By Peter Bugden
BRISBANE priest Fr Anthony Ekpo, who describes himself as “a bit of a book worm”, is excited about having one of his most recent articles accepted by Theological Studies¸ a prestigious international theological journal.
Fr Ekpo, a priest from the Umuahia diocese in Nigeria who is Archbishop Mark Coleridge’s pastoral assistant in Brisbane Archdiocese, said having his article accepted by Theological Studies was “a big deal” for him because the United States-based publication rejects 75 per cent of submitted articles.
“The article is about the sensus fidelium in Lumen Gentium (the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) paragraph 12,” he said.
“I argued that the treatment of the sensus fidelium – sense of the faithful – in that context is done within a narrow framework that yearns to be expanded.
“If we expand it, it will also give us a more creative understanding of the relationship among bishops, priests, deacons, religious men and women and lay faithful in the Church, giving us a greater knowledge of who we all are in Christ.”
The article, due to be published soon, follows on from the release of Fr Ekpo’s book “The breath of the Spirit in the Church: The Sensus Fidelium and Canon Law” in July last year.
The article will help promote the book at a time when the Catholic Theological Society of America, a 1400-member group of theologians from America and around the world, plans to address the topic of the sensus fidelium from a variety of angles during its four-day annual conference in Milwaukee in June.
Fr Ekpo said sensus fidelium was an important insight because it “says that, through baptism, each and every one of us, from the bishop to the last of the faithful, are gifted with what is called the sensus fidelium which is the supernatural sense of the faith”.
“So, in other terms, all of us who are baptised share in the life and mission of the Church,” he said.
“The sensus fidelium highlights the fact that, through baptism, all of us are summoned to participate fully, consciously and actively in the life and mission of the Church; that’s why the sensus fidelium is a good theological insight to hold on to.”
Fr Ekpo said that, in his book, he was “trying to figure out how canon law gives room for the sensus fidelium to be expressed or received, and I highlighted Church’s structures like pastoral councils, finance council, council of priests, synod – these are the places where there’s that creative listening and receptive dialogue”.
“I also highlighted that bishops, priests, the lay faithful, religious men and women and deacons, are agents of the sensus fidelium,” he said.
“So, in other words, we all are in it together so we have to listen to one another.
“You can’t say you are a parish priest and then you shut yourself off from what the Spirit is telling you in the pastoral council or in the parish, or that you are members of the parish council and ignore the insight of the parish priest.” In his Theological Studies article, Fr Ekpo highlighted that when Pope Francis was asked “What’s the image of the Church that you would like to project in your papacy?”
“He said, ‘It’s the sensus fidelium – the sense of the faith of the faithful’,” Fr Ekpo said.
“This statement shows that Pope Francis knows that the Spirit breathes in each and everyone of us.
“It shows the Pope to be a man who is ready to listen to everyone, and he seems to be saying, ‘Tell me what you see and perhaps I can share what I see but, together, we can see more into who we are as the Church – the Body of Christ’.”