What the Pope Could Do for Peace in Northern Ireland—It may be a straw-man, but NI Protestants have been yelling about “Rome Rule” for 200 years. Some of them fear being reunited with the rest of Ireland on the basis of one-person/one-vote because of the overwhelming Catholic majority on the Island. Not that today’s Irish Catholics are all that “priest-ridden,” Ballykissangel notwithstanding. Be that as it may, Pope John Paul II claims to be an admirer of Eastern Christianity, Byzantines and Orthodox. Both Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches preserve local autonomy–“autocephaly” they sometimes call it, or self-governance. Why not Western Catholic Churches? Do they have to take orders from Rome to be in communion with her? Eastern Catholics are fairly free of Vatican intervention in their affairs; most Eastern Orthodox are (effectively) completely free from foreign ecclesiastical intervention, yet in total communion with each other, total agreement in faith and liturgy, closer even than the “provinces” of the Anglican Communion or any other Protestant family of churches.
What if “the Irish Catholic Church” were governed independently by its bishops in national synod, while continuing to pray for the Pope at Mass and attending Churchwide Councils chaired by him? Recently the world’s Catholic bishops–even papally-handpicked representatives–pressed JP2 for more autonomy, more national and local responsibility…”devolution” as they call it in the UK.
The result would be continuing Catholicity without “Rome Rule”! And one less Protestant objection to the inevitable reunification of Ireland.
(Ironically, the history of autocephaly in Orthodoxy is that it has usually been declared first, and recognized by (m)other Churches only later, not unlike national Unilateral Declarations of Independence. And the close institutional and emotional ties between Ireland and Rome are the historical result of the Invasion, Reformation, and persecution. And so it goes….)