Synod of Bishops – Day Five

The Friday sessions, presided over by Cardinal Robles Ortega, of the Synod started normal enough, with a series of interventions by  23 Synod fathers.

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyc and head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, suggested that the effectiveness of homilies be made a topic for a future assembly of the Synod. Before him, Bishop Javier Echeverría Rodríguez of Opus Dei had also mentioned the need for this, and suggested that could be achieved by the homilist directing is word also to himself, to lead by example, so to speak.

Cardinal Ravasi spoke, among others, about the tensions between science and faith:

“The incompatibility between science and faith and the prevarications of one against the other and vice versa, as has occurred in the past and continues to occur, should be replaced by mutual recognition of the dignity of their respective epistemological statuses: science is dedicated to the “scene”, that is the phenomenon, while theology and philosophy look to the “foundation”. A distinction, but not of separateness to the point of reciprocal exclusion, since they have a single common object, that is, being and existence. It is therefore comprehensible that overlaps and tensions occur, especially in the field of bioethics.
Dialogue is therefore indispensable, without arrogance and without confusion linked to specific levels and approaches. As John Paul II indicated in 1988, “it is absolutely important that each discipline continues to enrich, nurture and provoke the other to be more fully what it should be and to contribute to our vision of what we are and where we are going”. The great scientist Max Planck, father of quantum theory, also confirmed this: “Every serious and reflective person realizes… there can never be any real opposition between religion and science; for the one is the complement of the other”.

Archbishop Józef Michalik, of Przemysl, Poland, reminded the Synod that we can’t lay the blame for the current crisis of faith merely with others:

“If the faith of today becomes ever weaker, we must not only blame others, but rather ourselves. If the message of faith is not interesting or attractive – this is perhaps the case because that same message is no longer interesting or attractive to us, because it does not excite us, because we do not preach Christ to our families or on the streets of our cities.”

In the afternoon, Pope Benedict XVI hosted the Synod fathers, together with Patriarch Bartholomaois I of Constantinople and Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, for a lunch in the Paul VI Hall. He followed the “lovely tradition initiated by Pope John Paul II to crown the Synod with a shared meal.” He likened the Synod experience to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Jesus “lit up their hearts and illuminated their minds” allowing them to recognise Him at supper.

“Thus in the Synod we are walking together with our contemporaries. We pray to the Lord that He may illuminate us, that He may light up our hearts so they may become prophetic, that He may illuminate our minds; and we pray that at supper, in the Eucharistic communion, we can really be open, see Him and thus also light up the world and give His light to this world of ours.”

The evening session, the Eighth General Congregation began later, as the Holy Father had already suggested during the lunch. First up was an intervention by Professor Werner Arber, professor of microbiology and President of the Pontifical Academy for Sciences. He gave a “Reflection on the relations between the sciences and religious faith”.

Following this, the members of the Commission for the Message were announced. Four of these, including the president, Cardinal Betori, and the Vice President, Archbishop Tagle, were appointed by the pope, while the remaining eight were elected by the Synod fathers. The members, tasked with composing the pastorl message related to the topic of the Synod, are:

Giuseppe Cardinal Betori, Archbishop of Florence, Italy
Archbishop Luis Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, Philippines
Polycarp Cardinal Pengo, Archbishop of Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania
Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, Austria
Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture
George Cardinal Alencherry, Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly of the Syro-Malabars, India
Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, United States
Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, Belgium
Archbishop John Atcherley Dew, Archbishop of Wellington, New Zealand
Archbishop Sérgio Da Rocha, Archbishop of Brasilia, Brazil
Archbishop Socrates Villegas, Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
Father Adolfo Nicolás Pachón, Superior General of the Society of Jesus

Photo credit: [2] Bishop Gerald Kicanas

Synod of Bishops – Day Three

Trying to stay up to speed with the news is a task and a half, especially if it needs to be done in any free time available. Hence the relative silence yesterday and the double coverage of the Synod of Bishops today.

On to Day 3 then, which coincided with Wednesday. In the morning the Synod fathers split of in the several working groups, which are divided by language group. First on their agenda was the election of moderators and relators, or presiding prelates and communication officers, a list which was presented at the start of the afternoon session. The list of groups, with their moderators and relators is as follows:

  • Anglicus A: Moderator: Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, Archbishop of Durban, South Africa. Relator: Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, Archbishop of Louisville, United States.
  • Anglicus B: Moderator: Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, Ireland. Relator: Archbishop Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, United Kingdom.
  • Anglicus C: Moderator: Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, India. Relator: Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, Archbishop of Glasgow, United Kingdom.
  • Anglicus D: Moderator: Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, Australia. Relator: Bishop Kieran O’Reilly, Bishop of Killaloe, Ireland.
  • Gallicus A: Moderator: Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Relator: Bishop Dominique Rey, Bishop of Fréjus-Toulon, France.
  • Gallicus B: Moderator: Archbishop Yves Patenôtre, Archbishop of Sens, France. Relator: Archbishop Claude Dagens, Archbishop of Angoulême, France.
  • Germanicus: Moderator: Bishop Ägidius Zsifkovics, Bishop of Eisenstadt, Austria. Relator: Bishop Ladislav Nemet, Bishop of Zrenjanin, Serbia.
  • Hispanicus A: Moderator: Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes, Archbishop of Tlalnepantla, Mexico. Relator: Archbishop Ricardo Blázquez Pérez, Archbishop of Valladolid, Spain.
  • Hispanicus B: Moderator: Bishop Julio Terán Dutari, Bishop of Ibarra, Ecuador. Relator: Bishop Santiago Silva Retamales, Auxiliary Bishop of Valparaíso, Chile.
  • Italicus A: Moderator: Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. Relator: Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation.
  • Italicus B: Moderator: Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa, Italy. Relator: Archbishop Bruno Forte, Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, Italy.
  • Italicus C: Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples. Relator: Father Renato Salvatore, Superior General of the Clerks Regular of the Ministers of the Sick (Camillians).

In the afternoon, the Synod continued with the interventions of 16 fathers. The first speaker, Cardinal Tauran (pictured at right), said some interesting things about interreligious dialogue, which is, of course, his area of expertise. In that dialogue, he said,

“there is no room for syncretism or relativism! Faced with adepts from other religions with a strong religious identity, it is necessary to present motivated and doctrinally equipped Christians. This makes the new evangelization a priority to form coherent Christians, capable of demonstrating their faith, with simple words and without fear.”

About the situation in Turkey, Bishop Louis Pelâtre, the Vicar Apostolic of Istanbul, had some important words to say about the use of the Internet by the Church, words which are equally valuable for other parts of the world. The bishops said:

“The young generation learns about the faith through the internet. Having practically no access to public radios or televisions, we can however use these private networks used more by the evangelical Protestants than by the Catholics. From this the need for well-prepared and qualified workers for the harvest that awaits us. This specific apostolate cannot be satisfied by good will and improvisation alone.”

The most noted contribution, at least in social media, to this day’s session came from the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, pictured at left during his intervention. His theological address focussed on contemplation, and how that needs to be a first step before we present our faithful face to the world:

“To be contemplative as Christ is contemplative is to be open to all the fullness that the Father wishes to pour into our hearts. With our minds made still and ready to receive, with our self-generated fantasies about God and ourselves reduced to silence, we are at last at the point where we may begin to grow. And the face we need to show to our world is the face of a humanity in endless growth towards love, a humanity so delighted and engaged by the glory of what we look towards that we are prepared to embark on a journey without end to find our way more deeply into it, into the heart of the trinitarian life. St Paul speaks (in II Cor 3.18) of how ‘with our unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord’, we are transfigured with a greater and greater radiance. That is the face we seek to show to our fellow-human beings.”

And this, Dr. Williams said, is the goal of that contemplative attitude:

“[I]t is the key to prayer, liturgy, art and ethics, the key to the essence of a renewed humanity that is capable of seeing the world and other subjects in the world with freedom – freedom from self-oriented, acquisitive habits and the distorted understanding that comes from them. To put it boldly, contemplation is the only ultimate answer to the unreal and insane world that our financial systems and our advertising culture and our chaotic and unexamined emotions encourage us to inhabit. To learn contemplative practice is to learn what we need so as to live truthfully and honestly and lovingly. It is a deeply revolutionary matter.”

In that contemplation, we allow ourselves to be transformed by God, to be more and more conformed to His Trinitarian identity. This means that we can’t be bound any longer by our own selfish desires.

“To learn to look to God without regard to my own instant satisfaction, to learn to scrutinise and to relativise the cravings and fantasies that arise in me – this is to allow God to be God, and thus to allow the prayer of Christ, God’s own relation to God, to come alive in me. Invoking the Holy Spirit is a matter of asking the third person of the Trinity to enter my spirit and bring the clarity I need to see where I am in slavery to cravings and fantasies and to give me patience and stillness as God’s light and love penetrate my inner life. Only as this begins to happen will I be delivered from treating the gifts of God as yet another set of things I may acquire to make me happy, or to dominate other people.”

There is more, and I coud just post the entire text here. But that will just make this blog post far too longer, so check the day’s Bulletin for the texts, both of Dr. Williams’ address and the summaries of the other interventions.

The papal visit to the UK, its itinerary and importance

The organisation of the papal visit to the United Kingdom, from 16 to 19 September, have published the itinerary of the four day state visit of Pope Benedict XVI. This visit, I expect, will be a very important one, not just for the UK and the Church, but for all of Europe and the world. Although not as heavily secularised as certain other countries, the UK has a history of ambivalence (to put it mildly) towards the Catholic Church. It is not without reason that this is the first official state visit of a pope since the Reformation. Pope John Paul II did visit in 1982, but that was very much a pastoral visit to the faithful, without the bells and whistles (and consequences) of a state visit.

There are a number of highlights to look forward to. On Thursday the 16th there are the welcome and audience in Edinburgh with Queen Elizabeth II, followed by a reception and addresses by both Her Majesty and the Holy Father. The fact that the Queen is head of the Anglican church adds extra weight to this. The ‘other head’ of the Anglican church, Archbishop Rowan Williams, will receive the pope the next day in his residence of Lambeth Palace in London, which will be followed by the pope’s address in Westminster Hall, the very place where St. Thomas More and others were condemned to death. The fact that the pope will now be speaking in that very place is historically quite significant.

Saturday’s high point will undoubtedly be Mass at Westminster Cathedral, and the Sunday will be all about soon-to-be-Blessed John Henry Newman. The pope will beatify him in the morning, and the afternoon will be spent with the bishop of England, Wales and Scotland.

Like his previous visits to Africa, Malta, Cyprus and Portugal, the eyes of the world will be on Pope Benedict XVI. The Holy Father not being one to shun difficult topics, I would not be surprised if the ongoing secularisation, the current abuse crisis and the escalating anti-life attitude in the world are among the topics raised by him and others. No doubt there will be angry, misguided and emotional headlines following some of his words, but hopefully there will be more intelligent and thoughtful comments. If our modern western society has a hope of growth and development, it must show to be able to transcend the childish emotional response to difficult and painful questions. That is why a visit like this, to a western European country is so important for more than just the host country. It is from the west, after all, that the social diseases have too often come, and it is there that a change must be effected. Those changes must not be limited to the relationship between Church and state, but must also include relations with other faiths, relations in the Church herself, and relations with people of all layers of society.