Irish Catholic groups seeking to reform the church are among 100 international groups who have jointly written to Pope Francis this week asking him to make dramatic changes to the way the church is governed.
Their joint letter, which includes a request to allow female and married priests, was delivered to the Pope and the eight hand picked cardinals he has selected to advise him on possible reforms ahead of their three-day think tank which began in Rome yesterday.
Among the reported Irish signatories are the Association of Catholic Priests and two lay organizations, the Association of Catholics in Ireland and We Are Church Ireland.
The letters make several potentially transformational requests, urging the Pope to deal swiftly and definitively with the ongoing child sex abuse scandals, to allow women and married men become priests, to open top administrative positions within the Vatican to lay Catholics, and to allow open dialogue and dissent within the clergy and faithful.
This last request was included at the urging of the participating Irish groups who added the demand that priests - including Irish clergy - who have been censored for liberal views, have all the sanctions imposed against them removed.
According to the Irish Examiner, Brendan Butler of We Are Church Ireland was one of 12 international representatives who drafted the letter.
'It went back and forth to all the organisations to get different views,' Butler told the Examiner. 'It has gone right around the world. That was the amazing thing about it — the same issues came up everywhere,' he added.
The eight cardinals selected by Francis to consider proposals for change are Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Governorate of Vatican City State, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa of Chile, Cardinal Oswald Gracias of India, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Germany, Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of the Congo, Cardinal Seán O’Malley of the US, Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, and Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano who will be their secretary.
Butler said the letter had been sent to the Pope and hand-delivered to each of the cardinals last week and that Cardinal Maradiaga had promised to personally give it to Pope Francis.
'Ideally we would get a meeting with Pope Francis to discuss these issues with him. We’re not naive enough to think anything is going to change immediately, but this time last year when Benedict was Pope, there was no hope of anything like this happening and now there does seem to be a move towards reform and we want to be part of that.'