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ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - Catholics are urging Pope Francis to end his "ideological civil war" against conservatives as the "Church is burning as never before" and "divided and torn apart" as "in Luther's day."
"Stop, Francis, just stop!" a dozen prominent Italian faithful are pleading in an open letter to the pope published Thursday in the newspaper Il Foglio. "The laity are exhausted after eight years of war conducted from on top: We want peace."
The petitioners plead with Francis to "put an end to this civil war in the Church," accusing him of going "often beyond the confines of canon law in order to accomplish an ideological personal agenda."
The letter-writers excoriate "synodal journeys that have seemed like real civil wars, with maneuvers committed to guaranteeing a Soviet-style democracy, and which have led to controversial and practically completely useless documents."
The laity, the letter notes, are tormented by "the growing arbitrariness of the clerical world" and "suffer from this climate that has become heavy, almost unbreathable," with a "now total disappearance within the Church of all healthy plurality."
"Mother Church seems more and more like a stepmother, continually imposing anathemas, excommunications and commissariats" as the faithful daily witness "the slow fire that devours and destroys the Catholic Church in Italy and around the world."
Professor Giovanni Zenone, director of Italy's top traditionalist Catholic publishing house, Fede e Cultura, told Church Militant that the letter "has been written in the pain and anguish of children who feel cast out by their own mother, who now considers them as illegitimate and no longer welcomes them in the family."
"It has been written with all our heart to a pope who seems to care so much for the marginalized, for minorities, for the persecuted, and who must therefore listen to this cry of pain of the children of the Church, at whose head he has been placed," Zenone, one of the signatories, said.
The letter-writers ask Francis why he issued his recent motu proprio, Traditionis Custodes, imposing draconian restrictions on the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), abrogating Pope Benedict XVI's Summorum Pontificum, and "humiliating a tiny flock of faithful" by accusing them of division with no basis or possibility of appeal.
"Your latest provision against the so-called Latin Mass has further wreaked havoc and division without any motivation. Why deny that which your predecessor had granted?" the letter asks.
Francis' slogan, the "Church that goes forth," instead of "having any real application, has instead resulted in the holy city of Rome leading the way in barricading its churches, giving the world a sign of total desertion," the letter rued.
Francis' buzzword on the Church today as a "field hospital" has ironically been realized, the letter went on, as it is now filled with the Church's own "wounded" who "urgently need not so many speeches on mercy, but true, real, concrete mercy. And peace."
"The churches, the confessionals, even the Vatican coffers are increasingly empty: a sign that the People of God do not recognize the voice of the shepherds," the signatories lament.
It also charged Francis' confidants like Cdl. Angelo Becciu have "ended up in economic scandals that had not been seen since Marcinkus" (American archbishop and former head of the Vatican Bank), but "faithful prelates like Caffarra, Burke, Sarah, Müller, Pell, were humiliated, silenced and ignored."
The faithful laity also blast the pope for persecuting entire conservative religious orders and bishops, priests and religious in a manner "unimaginable even in the darkest times of the Holy Inquisition."
The Italian letter comes days after Bp. Rob Mutsaerts of 's-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands published a column on his website noting that Francis' suppression of the Latin Mass "has nothing to do with evangelization" but "is more like ideology."
Mutsaerts calls the pontiff's edict on the TLM "a perfectly clear declaration of war," noting that "Francis is shooting himself in the foot with this motu proprio."
"Liturgy is not a toy of popes; it is the heritage of the Church," Mutsaerts thundered. "The Old Mass is not about nostalgia or taste. The pope should be the guardian of Tradition; the pope is a gardener, not a manufacturer."
"The Church has never abolished liturgies. Not even Trent did so. Francis breaks completely with this tradition," writes the bishop, calling the pontiff's edict "a writ of execution" and "a slap in the face to his predecessors."
"Why? For God's sake, why? What is this obsession of Francis to want to erase this small group of traditionalists?" Mutsaerts implored. Writing in Dutch, Mutsaerts uses the German word ausradieren for "erase" — echoing Hitler's use of the word when speaking of wiping cities off the map.