Synod of Bishops – Day Six

With the Saturday sessions, presided by Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya (pictured), the Synod of Bishops wrapped up its first week. As usual, there were interventions, 24 by Synod fathers and one by a fraternal delegate.

The Patriarch of Venice, Francesco Moraglia, made an important point about catechesis and youth:

“[T]he majority of young people, once their Christian initiation is complete, lose their relationship with the Church, the faith, God. There are multiple causes for this: however, I believe that in a not insignificant number of cases the faith is not supported by a catechesis that is friendly towards reason, able to offer a true anthropological instruction and able to legitimize the plausibility of the Christian choice. It is necessary to relaunch the CCC, giving greater space to its content in order to avoid reduction to a “do-it-yourself” faith; the fides quae is often missing from our catechesis.”

Other topics discussed were the personal experiences in the social pastoral field of several countries, but also, once more, the use of mass media in the new evangelisation.

Cardinal George Alencherry had interesting things to say about the lives and ministries of priests in recent decades:

“During the 50 years after Vatican II, the renewal of the Church has been multifaceted and highly productive. At the same time the lives and ministry of priests and men and women of consecrated life have become more functional than spiritual and ecclesial. It would seem that the present-day formation of priests and the religious personnel tends to make them functionaries for different offices in the Church, rather than missionaries inflamed by the love of Christ. Even in places of ad gentes missions of the Church, functioning through institutions have made the priests and the religious lose the impelling force and strength of the Gospel to which they are committed by their vocation. Secularization has impacted the lives of individual Christians and also of ecclesial communities. New Evangelization demands a thorough renewal of the lives of individual Christians and the reevaluation of the structures of the Church to empower them with the dynamism of the Gospel values of truth, justice, love, peace and harmony.”

Bishop António Da Rocha Couto (pictured), of Lamego in Portugal, asked himself, his fellow Synod fathers, and in extension all of us,

“Yes, we need proclaimers of the Gospel who are without gold, silver, copper, bags, two tunics… Yes, it is of conversion that I speak, and I ask myself this question: why did the Saints fight so hard, and with so much joy, to be poor and meek, while we work so hard to be rich and important?”

Bishop Berislav Grgic, prelate of Tromsø in Norway, painted the following picture of the Church in Scandinavia:

“The Catholic Church in the Northern Lands – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – is a very small minority and therefore has neither the advantages nor the disadvantages that the Catholic Church often comes across in traditional and prevalently Catholic regions. Despite its limited relevance, numeric as well as social, our Church is nonetheless a growing Church. New churches are built or bought, new parishes are instituted, non-Latin rites are added, there is a relatively high number of adult conversions and baptisms, there are vocations to priesthood and to religious life, the number of baptisms is much higher than the number of deaths and number of those who abandon the Church, and attendance at Sunday Mass is relatively high.
In certain sectors of society there is great interest for the faith and spirituality, by non-believers who are searching for the truth as well as by Christians committed to other religions who wish to deepen and enrich religious life. It is also interesting to see that during the past years a relatively high number of contemplative orders have opened their own convents.
The transmission of the faith, often however, is made difficult because of the vast distances. Our priests must travel far – sometimes up to 2,000 km per month – to visit our faithful who live in distant places and celebrate Mass. This is very tiring during the winter months.”

The fraternal delegate who also intervened was Dr. Geoffrey Tunnicliffe, general secretary of the World Evangelical Alliance. He spoke about ‘holistic evangelism,’ evangelisation which lies at the heart of the person and which is radically committed to worl evangelisation.

Following the interventions, the composition of the Commission for Information, supplying media and interested parties with information about the Synod, was announced. The Commission is chaired by Archbishop Claudio Celli, the president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, with Archbishop Ján Babjak, of Prešov of the Catholics of the Byzantine Rite in Slovakia, serving as vice president. The other regular members of the Commission are:

Archbishop John Onaiyekan, of Abuja, Nigeria
Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, of Minsk-Mohilev, Belarus
Bishop Manuel Macário do Nascimento Clemente, of Porto, Portugal
Archbishop José Gómez, of Los Angeles, United States
Archbishop Francis Kovithavanij, of Bangkok, Thailand

There are two members ex officio: Archbishop Pierre-Marie Carré, the Synod’s general secretary, and Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops.

Lastly, Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, serves as secretary ex officio.

In the afternoon the interventions continued, this time by 15 Synod fathers. Father Heinrich Walter, Superior General of the Schönstatt Fathers, spoke about the role of the family in the renewal of the Church in the west:

“The family remains the foundation for learning the faith. The family means seeing one’s home as the house of God. Children, with their parents, follow the lengthy path in learning the faith. The vitality of a community is connected to these homes. Families are not only the privileged location for evangelization, but inasmuch as they are laity they are also agents of evangelization.”

Bishop Leonardo Ulrich Steiner (pictured), auxiliary bishop of Brasilia, raised an interesting point. He said, “New evangelization should take youths into consideration as ‘new agents’ of evangelization: the young who evangelize the young.” Rather than seeing young people strictly as ‘consumers’ of catechesis and education, it should be possible to turn some of them also into educators themselves. That would mean a different focus on the sort of catechesis presented to young people. Not only would they need to be able to learn, but also to teach by example and certainly also through being catechists themselves.

Presenting the Synod Fathers

In addition to delegates from the world’s bishops’ conferences, three president-delegates (Cardinals Tong Hon, Robles Ortega and Monsengwo Pasinya), the relator-general (Cardinal Wuerl) and the secretary (Archbishop Carré), the Holy Father specifically appointed 36 Synod fathers for this autumn’s Thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will focus on the new evangelisation. Later, there will be additional lay men and women who will be invited to contribute as well.

The list of the 36 Synod Fathers is as follows:

  • Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals.
  • Cardinal Joachim Meisner, archbishop of Cologne, Germany.
  • Cardinal Vinko Puljic, archbishop of Vrhbosna, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, archbishop of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania and president of SECAM/SCEAM (Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar).
  • Cardinal Christoph Schönborn O.P., archbishop of Vienna, Austria.
  • Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, Australia.
  • Cardinal Josip Bozanic, archbishop of Zagreb, Croatia.
  • Cardinal Péter Erdö, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary and president of CCEE (Council of European Episcopal Conferences).
  • Cardinal Agostino Vallini, His Holiness’ vicar general for the diocese of Rome.
  • Cardinal Lluis Martínez Sistach, archbishop of Barcelona, Spain.
  • Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris, France.
  • Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay, India and secretary general of FABC (Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences).
  • Patriarch Francesco Moraglia of Venice, Italy.
  • Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria.
  • Archbishop Hector Ruben Aguer of La Plata, Argentina.
  • Archbishop Antonio Arregui Yarza of Guayaquil, Ecuador, president of the Ecuadorian Episcopal Conference.
  • Archbishop John Atcherley Dew of Wellington, New Zealand, president of FCBCO (Federation of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Oceania).
  • Archbishop Jose Octavio Ruiz Arenas, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation.
  • Archbishop José Horacio Gomez of Los Angeles, U.S.A.
  • Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Tlalnepantla, president of CELAM (Latin American Episcopal Council).
  • Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, England.
  • Archbishop Ricardo Antonio Tobon Restrepo of Medellin, Colombia.
  • Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Tagle of Manila, Philippines.
  • Archbishop Filippo Santoro of Taranto, Italy.
  • Bishop Javier Echevarria Rodriguez, prelate of the Personal Prelature of Opus Dei.
  • Bishop Dominique Rey of Frejus-Toulon, France.
  • Bishop Menghisteab Tesfamariam M.C.C.J., eparch of Asmara, Eritrea.
  • Bishop Benedito Beni dos Santos of Lorena, Brazil.
  • Bishop Santiago Jaime Silva Retamales, auxiliary of Valparaiso, Chile and secretary general of CELAM.
  • Bishop Luigi Negri of San Marino-Montefeltro, Italy.
  • Bishop Alberto Francisco Sanguinetti Montero of Canelones, Uruguay.
  • Bishop Enrico Dal Covolo S.D.B., rector of the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.
  • Fr. Julian Carron, president of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation.
  • Fr. Renato Salvatore M.I., superior general of the Clerks Regular Ministers to the Sick (Camillians).
  • Fr. Heinrich Walter, superior general of the Schönstatt Fathers.
  • Fr. Jose Panthaplamthottiyil C.M.I., prior general of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate
Four of the Synod Fathers: Cardinal Bozanic, Archbishops Onaiyekan and Longley, and Fr. Walter.

The list is an interesting mix of the old guard (Sodano, Meisner) and the up and coming (Gomez, Tagle), and also includes a number of prelates who have recently worked closely with the pope on papal visits (Pengo, Longley, Onaiyekan, Negri). Although hand-picked for the Synod, these prelates are not more or less important then the delegates from all over the world. They will be full and active participants on the Synod, though, and at least some of them may be expected to contribute significantly.