From the Synod — 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.

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