From the Synod — October 25, 2008

October 27, 2008

The Synod Fathers gathered in the Aula for the last time today. We have come to know the place well and, even more, the people who have shared this wonderful experience. Over the three weeks, we have come to know each other and we have become friends.

The final reading of the propositions, now 55 of them, took place. This has always been a part of the Synod process, the public reading in Latin of the final text. While long and somewhat tedious, this official reading makes the final work of the Synod a matter of record.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Relator General, and Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, Special Secretary, alternated the reading of the propositions as the Synod Fathers read along either in Latin or Italian. Amendments, of which there were a number, were marked in italics so one could easily see what had been modified by the amendment process.

Having finished the reading of the text, the Synod Fathers were asked to mark each proposition with placet or non placet and to sign the final page of the text. This stands as the official ballot.

In order for the assembly to know the result of the voting, the Synod Fathers also had a chance to vote on each proposition electronically. Here the options were placet, non placet, or abstention.

The wonder of technology gave us an immediate response to the voting, showing the mind of the Synod Fathers on each proposition. The results were posted on each of the several screens in the front of the hall. The process was finished without a hitch.

After the electronic voting, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, Secretary General, read the name of each Synod Father, who responded, “Adsum” and handed his signed booklet of propositions, marked with his vote, to one of the assistants, who then brought it to the front and placed it in a large wooden case. These written ballots become part of the archives of the Synod.

It was a moving experience to hear my name read and to give my final approval or disapproval to what had evolved through the Synod process. It was kind of like voting in our upcoming elections. You realize the weight of your decisions, the importance of putting in writing, or recording in some way, your voice, your input, your say.

The Church relishes symbol and ritual, so important in our faith tradition. This ritual in having the votes brought forward was striking and powerful.

Another tradition of the Synod is the presentation of a special gift from the Holy Father to each of the Synod Fathers. In keeping with the Synod theme, each participant was given a replica of the Bodmer Papyrus XIV-XV, handwritten in Greek around the year 200 and a true relic. It includes the oldest existing copy of the Lord’s Prayer found in Luke 11, 1-4. This was discovered in Egypt in 1952. All of us were deeply grateful to receive this gift, having spent three weeks mulling over the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.

The last event of the day was a pranzo (lunch) with the Holy Father on the first floor of the Synod Hall. We received a table assignment according to language group. I was delighted to be with some of the members of our small group, since we had come to know one another quite well.

Archbishop Ignatius A. Kaigama of the Archdiocese of Jos in Nigeria was at my table. He knows the priests in our diocese from Nigeria and was a contemporary of some of them. His diocese is very near Makurdi, from which so many of our Nigerian priests in Tucson have come.

Bishop Jabulani Nxumalo, O.M.I., of South Africa, Bishop Liu Chen-Chung of Taiwan, Agnes Lam of Hong Kong, Sister Mary Jerome Obiorah, I.H.M., of Nigeria, Sister Clare Millea, an American who is Superior General of her community, Father Godfrey Igwebuike Onah, professor of Philosphy at the Urbaniana, and Father Fio Mascarenhas, S.J., president of the Catholic Biblical Institute in Mumbai, India, were also at table 8. The company was wonderful and the food delicious. Yes, they did remember to have a vegetarian dinner for me, for which I was grateful.

We had a great view of the Pope’s head table. He offered some final words of gratitude to all who attended and joked with the Secretary General for having us work on Saturdays and, for us relators, even on a Sunday.

The final Mass of the Synod with the Holy Father will take place tomorrow at St. Peter’s Basilica. I am not sure if the Pope arranged it, but we get to set the clocks back one hour tonight, so we will get an hour extra rest on our last day. (Actually, people in many parts of the world set their clocks back one hour this early Sunday morning: 1 a.m. in Europe, 2 a.m. in the U.S., as part of the annual cycle of Daylight Saving Time. But not Arizona!)

I have enjoyed the opportunity of sharing my first time experience of a Synod. I hope it has been helpful to you in getting a sense of the atmosphere and of how we went about our work.

I look forward to coming home.

As we concluded our session on Friday, the Synod Fathers approved our “Message to the People of God of the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.”

The Message is beautifully written, outlining the major themes and recommendations of the Synod. I encourage you to read it here.

The conclusion of the Message communicates so well the Spirit that moved among us at the Synod:

“Then I heard the voice I had heard from heaven speaking to me again. ‛Go’, it said, ‛and take that open scroll from the hand of the angel standing on sea and land’. I went to the angel and asked him to give me the small scroll, and he said, ‛Take it and eat it; it will turn your stomach sour, but it will taste as sweet as honey’. So I took it out of the angel’s hand, and I ate it and it tasted sweet as honey, but when I had eaten it my stomach turned sour” (Rev 10:8-11).

Brothers and sisters of the whole world, let us receive this invitation; let us approach the table of the word of God, so as to be nourished and live “not on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Dt 8:3; Mt 4:4). Sacred Scripture – as affirmed by a great figure of the Christian culture – “has provided passages of consolation and of warning for all conditions” (B. Pascal, Pensées, no. 532 ed. Brunschvicg).

The word of God, in fact, is “sweeter than honey, that drips from the comb” (Ps 19:10), “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Ps 119:105), but is also: “like fire, says the Lord, like a hammer shattering a rock” (Jer 23:29). It is like the rain that irrigates the earth, fertilizes it and makes it spring forth, and in doing this he makes the aridity of our spiritual deserts flourish (cf. Is 55:10-11). But it is also: “something alive and active: it cuts more incisively than any two-edged sword: it can seek out the place where soul is divided from spirit, or joints from marrow; it can pass judgment on secret emotions and thoughts” (Heb 4:12).

Our gaze is turned lovingly towards all those engaged in study, catechists and the other servants of the word of God to express our most intense and cordial gratitude for their precious and important ministry. We also address our persecuted brothers and sisters or those who are put to death because of the word of God and because of the witness they render to the Lord Jesus (cf. Rev 6:9): as witnesses and martyrs they tell us of “the power of the word” (Rm 1:16), origin of their faith, of their hope and of their love for God and for men.

Let us now remain silent, to hear the word of God with effectiveness and let us maintain this silence after hearing, so that it may continue to dwell in us, to live in us, and to speak to us. Let it resonate at the beginning of our day so that God has the first word and let it echo in us in the evening so that God has the last word.

Dear brothers and sisters, “All those who are with me send their greetings. Greetings to those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all!” (Tt 3:15).


From the Synod — October 23, 2008

October 23, 2008

Our four relators, one from each language group – French, Spanish, Italian/German and English – worked all morning, reviewing one-third of the innumerable amendments to the propositions that came from the small groups.

Some amendments offered minor changes or deletions, while others sought to rewrite the proposition and express the same thoughts held in it in a more comprehensive and clearer way.

The General Relator and Special Secretary have the final say on what amendments will be accepted. Tomorrow, we will receive the final list of propositions for voting “Placet” (Yes) or “Non Placet ” (No). The vote will determine which of the 53 propositions will be brought to the Holy Father for consideration as he writes his post-synodal exhortation.

When the Synod has not been in session, Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Msgr. David Malloy, general secretary of the Conference and I, as vice president of the Conference, have had opportunities to visit with several dicasteries to carry out some Conference business.

Generally, the Conference’s president and vice president have come to Rome twice a year for these visits, but it is planned that this would be reduced to once a year, which is similar to other Episcopal Conferences.

At the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William Levada, Prefect (and former Archbishop of San Francisco), received us in his gracious and welcoming way as always. We can be rightly proud that an American fills this important and significant post to assist the Pope. Cardinal Levada had worked with then Cardinal Ratzinger when he served as Prefect. Cardinal Levada has served as one of the General Secretaries of the Synod.

We also met the new Secretary of the Congregation, Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladari Ferrer, S.J., who is from Spain and who only recently (last July) was appointed Secretary and ordained a bishop. He is clearly a very bright and knowledgeable person. He taught for many years at the Gregorian University here, where many American seminarians who live here at the North American College Seminary attend classes.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has competence on all doctrinal matters and also was given the responsibility by Pope John Paul II of dealing with priestly sexual abuse cases involving minors.

At the Congregation for Catholic Education, Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, who is a Synod Father, was not able to attend our meeting, but we met with Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues, who also is relatively new as Secretary. This Congregation has responsibility for Catholic Education, seminary education and overseeing Ex Corde, the document about teachers of theology in Catholic Colleges and Universities. The Congregation conducted the recent study of U.S. seminaries, both diocesan and religious. The final report for that comprehensive study should be issued soon.

At the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, we met with Cardinal Francis Arinze, the Prefect, and Archbishop Don Albert Malcolm Ranjith, Secretary. Many of you in the Diocese of Tucson may remember when Cardinal Arinze visited Tucson and Green Valley in April of 2001. One of his priests from his Archdiocese in Nigeria, Father John Wangbu, was serving at Our Lady of the Valley Parish in Green Valley at that time and helped to arrange the visit. Cardinal Arinze still remembers that visit with affection. This Congregation is involved with the recognitio necessary for the extensive translations that are taking place of the Sacramentary and Lectionary. It is a tremendous task.

At the Congregation for the Clergy, we met with Cardinal Claudio Hummes, Prefect, and Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, Secretary. This Congregation deals with a wide range of areas that involve clergy, both priests and deacons.

Lastly, we visited with Archbishop Dominique Mamberti of the Vatican Secretariat of State. He is Secretary of the Second Section: For Relations with States. He has an extensive understanding of the struggles taking place all around the world. The Holy See has been involved in diplomatic matters for centuries, and has acquired great wisdom and expertise in seeking a world of justice and peace.

During the Synod, it has been clear that the Church is suffering persecution and is under great restrictions in many places. Obviously, it is a concern of the Holy See wherever people do not have religious freedom.

Oftentimes during their visits to Rome, our Conference’s leaders also try to arrange a visit with the Holy Father, and we were blessed this time to have an opportunity to meet with him personally today, despite the busyness of the Synod, which he has attended regularly.

The path to meeting with him leads from the giant courtyard of the Papal Palace, attended by the Swiss Guards, up the elevator to the second loggia (floor), and through a number of beautifully decorated receiving rooms. Archbishop James Harvey, Prefect of the Papal Household, and a number of other attendants of the Pope welcomed us.

Once through all the important formality, we waited only briefly before being escorted into the meeting room where the Holy Father greeted us warmly. Several photos were taken (as is always done for any visit), and we sat down for an informal conversation. The Holy Father’s interest was apparent. We were deeply grateful that he was able to receive us.

In addition to these “extracurricular” meetings, we bishops from the U.S. attending the Synod have been invited to lunch or supper with the American cardinals in Rome, including Cardinals Foley, Levada and Stafford.

Tonight, we attended a reception at the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican. Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon received us with much kindness. I had met her only once previously, and that was during the Papal Visit of last April. She is highly respected and well liked in the Vatican. She brings a broad knowledge of the Church to her work. She made us feel very much at home.

Again, our work at the Synod tomorrow will include voting on the propositions and approving the official message of this Synod.


From the Synod — October 22, 2008

October 22, 2008

Today, we worked in the circulo minore (small groups) to formulate amendments to the propositions that were presented to the Synod Fathers yesterday.

We have a very active group that includes Synod Fathers from several different countries, as well as experts and auditors who have been very engaged in the discussions. It is interesting that many of the Synod Fathers studied at the Biblicum (Pontifical Biblical Institute), a place of advanced study in the bible located in Rome. They have spent years studying the Word of God, so they have brought expert background to our reflections.

Only Synod Fathers can formulate amendments, but certainly the voice of others helped give assistance to the conversation. Everyone felt invited to participate.

In our group, we reviewed two texts of the propositions, one in Italian and one in Latin. This presents challenges, since in any translation there are always ambiguities. But it was helpful that simultaneous translations were given the day before as the General Relator and Secretary read the propositions in Latin.

Ours is a thoughtful and perceptive group, and so a number of amendments surfaced, some minor, but others quite helpful in clarifying or enhancing the proposition. Our task was not to totally modify, eliminate or add a text proposition, but simply to amend it for clarity or improvement, as I indicated yesterday.

People speak freely and openly in the group. There is a comfortable give and take as well as some hearty laughs.

In the end, we felt good about our work, formulating about 43 amendments for consideration. Those amendments will be reviewed by the relators of each small group and the officers of the Synod tomorrow. A final text of the propositions will be presented to the Synod on Friday.

While the Synod will not be meeting tomorrow, Thursday, the relators have our work cut out for us as we gather the amendments and consider which will help improve the original text.

The process of the Synod has been interesting and has provided much opportunity for input and having one’s voice heard.

We have been blessed throughout the Synod with marvelous, beautiful fall weather. One day is nicer than the other; today is no exception. I suspect many Synod Fathers have felt like school children longingly looking out of the classroom windows and eager to go outside. Our wish came true today as our small group finished our work by the end of the morning session. Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I., gave us the rest of the day off. What a blessing! We ran for the street and the chance to walk around Rome.


From the Synod – October 21, 2008

October 21, 2008

Over the last two days, the relators of the small groups, of which I am one, worked to bring the various propositions recommended by our respective language groups into a unified set of propositions that today were presented to the Synod Fathers.

Seeing how hard we had to work to unify some 200 propositions into a manageable number for consideration, I can understand even more directly the challenges of working in our global society that is made up of so many languages, cultures, perspectives and experiences. We certainly experienced those challenges!

As we met the challenges during the course of our work, I thought how important it is in our country’s schools that we encourage our young people to learn multiple languages. That has not always been encouraged. At times, it has even been discouraged. To live and work in our global society and economy, our young people will need to become more fluent in diverse languages. Developing such fluency has not been as important to us in the U.S. as it has been in other countries.

(My family on both sides is Lebanese. My mom spoke Arabic, but it was not customary for Arab families in the U.S. when I was growing up to teach their children the language. Our parents wanted us to fit in, to know the language of our country. Hence, I only learned a few phrases in Arabic and a few words – not repeatable in public – that I heard when my parents were upset with us. Now, I wish I had learned Arabic.)

Having separated the propositions into themes, our task as relators was to take the several propositions under each theme and consider ways to unify them without modifying the substantive thought of the proposition.

Some propositions are exhortatory, some express gratitude, some offer suggested actions, some seek clarification. These propositions are the fruit of the Synod’s work and contain what the Synod Fathers consider crucial and that needs to be acted upon.

The Synod officials then took those modified propositions and translated them into Italian, and then from the Italian translated them into Latin for today’s formal presentation.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S., Relator General, and Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, Special Secretary, read the propositions in Latin to the Synod Fathers. The Holy Father was present and listened attentively to the many propositions that made it through the editing process.

Pope Benedict XVI, like his predecessor, is quite a linguist. He never uses the translation device to listen to what is being said. He is conversant in each of the six languages of the Synod (Spanish, French, German, Italian, English and Latin).

Now, the Synod Fathers will spend some time over the next two days modifying and amending the propositions. There is still much work to be done before they are in their final form.

We heard today from the last of the auditors who are women and men religious and laywomen and men. The Holy Father was attentive to their presentations, taking notes and indicating his interest in hearing their perspectives.

I wonder how many corporate executives take the time to listen to their managers or advisors with the intensity that characterizes how the Holy Father has listened to the vast number of speakers at this Synod.

One of the oft-repeated themes of this Synod has been the need to recover the gift of listening. Pope Benedict has modeled that for us in a marvelous way.

Today, also, we elected those who will serve on the Synod Commission whose task it is to collaborate with the Holy Father in writing the Post-Synodal Exhortation and to explore with him the subject for the next Synod.

Three representatives from each continent are elected. For America, they are Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S., Cardinal Oscar A. Rodriquez Maradiaga and Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I. Cardinal George has had the opportunity to do this at previous Synods, so he will be very helpful to this part of the process.

Clearly, the Holy Father will be assisted by a very talented group of Synod Fathers as he formulates his exhortation.


From the Synod – October 17, 2008

October 18, 2008

Our small language group – English Group B – has had very productive, rich and wide ranging discussions. We have identified a number of critical areas that would be the subject of propositions that will be considered by the Synod Fathers for presentation to the Synod Commission and the Holy Father, who will use those propositions to formulate his post-synodal exhortation.

Each of the 12 language groups reported this morning on their work. As relator, I reported for our group. While the individual interventions made by the Synod Fathers are given while seated, these summary group reports are given from the dais.

The experience for me was not unlike a meeting of our U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops where one talks facing the room full of bishops, except here the Pope is present – a little more unnerving. I had a hard time staying within the 10 minutes allotted for the presentation.

There was a good deal of overlap in the group reports, so it is obvious that there is beginning to emerge a focus on the areas of concern important to the bishops.

Before the end of the morning session, those auditors who had not yet had a chance to make their intervention were invited to do so. It is clear the Synod gives everyone an ample time to express their opinions and offer their reflections. The comments by the priests, religious, fraternal delegates (representatives from other religions) and laity have been most helpful. Many expressed their gratitude for being invited to participate in the Synod, and it was obvious they had given much thought to their remarks.

We were back in small groups for the afternoon session today. Now, as the saying goes, the rubber is hitting the road. Our group worked diligently to formulate propositions that will be the way our group’s members can have an impact on the work of the Synod.

Propositions formed by the groups can take many forms. They might be recommendations, new initiatives, encouragements or statements to be underscored.

In our group, we developed 29 propositions based on eight areas: Word of God and the Lay Faithful; Evangelization, Proselytism and Sects; Proclamation, Preaching, and Formation of Priests; Bishops, Theologians, Exegetes Together; Word of God and Contemplation; Word of God in Sacred Scriptures; Spirit of Forgiveness and Healing; and Sacred Scripture in the Eucharistic Celebration.

In the give and take of the discussion, it was obvious, as you would expect, that bishops from different countries have varied perspectives and priorities. What is of concern in one country may not be of interest in another. In the give and take, we did reach consensus on sending forward a wide range of propositions.

Now, the hard work begins for the relators. The three of us English group relators will now meet to gather, coordinate and unify the varied propositions that came forward from our groups.

After that, we will meet in diverse language groups (one relator from English, French, Spanish and Italian/German) to collate, clarify and unify propositions from the various language groups and to formulate one list of propositions to be presented to the full body of the Synod.

This weekend will be a very busy time for sure, since each of the 12 groups formulated from 20 to 40 propositions.


From the Synod – October 15, 2008

October 16, 2008

Each of the 253 bishops, 37 auditors and 11 fraternal delegates from other faiths who wanted to offer an intervention has now done so. While listening to all of the five-minute reflections has been a lengthy process, some clear themes have emerged for the next phase of the Synod’s work – the development of propositions to be voted on by the Synod Fathers.

As I reviewed my notes and reflections over the past week and a half, it seemed to me that some helpful recommendations have been made. While all these recommendations may not make it into the Post Synodal Exhortation that will be issued by Pope Benedict XVI, I think they will be helpful to us as we consider how to make the Word live in our Diocese.

Here are some of the themes and their associated recommendations and observations that I heard:

Interpretation of Scripture
• Call for an encyclical on the interpretation of Sacred Scripture.
• Call for more dialogue between theologians, exegetes, bishops and pastoral practitioners.
• Need to understand the role of the Magisterium, bishops who hold the apostolic tradition.
• Need for proper interpretation of Sacred Scripture, especially in the light of the challenge of fundamentalist sects.
• Need to distinguish between credible and non-credible sources.
• Need to be clear that teaching the Word needs the authority and guidance of the Church
• The Historical Critical approach to exegesis is important, but not sufficient: one needs a theological spiritual perspective as well in studying the Scriptures.
• Need to rediscover the spiritual sense of the Scriptures.
• The exegete is to be the servant of the Word, not the master.

Use of Technology
• Church needs to look at a greater, broader use of technology in communicating the Word.
• The Pope should do a blog.
• The Church should make better use of Internet to allow the Bible to be read even in countries where the Scriptures are forbidden.
• We are experiencing profound changes in communication, a revolution. There is a new culture of communication that the Church must not hesitate to enter.
• We need to develop more dialogic forms of communication in keeping with the age.
• Radio plays an important role in communicating the Scriptures, especially in poorer countries with greater illiteracy.

Use of Lectio Divina
• Should be a devotion practiced by all.
• Encourage families to participate in this method of learning and praying Scripture.
• Retreats should make use of Lectio Divina.
• Consider the seven-step Gospel sharing method to encounter Christ in the Word. Good way to get in contact with Jesus.
• Invite the Lord into your heart.
• Read a Gospel passage in a slow, prayerful way.
• Stay with text focusing on a word or phrase.
• Silence.
• Share the word or phrase that touched you.
• Ask what the Lord wants of you.
• Pray spontaneously.
• Encourage small Christian communities to use this method.
• Require Lectio Divina in the seminary.
• This method can be used by ecumenical groups as a way to experience intercommunion.

Consecrated Life
• Centrality of the Word in the renewal of Consecrated Life.

Study of Sacred Scripture
• Biblical formation is important for all.
• Need to form hearers of the Word, emphasize the importance of listening.
• Can be done in small Christian communities.
• Important to understand proper dispositions in hearing the Word.
• Inner silence.
• Humility of heart, heart of a child.
• Careful listening, silence.
• Hold summer schools on the Bible.
• Diminish people’s fear of the Bible; it is not just for experts and scholars.
• Parents play critical role in helping children learn the Bible.
• Study within the family.
• Fundamentalists know texts by heart; encouraging learning the Scriptures by heart can be especially effective for the illiterate or anyone who wants to become immersed in the Word.
• Saints read Sacred Scripture and were transformed.
• Need to venerate Sacred Scripture as the Body of Christ.
• Need to express gratitude to biblical exegetes for their important work and acknowledge the progress that has been made in biblical study.

Relationship with Jews and between Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament• Explore in what ways the Jewish people are present in the New Testament.
• What is the place of Jewish Scriptures in the New Testament?
• What is the status of the covenant with Israel made by God? It can never be abolished.
• We need greater respect and sensitivity for those who share the Word.
• Need to articulate the Christological reading of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Relationship between Sacred Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium
• It is important in the Catholic tradition not to obscure tradition or the importance of the Magisterium.
• We are not a religion of a “book,” but a religion of the Word, which includes Tradition.
• Magisterium permits proper interpretation of Sacred Scripture.

The Homily
• We need “missionary” preaching, not just moral encouragements.
• Church could establish a year of preaching to allow bishops, priests and deacons to focus on the improvement of preaching.
• Develop a homiletic directory; a directory on preaching.
• Homily is the primary place for the faithful to encounter the Word.
• Need for apostolic preaching; kerygmatic preaching.
• Homily could be more catechetical.
• Sunday Eucharist is the primary place of access to the Scriptures by the laity.
• Homilists need to spend more time preparing, meditating on the Word.
• Needs to be a greater emphasis on the life-transforming quality of preaching.
• Homily is the preeminent means of opening the Scriptures to the faithful.
• Ongoing formation of clergy could be helpful in improving homilies.
• Need more homiletic training in seminary along with biblical formation.
• Need more technical training in public speaking.
• Help priests deal with their insecurity of speaking about the Old Testament.
• Follow Christ’s homiletic style; more parables and stories.
• Appeal to the listener’s heart.
• Seminary should present Scripture not as an academic study but as “falling in love” with the Bible.
• Not just biblical knowledge, but biblical theology.
• Compendium on reading, interpreting, preaching and praying the Bible.
• Preacher needs compassionate heart, zeal, passion for the Word.
• Encourage creativity.

Greater Use of Imagery and Art in Proclaiming the Word
• Icons and art can be helpful especially for those who cannot read the Scriptures.
• Need to make more use of singing from the Word of God.
• Word not only found in Sacred Scripture. There are sparks found in all creation, history, and throughout life. God’s Word is all around us.
• Make more use of drama in communicating the Word.

The Poor
• God summons all of us to be poor.
• The poor have a profound closeness to God.
• We need to receive the Word humbly, like the poor of heart.
• Need to live out the Word in defense of human rights.

Ecumenism and Interfaith
• Greater cooperation for distribution and translations of the Bible.
• Word of God and Baptism join us together from different Christian faiths.
• One can find intercommunion in the Word that can foster unity.
• Need to continue to promote unity and full communion among all Christians.
• Would be a wonderful step to celebrate Easter on the same day.
• Unity of faith can be experienced by listening to the Word of God.
• Explore relationship with Muslims; seek reciprocity; this is an urgent need.
• What is God saying to us in our different holy books?

Obstacles to Accessing the Bible
• Illiteracy.
• Lack of translations, especially in languages spoken by small groups, cultures.
• People working so much, lack of time.
• Noisy world.
• Loss of biblical imagination: how can we bring back a biblical vocabulary and imagery?
• Preoccupation with sports.
• Lack of opportunity for Sunday Eucharist.
• Form a central institute for translations.

How to Create Better Access to the Bible
• Catholic Biblical Association.
• Need to have a Bible in every home.
• Form groups of professionals to read and study the Bible so that they will grow in understanding of the Word and bring it into their professions.
• Involvement of the Catholic Biblical Federation in improving resources.

Inerrancy of the Bible
• Clarify Dei Verbum, number 11.

Bishops and priests
• Reignite their desire to continue learning.
• Address their overwork.
• Need for priests to be convinced to see Sacred Scripture as the heart of faith.
• Need ardent preachers of the Word.
• Need to address shortage of priests.
• More ongoing formation for bishops and priests.
• They are primary teachers of the Word.
• First ones called to feed on the Word.

Roles of Lectors and Catechists
• Promote lay ministry of the Word.
• Have a formal ministry for the catechist or delegate of the Word.
• Improve preparation of catechists and readers of the Word.
• Have lectors practice in small groups.
• Encourage prayer by lectors before reading the Word.
• Give lectors more prestige.
• Educate and form groups that can bring the Word to others.
• Form agents of evangelization.
• Show greater gratitude to catechists for their important and essential work.

Youth
• They need to experience God’s personal love for them.
• Need opportunities to fall in love with Christ.
• Use Emmaus model, encounter with Word, walk together, life in common.
• Suggestions of Brother Alois from Taize on how to lead young in prayer of the Word.
• Develop groups of young adults who can bring others to Christ through peer-to-peer evangelization.
• Use sport images from Scriptures for youth.
• Remind the young that they have a special mission for Christ.

The Holy Spirit
• Develop a theology reflecting the Holy Spirit’s power reflected in the Word.

Parish
• Parish plays a great role in the service of the Word.
• Parish is the place for animating the Scriptures and catechism.
• Privileged place where people encounter Christ.
• Enhance the Sacrament of Penance as an opportunity to meet Christ.

I hope we can follow up in our Diocese on some of these important insights that came out during the Synod presentations.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S., Archbishop of Quebec and General Secretary for the Synod, today issued his official summary of the interventions. Drawing together what was voiced in the Aula (hall), it is an amazing work that will now be used as the guide for the propositions that will come forth from the small groups.

This evening, we had an opportunity to visit the new apartment of Archbishop James Harvey, Prefect of the Papal Household, who is a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Archbishop Harvey was a most gracious host, and his guided tour included a rich history of this oldest part of the Papal Palace. Dating to15th century, this was residence of Nicholas V (1447-1455) and Julius II (1503-1513). Nicholas rebuilt the Vatican. In addition to carrying out a very aggressive foreign policy, Julius was an ambitious builder and patron of the arts.

It was amazing to think of the history that has happened in these rooms. If only the walls could talk!


From the Synod – October 14, 2008

October 14, 2008
Today’s session involved not only comments from Bishops but also interventions by the Pope himself, along with religious women and men, and laity who comprise the auditors invited to attend the Synod.
The Holy Father, a master teacher, focused his reflection on the historical-critical and theological-spiritual interpretation of the Scriptures. In a clear, concise, and lucid way, Benedict opened up this complex and critical point in dealing with the Word of God. He emphasized that the historical-critical and theological-spiritual forms of exegesis are both necessary. Alone the historical-critical methodology is not sufficient, although important.

If one attends only to the historical-critical approach to the Bible, the Scriptures become a book of the past with nothing to say to the exigencies of the day. The Bible becomes pure history and nothing more.

Even more problematic, he said, exegetes only resorting to such an approach see everything in the Scriptures as reduced to human terms. One can deny the intervention of God in human history. Yet history also has a divine side.

He called the Synod Fathers and experts in Biblical exegesis to overcome the dualism possible between exegesis and theology. Clearly it is a point that concerns him deeply.

Benedict teaches masterfully and from the depths of his understanding of theology and God’s Word. As he sat at his place and expounded his text, I sensed a man who deeply loves the Scriptures, believes in the divine presence in the Word and is entirely convinced of the Word’s relevance for today. The Scriptures are God’s speaking to us here and now.

For the first time, the Synod Hall heard the voice of women, including one from the United States, invited to participate in the Synod. Among the women who addressed the assembly were Maria Voce, President of the Focolare Movement, Michelle Moran, President of International Catholic Council of the Charismatic Renewal Services, Sister Evelyne Franc, Superior General of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent DePaul, Ewa Kusz, President of the World Conference of Secular Institutes, Sister Jocelyn Huot, General President of the Les Brebise de Jesus Movement, Agnes Kam Leng Lam, President of the Catholic Biblical Association of Hong Kong, Teresa Maria Wilsnagh, Regional Director of the Bible Foundation of Cape Town, Sister Clara Millea, Superior General of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (USA), Sister M. Viviana Ballarin, O.P.,Superior Genral of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena and President of the Superiors Major of Italy, and Natalja Fedorova Borovskaja, Professor at the State Humanistic University in Russia and at the Russian Academy of Fine Arts.

From this list you see the wide range of women who spoke, their diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Before the Synod some expressed concern whether the voice of women would be heard at the Synod. The women who spoke today did so effectively, each adding their perspective and some offering suggestions for consideration by the Synod. Their contributions added some helpful directions as the Synod begins to look at forming propositions to be given to the Holy Father in preparation for his post-synodal exhortation.

Professor Fedorova, who teaches children about art and offers courses in art history, spoke of art and beauty as a way to encounter Christ. She described how so much of Scripture has been put to art reflecting especially on the painting by Rembrandt of the Prodigal Son, which is on display at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia.

It was this picture that Henri Nouwen used in writing about forgiveness, analyzing every facet of Rembrandt’s masterpiece to teach his theological, spiritual message. Art has a power few media can provide.

AgnesKam Leng Lam, who works in Hong Kong, even suggested the Holy Father do a blog as a way of enticing the young to meet Christ. He smiled. I think it is a good idea. He has a way of inspiring young people.

One of the most striking moments of today was the comment made by Cardinal Emmanuel Delly of Iraq. His words moved us as he spoke of life in Iraq as tragic, a real Calvary. People lack basic elements of life. Schools are closed. Danger lurks everywhere. People fear for the future. He mentioned that 16 of his priests and two bishops have been kidnapped and some killed. Countless innocents have died. He asked, “Pray for us and with us.”

 All in the hall applauded, a way of being in solidarity with him and his people who continue to suffer so much.

 We also had an opportunity today to be led in the method of Lectio Divina, which received so much attention in the Instrumentum Laboris, and in the reflections of the Synod Fathers. Bishop Santiago Jaime Silva Retamales of Chile explained the steps reflecting on how effective the method has been in his own diocese.

 The four steps involve reading a Scriptural text, meditating on it while focusing on some key words that draw the attention of the reader, praying and asking God the implications of this text for the person, ending in contemplation considering the conversion God is calling the prayer to realize in the person praying.

 His intervention made more real this important way of entering into the Word of God.

 We are nearing the end of the presentations. Most are looking forward to working in small groups to hone the reflections into concrete propositions that will assist the Holy Father in writing his document following the Synod.

 


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