It seems unfashionable these days to draw attention to the need for strong Church leadership. In some circles, even the essential hierarchical structure itself of Catholicism is criticised as "undemocratic". Some tend to forget that Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (1964) heads its Chapter Three "The Church is Hierarchical". The decree then states (n.18): "This sacred synod, following in the steps of the First Vatican Council, teaches and declares with it that Jesus Christ, the eternal pastor, set up the holy Church by entrusting the apostles with their mission as he himself had been sent by the Father (cf Jn 20:21). He willed that their successors, the bishops namely, should be shepherds in his Church until the end of the world."
In recent weeks, we have been blessed with visits from two American exemplars of the kind of leadership qualities the Church most needs today- forthright orthodoxy, an intelligent grasp of present-day world realities and pastoral sensitivity.
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, Colorado, was a keynote speaker at the National Family Gathering, held in Melbourne at the end of April. Extracts from his excellent address on the family are included in this issue (pages 8-9). And late in May, the Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George, was scheduled to give a public address in St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne, on the Church's social teaching.
AD2000 has regularly reported on the initiatives of both these strong US Church leaders.
On a sad note, another recent visitor to this country, and one of the world's most distinguished Church figures - Cardinal John O'Connor of New York - died early in May (see report page 7). His visit to Melbourne in late 1997 as the Pope's personal representative for the Centenary of St Patrick's Cathedral is fondly remembered.
Michael Gilchrist: Editor (E-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org)