecution.
Besides, calls have grown lately to fix the Vatican Bank to prevent suspected money laundering through the institution. At least three Africans have previously served as Pope, and two Cardinals from the continent were named early favourites in this week’s Conclave to pick Benedict XVI’s successor.
Pope Francis emerged as a surprise choice, though. His background of pastoral work and hobnobbing with slum dwellers in Buenos Aires; preference to use public transport and reports that he prepared own meals have inspired the faithful in developing countries that a man who understands, and can address, their plight is finally in-charge.
The Catholic following is growing in Africa, Asia and Pope Francis’ Latin America backyard, according to various official statistics, while dwindling in Europe and North America. Many have grabbed the shifting demographics to demand more voice of developing countries in running of the Church.