Synodality Church’s “antidote to clericalism”: Mauritian Cardinal in Pastoral Letter

Maurice Cardinal Piat (left) and Fr. Jean Maurice Labour at a press conference to unveil the Pastoral Letter on the Lenten Season on 04 March 2022. Credit: Port Louis Diocese

The Bishop of Port Louis Diocese in Mauritius, Maurice Cardinal Piat has, in his latest pastoral letter for the Lenten period, said that the Synod on Synodality and the ongoing preparations are part of the Catholic Church’s initiatives to counteract clericalism. 

In the Friday, March 4 pastoral letter, Cardinal Piat highlights the effects of clericalism in the Church today and proposes walking together with the faithful as an appropriate way forward. 

“In order to act on the root cause of evil, Pope Francis clearly asks us to adopt synodality as a way of life and functioning in the Church,” Cardinal Piat says.

The Mauritian Cardinal adds in reference to synodality, “This expression means ‘walking together’. It is about adopting the habit of reflecting, discerning and deciding together between lay people, Priests and religious at different levels of the Church's life.”

“This way of doing things is essential today as the antidote to clericalism and as the way to allow a true renewal of the Church under the action of the Spirit,” Cardinal Piat says in his 17-page Pastoral Letter, which he unveiled March 4.


The member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans) further says, “It is in this spirit that Pope Francis has called the whole Church to a synod from October 2021 until October 2023. He is not inviting us to discuss the theme of synodality but to have a concrete experience of walking together in the Church to discern what steps each diocese, each parish, each religious community, each movement/service can take to advance on this journey of conversion for a refoundation of ecclesial life.”

“The fruitfulness of this journey depends to a large extent on the choice we make to undertake or to participate in processes of listening, dialogue, and community discernment to which each and every one of us can contribute,” Cardinal Piat says.

He goes on to highlight the effects of clericalism in the Church saying, “If the Church has a role to play in times of crisis, it is to participate in the search for a healthier democratic way of living together in our country. To play this role, the Church itself needs to question itself and recognize that it too has its weaknesses.”

“We cannot forget the suffering experienced by minors and vulnerable adults because of sexual abuse, abuse of power and abuse of conscience committed by a significant number of Priests and consecrated persons,” the 80-year-old Mauritius Cardinal says.

Credit: Port Louis Diocese

More in Africa

He adds, “Faced with the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh as well as in their spirit, for too long the Church has not been able to listen sufficiently to the cry of the victims, nor to protect them as it should have.”

These deep wounds, Cardinal Piat says, are “difficult to heal, and for which we can never ask enough forgiveness.”

Making reference to August 2018 pastoral letter of Pope Francis to the faithful, Cardinal Piat says the Holy Father invites us “to recognize that at the source of these abuses and lack of regard for the victims is the weight of a culture steeped in clericalism, where too much power is concentrated in Priests alone, where decisions are prepared and taken in too small circles, where the fear of the Church's reputation has led to the neglect of an elementary listening and respect for those wounded by abuse.”

“This culture, inherited from the past and not sufficiently challenged, has resulted in twisted forms of authority on which various types of abuse have been grafted (abuse of power, economic abuse, sexual abuse),” he adds.

At the heart of all the suffering endured by the victims, and of all the shame felt by the people of God, Cardinal Piat says, “There is the desire to find in the crisis the call and the trigger to re-found the path of Christian and ecclesial life.”


“If the source of all the evil caused by abuse is this concentration of decision-making power in the hands of the clergy, our responsibility is not only to convert ourselves personally,” Cardinal Piat says, and adds, “We must also recognize that this path of conversion is unthinkable without the active participation of all the components of the People of God.” 

As a way forward, Cardinal Piat says the Synod on Synodality “invites the different groups and tendencies within the Church to enter into dialogue.”

The Synod on Synodality, the Local Ordinary of Port Louis further says, “also invites the Church to be open to listening to those who do not frequent the Church, to our brothers and sisters of other Christian Churches and other religions. They too may have things to say to us.”

In this kind of journey, the Cardinal says, “There are often surprises and we must prepare ourselves for them with great trust in the Spirit.”

“I urge my Christian brothers and sisters to participate in this Synod. Bring your experience of life in the Church, with its joys and sorrows, share your hope, your discernment. Join your brothers and sisters, including those of other faiths, who are also searching for a path of light,” he says.

(Story continues below)

“To make a good journey together, we must both speak frankly and courageously and enter into the humility of listening. Do not be afraid of mutual questioning between Priests, religious and laity,” Cardinal Piat says.

He adds, “This way of walking together is an art that cannot be developed in the Church without trained leaders (priests, religious and laity) who exercise a new style of leadership that is no longer vertical and clerical but more horizontal and collaborative.”

“A leadership of service that sees authority not as an imposing force but as a force that frees creativity and encourages the participation of all, according to the charisma of each person,” Cardinal Piat says in his March 4 pastoral letter.

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.