Tuesday, Oct. 7
Today is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I., Archbishop Donald Wuerl, Father David Mulloy, general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Father Daniel Flens, secretary to Cardinal George, and I began the day with Mass in a small chapel here at the North American College. I sense in myself a greater attentiveness to the reading of the Scriptures. It is so easy to become distracted and to not really hear the Word when it is read at Mass.
The Gospel today speaks of Mary receiving the Word in her womb. She is a real model and example for us to take the Word into our hearts.
In our distracted and distracting world, listening comes with difficulty. Just as we often do not listen to one another, we can find it hard to listen to God's Word when read. One bishop here has reflected on how important it is to form hearers of the Word and to have an open disposition to hear God's Word. A good thought and good challenge for our pastors: How can we help people have the right disposition at Mass to hear the Word?
We began today's session by listening to those bishops who want to speak for the five minutes allotted to them. The names of those who would speak in the morning session were announced. Mine was the last name announced.
St. Benedict said of his monks that everyone is to have a voice, even the youngest among them. God's wisdom comes to us from the varied perspectives that people bring to a discussion. This is true in the Synod. Any bishops, scholar or observer will have a chance to speak if they so choose.
The plan is to invite people to talk following the outline of the Instrumentum Laboris. That way, the comments would not be as random and there would be some continuity to the talks. However, this is almost impossible since bishops sign up to talk at different times during the Synod, so the talks cannot always flow logically.
As each bishop talked today, he offered his own unique perspective. Each talked in his own language and from the experience of his own country and culture.
Cardinal George was fifth to talk. He has attended several Synods, and is attending this one as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. His comments today were helpful and insightful.
As the final speaker of the two and a half hour morning session, I could sense when it was my time to speak that many in the audience were quite tired. I felt inspired to say -- jokingly -- that being last I would summarize the 22 talks that went before me within my five minute allotted time. It got a little chuckle.
The Holy Father is stalwart in his attention to the presentations. He continues to take notes and underline the text before him -- a real scholar. As he watched and listened attentively, I could not help but think that each bishop was sitting before the professor who would give a grade at the conclusion. I hope I passed.
My reflection was on preaching and how we might make our preaching more biblical, more catechetical, more impactful. Several other bishops chose a similar theme. I hope this topic will be addressed in the final list of propositions submitted to the Holy Father at the end of the Synod as background for his Apostolic Exhortation that will be published soon after the Synod. You can read an excerpt from my "intervention" (as these talks are called) here.
I hope in our Diocese that after this year of St. Paul -- the great preacher who spoke with passion and conviction -- we might work together as bishop, priests and deacons to enhance our preaching.
That will take effort and mutual support. We will need to listen carefully to our people to better understand their struggles and how we might break open the Word in a way that responds to their situation and leads them more closely to Christ.
After the morning sessions, our U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops hosted a lunch for Curial cardinals and archbishops from the U.S. who live and work in Rome. Our conversations included great concern about the financial crisis and the downturn in the economy. We expressed our solidarity with those suffering the loss of jobs and economic hardship.
The five-minute talks continued in the afternoon. I identified several themes that kept coming up, including:
-- the importance of the Church and the Magisterium in determining the Canon of Scriptures and the authentic interpretation of the text;
-- concern about the growth of sects in some countries and their fundamentalist approach to the Scriptures;
-- the struggle today in making the Word take root into today's individualistic and secular culture -- how to sow the seed in fertile ground;
-- the need to revitalize preaching;
-- the importance of forming proper dispositions necessary to hear the Word;
-- enhancing the lector's proclamation of the Scriptures;
-- an encouragement to not forget the poor, for whom the Word has special meaning.
After some initial frustrations with the voting technology, it was decided to wait until later in the day to use the voting pads. Who knows, paper ballots may return.
It has been a great treat for me in these first few days of the Synod to encounter some friends from back home.
Here I am with Joe and Ellen Stoesser of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Tucson who are visiting in Rome. We enjoyed a delightful pasta dinner.
I also was delighted to run into David Plummer from St. John the Evangelist Parish in Tucson who is spending a few weeks studying in Rome with Steubenville College.
(Click here for a Catholic News Service report on the talks by Cardinal George and Bishop Kicanas.)
Wednesday, Oct. 8
Before going over to the Synod Hall for our morning session, I was reading in Bishop Henry Granjon's diary about his pastoral visit to southwest New Mexico in 1902. Father Greg Adolf, pastor of St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Sierra Vista, had given the diary to me on the occasion of the dedication of our new Archives in September.
Bishop Granjon had come to our country as a young missionary from France. He became the second Bishop of Tucson. It was a delight reading his account of his ministry. He spoke with pride about his people. His descriptions of the land, starkly beautiful in its barren remoteness, reminded me of where I have come to feel at home -- in our Sonoran Desert.
A bishop becomes one with his people and the place he is called to serve. I can see that here at the Synod as bishops talk about their particular local Church and the preoccupations they have with serving the pastoral the needs of their people. That was certainly true of Bishop Granjon, and it is still true today.
Today, we began in small language groups or what are referred to as circuli minores. There are three groups each for French, Spanish and English, two groups in Italian and one in German. Most groups number about 25 Synod Fathers and include several adiutores (specialists), auditors (observers) and fraternal delegates from other faiths.
The first session lasted all morning. We began by choosing Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I., as our Moderator. To my surprise, I was elected Relator, whose task it is to summarize the discussions of the small groups and present that summary to the Synod Fathers at various times during the Synod.
The groups are very diverse by continent. In addition to those of us from the U.S., our groups has representatives from South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan, Ireland, Malta, Australia, New Zealand, Pacific, New Guinea and the Salomon Islands.
As each bishop talked, you could see the joy and struggle involved in pastoring their communities and their great desire to enliven their communities with the Word.
It struck me how important proper disposition is in receiving the Word. We approach the Word with humble heart. So many things can get in the way of receiving the Word. People are busy, preoccupied, pressed.
I wonder in our Diocese how we can make the Word more accessible to our people. This was a big concern among the members of our Presbyteral Council when I consulted with them about the Synod. We need to encourage people to access the Bible so that they can love it and live it.
Much interest and attention exists among bishops to enhance homilies. Liturgy is the foremost place where people encounter the Scriptures. Yet, we all know how difficult it is for all of us bishops, priests and deacons to preach. Clearly, as those who preach we ourselves must be immersed in the Word, study the scriptures, meditate upon them, pray them. Unless we encounter Christ, we cannot lead others to Christ.
How we can strengthen seminary formation and the ongoing formation of our priests and deacons remain challenges. Priests are very busy. Some lack the motivation to improve their preaching or pastoral skills. Yet, our efforts to make the Word more central must begin here with the preachers of the Word.
In some countries, especially where the Bible may be hard to acquire or even be forbidden, the Internet provides an opportunity to access the Scriptures. Some dioceses are making creative use of the Internet, especially to attract the young.
Clearly, our Protestant brothers and sisters have given us a good example in their strong desire to read the Bible. As well, the Second Vatican Council gave great encouragement to Catholics to read the Bible.
The afternoon session today involved a number of five minute interventions followed by an hour of free discussion. Many of the same themes continue to surface.
Some of the bishops are very practical and down to earth in their suggestions on how to improve the homily and the reading of the Word and on how to engage in the Lectio Divina. Other bishops are more theological, raising questions about the role of the Church in interpreting Scripture or the importance of Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium. Still others reflect on the struggle to get people to read the Word and the obstacles in making the Word accessible.
The intensity of the Synod is tiring -- I would say exhausting. But this experience also is very rich.
Thursday, Oct. 9
Walking over to the Paul VI Hall each morning is always an adventure. The North American College, where our delegation is staying, is located about four blocks from the Vatican. You walk through a garage that takes you down from the Gianicolo Hill on which the College is situated.
On the way, you often run into pilgrim groups following their guides. The guides are holding umbrellas or sticks with bandanas tied to them high above their heads as a way to keep their groups together. Some of the pilgrims are English speaking, and you hear many other languages as well. The pilgrims are always scrabbling to stay together and to not get lost.
St. Peter's Square and the Basilica are major destinations for visitors to Rome. Catholics and non-Catholics marvel at the majesty and beauty -- the graciousness of the colonnades, the fountains, the incredible history.
As you turn toward St. Peter's, there are always several women and even children begging, a reminder of the Scripture passage that refers to those begging at the gate. Several times in the Synod so far, bishops in their interventions have held up the poor as those for whom the Word holds special meaning.
The Word moves us to see the poor, hear their cry and respond to them in love. How many saints have heard the Word and turned their lives around, giving themselves over to working among the poor -- Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta perhaps the most striking example. She lived for others, especially those in need. Her care grew out of her deep love of the Lord grounded in the Word.
Over and over, we have heard at the Synod that the Word is not only to be studied, dissected and analyzed, but most importantly to be lived out in imitation of Christ's care for the littlest and weakest.
I am remembering today many of our priests in the Diocese of Tucson who are on retreat this week and next week. There has been a great emphasis on the formation and ongoing formation of priests discussed during the Synod so far. They, along with our deacons, preach the homilies in the Eucharistic Assembly. In order to preach well, to preach convincingly, priests must be disciples themselves, in love with the Word, and striving in their lives to live that Word. Let us pray together that our priests on retreat open their ears to hear God's Word in their lives in a deeper and fuller way.
(Father Raniero Cantalamessa, a Franciscan Capuchin and preacher for the Papal Household, is conducting this week's retreat and Bishop Richard Hanifen, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Colorado Springs, will be preaching next week's retreat.)
During this morning's session of the Synod, we heard from a number of bishops. Several themes keep surfacing in these "interventions." Soon, the Synod will seek to formulate propositions to be considered by the Holy Father as he writes his post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation. (The most recent example of such a document would be Sacramentum Caritatis, which grew out of the Synod on the Eucharist. Some exhortations have been very significant, including Christifideles Laici on the laity and Pastores Dabo Vobis on priestly formation.)
This morning's session of the Synod was somewhat abbreviated to allow the Synod Fathers to attend a special Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI at St. Peter's Basilica to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Pope Pius XII.
All of the Cardinals who are Synod Fathers joined the Holy Father in concelebrating this Mass. The Holy Father's throne was located to the side, across from the marvelous statue of St. Peter, whose foot has been touched by countless pilgrims. The Holy Father has been presiding from that place most recently in his Masses.
Pope Benedict spoke of the many contributions of Pope Pius XII: his great encyclicals Mystici Corporis, Divino Afflante Spiritu and Mediator Dei and his words and work on behalf of peace.
As has been his custom in his encyclicals, Pope Benedict included a reference to a non-Church figure in his reflections, quoting Golda Meir's praise of Pope Pius XII when he died.
Pope Benedict's own upbringing during the time of Hitler gives him a special sensitivity to the tragic events that took place in the Nazi regime, especially the horror of the Holocaust. All prayed that such inhumanity never happens again. While violations of human rights and dignity continue in far too many places, we must stand for peace and the rights and dignity of every human being.
The afternoon session involved more interventions by Synod Fathers, along with time for open discussion. As bishops speak from their own experiences, you realize in a deeper way the struggles faced by the Church.
For example, consider the availability of translations of the Bible and how, while there are about 4,000 languages around the world, one can only read the Bible in about 2,000 of them. As it is important for people to pray in their own language, it would seem they would welcome the opportunity to read the Bible in their own language, even though that language would be spoken in only one small area.
We see this in our Diocese, where Hispanics or Poles or Vietnamese or Korean or Native Americans – who may speak English well enough to go to Mass in English – prefer to participate in a Mass in their own language. Praying is an action deep in the heart of a person, and as they talk to God they desire to speak the language of their heart.
Other bishops reflected on the persecution or lack of freedoms in their countries. While one might want to invite others to get to know Christ in the Word, it is not permitted by law. In so many places in our world, there is no religious freedom – which we take so much for granted in our country.
These interventions emphasize that the circumstances in which bishops and their co-workers do their pastoral work vary greatly around the world.
Some of the bishops tell stories in their interventions and in the discussions, some of which are funny, some poignant and some both funny and poignant at the same time.
One bishop from a country in Africa shared the story of a priest who noticed as he gave his homily that one of the women in the congregation had tears in her eyes. He felt he had really touched her with his words. Afterwards, in talking with her, he learned that when she looked at him his long beard had reminded her of her goat that had died the day before. She was mourning the animal's loss. The bishop went on to remind us that we need to understand the struggles people face in their lives, know their pain and bring the Word's comfort and healing.
There are members of various Christian groups represented at the Synod as fraternal delegates. Two of them spoke powerfully today. They expressed how delighted they were that the Holy Father had chosen this theme for the Synod. One indicated that no other Church has spent so much time on the Word. Another commented that this was a truly ecumenical theme for the Synod and prayed that the Synod might deepen and expand the relationship between the Bible and Eucharist in furthering the unity of all Christians.
Well worth praying for.
Friday, Oct. 10
This session of the Synod began, as have those of this first week of our gathering, with Morning Prayer. Pope Benedict XVI presided.
Archbishop Paul K. Bakyenga, Archbishop of Mbarara in Uganda, gave this morning's reflection. He talked of the Ugandan Martyrs who gave their lives for Christ in the late 19th century, only 20 years after evangelization began in their country.
As I have listened during the Synod to bishops from countries where Catholics are still experiencing persecution, discrimination and suffering, I have come to a new realization of the heroic efforts that some followers of Christ must make in our times to live their faith.
We can take for granted the freedom of religion we enjoy. Although concerns continue to arise even in our own country about freedom of conscience and protection of religious beliefs and convictions, we have much to be thankful for.
Also at today's session, Bishop Antons Justs, Bishop of Jelgava in Latvia, spoke of the martyrs of the 20th century. It made me think of the ecumenical service at which Pope John Paul II presided in the Jubilee Year at the Coliseum to commemorate those who died under the Nazis, the Communists and other repressive governments in many parts of the world in the 20th century.
I could imagine the emotion that must have been felt at that service. Clearly, emotion was present in the Synod Hall this morning as Bishop Justs related the suffering in Latvia where priests were arrested for distributing Bibles. In the Soviet era, no holy books – no Bibles, no catechisms – could be used. The Soviets believed that if there were no printed Word of God there would be no religion.
But, the people learned passages of Scripture and the catechism by heart. A strong oral tradition of reciting key texts grew up in Latvia and is still present today. Today’s Latvians are people of faith who stand on the shoulders of parents and grandparents who gave their lives for the faith. The bishops applauded in response to the witness of Bishop Justs.
Several other bishops today commented how the suffering of the faithful has led to growth for their local Churches. Suffering has become a new grace for the Church.
Archbishop Charles Maung Bo, S.D.B., Archbishop of Yangon in Myanmar, spoke of how he struggles to preach the Gospel in the face of heavy government restrictions. He described a poor Church with no institutions. Even so, the Word of God inspires service and charity to those who suffer.
Bishop Miguel Angel Sebastian Martinez, M.C.C.I, Bishop of Lai in Chad, shared that his people have only recently been evangelized. Most are impoverished, even though the country has many resources. War has been going on for 30 years. Yet, the Word of God is the Word of peace. It is the Word that calls us to work for the defense of human rights.
One cannot help but feel inspired by the heroic example of people living out their faith in such dangerous and difficult situations in so many parts of the world. In such situations, the Word takes on special meaning. It offers hope.
I think of so many deacons and lay people in our Diocese who bring the Word to people in hospitals, nursing homes and prisons who need to hear a whisper of hope in an otherwise desperate lives. How important their work is within the Church!
In visits to some of the many prisons and detention facilities in our Diocese, I have met inmates who have committed terrible crimes who ask for a Bible so they can read God's Word – so that they can know that despite their crimes and their punishments, God loves them. We need to grow the number of the deacons and laity who are bringing the Word to people who live in troubled situations and who hunger for the Word and delight when they receive it.
Another theme today was the importance of the parish in the life of Catholics.
We are blessed in our Diocese of Tucson to have 75 parish communities. People take pride in their parish. It is where they belong. Parish has a privileged place in the Church.
One of the priorities we have for our Diocese is to renew parish life. That theme of renewal is very present in the Synod.
Pastors and pastoral staffs need to consider how we can help people in our parishes encounter the Word more often in their lives, how we can help them learn more about the Bible and make the Word a regular part of their prayer. This is a challenge I hope our pastors and parish staffs will take up.
One of the things bishops often talk about in our U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is what difference, if any, do our documents make in the life of the Church. We put out many statements and documents, but it sometimes seem we do not often know the impact they have.
This afternoon, we spent a good deal of time learning about the results of a survey sent out to conferences of bishops around the world on the effectiveness of the post synodal document Sacramentum Caritatis that was written by Pope Benedict XVI after the Synod on the Eucharist. It was interesting to me to see that the Holy See seeks to know the impact of what it publishes.
Cardinal Angelo Schola of Venice, who had directed the last Synod, shared the results of the survey on how the document was received in the Churches throughout the world. The survey asked if the document is being used in publications, has it been translated into additional languages, is it being used in dioceses, conferences and among liturgical practitioners, has it lead to social initiatives in dioceses and how has it been received by other faiths and denominations.
While it has only been about a year since the document was published, the results of the survey were very positive. The Holy Father has referred to the document in 20 of his addresses. It has been translated into a number of languages. There seems to be use by dioceses and parishes, and it has been well received around the world.
Oftentimes, it seems that ecclesial documents just get put on the shelf. But, I have found that opportunities to discuss the documents with people in our Diocese has been rewarding. I have enjoyed holding sessions for priests and people of the Diocese on the two encyclicals of Pope Benedict XVI and on the pastoral letters on immigration that have come out of our Arizona Catholic Conference.
And, those who have attended have seemed very appreciative of the opportunity to reflect on the statements. I hope to have more of these opportunities.
Saturday, Oct. 11
The first presenter today was Bishop Joseph Vo Duc Minh, Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Nha Trang in Viet Nam. As he talked about his people and his country, I could not help but think of our Vietnamese parish in Tucson, Our Lady of La Vang. The people of this community mirror the faith Bishop Minh reflected upon in his presentation. They have suffered much. They have lived the Cross. Many came to the U.S. as refugees, fleeing for their lives and the lives of their children. Amid all their suffering, they have remained steadfast in the faith.
Whenever I visit Our Lady of La Vang, I am inspired by the deep devotion of the people. They have a rich faith borne out of suffering. Despite their sorrows, they are a joyful people whose fiestas are always marked by music, fireworks, lots of food, dragon dances and colorful outfits. Our Diocese is so blessed with our Vietnamese Catholic Community. I am sure this is true of many dioceses throughout the U.S.
Over the past year, our Diocesan Pastoral Council and I have been hosting listening sessions for parents and grandparents to learn about their concerns and what they hope the Church might do better to assist them in raising their families.
The prominent concern raised again and again by those attending was our young people. How are we going to hand on the faith to the young? That issue preoccupies parents.
This question surfaced today at the Synod as several bishops and the new prior of the ecumenical Taize Community, Brother Alois, offered comments on how the Word of God can become embraced and lived by the young.
They reflected on how the young can be engaged with Christ, as were the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Like the young today, the two disciples were disillusioned, confused, lost. On the road in company with one another, they met the risen Christ who opened up the Word for them -- and their lives were changed. Evangelization of the young must begin with life in common.
I see this in some of our Diocese's strongest youth groups, especially Life Teen and Arco Iris, in which the young gather together, form community and are enriched by the Word of God. I saw this when Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga came to our Diocese and gathered our young people. He spoke to them about the Word of God. I saw their excitement and felt their energy to respond to God's call to use their gifts in the service of others.
Brother Alois outlined how our parishes might create a special opportunity to invite the young to encounter the Word: make the place of prayer more welcoming and simple; begin with a simple text from Scripture easily understood by the young; give the young people 10 minutes of silence to reflect on the text; sing a passage from Sacred Scripture that might accompany the young through the day; have a priest available for confession; make available time for them to talk and share with a trusted adult; and highlight simple symbols that can take on great meaning, for example, holding up a cross and inviting the young people to come forward and put their head on the cross as if unburdening themselves and sharing their struggles with the Lord who suffered.
I marvel at the dedicated work of our youth and young adult ministers who work so hard to introduce young people to Christ. Perhaps Brother Alois' suggestions could be helpful in bringing these young people into touch with God's Word.
I was struck by the comments I heard in two other interventions today.
A bishop from Zambia told of some rural communities in his diocese where there are small rural communities in which Mass can only be celebrated once every three months. The shortage of priests means that communities do not regularly have the opportunity to share in the Eucharist, so they are formed and fed primarily by the Word of God. Yet, such celebrations are incomplete without the Eucharist.
As you know, one of our primary goals in the Diocese is to pray and work for vocations. We are a burgeoning diocese, and we have a need to start new parishes. But, those parishes will need priests to celebrate Mass and offer the sacraments. While I am delighted that we had four ordinations this year and we have eleven seminarians studying to serve as priests, we need to keep praying for more vocations, as do so many dioceses throughout the world. Fostering vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life is one of the five priorities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops..
The other comment that struck me was the reflection on the importance of the role of the catechist. In many countries, the most significant ministry is that of the catechist. They hold rural communities together in the absence of a priest. They hand on the faith to the people.
Likewise, in our own Diocese, catechists play a critical part in communicating the faith to others. The encouragement for them is that they become immersed in the Word of God by making the reading of the Bible a daily part of their lives. Faith Formation and Sacramental Practice are our primary focus this year in the Diocese, and they are one of the five priority areas of our Bishops' Conference. Perhaps we can consider how we can introduce the many catechists in our parishes to God's Word and invite them to Lectio Divina, the practice of praying the Scriptures so often mentioned at the Synod.
The first week at the Synod has held many blessings for me, foremost of which has been meeting bishops from all over the world. Listening to their experiences, learning about the pastoral challenges they face in their dioceses and hearing their zeal for the Word of God has been inspiring. I look forward to a day of rest.
After a day of rest, the Synod Fathers took their places in the Synod Aula to continue our work on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church. The Synod process models an important teaching for all of us, a teaching first introduced by St. Benedict who insisted that every monk, no matter how young, should bring his voice to the discussion. How important that is both on the diocesan and parish level. We need to listen to our people, let them voice their opinion and learn from their insights. Each has something to say.
So far we have heard almost 200 five-minute presentations. While that might seem as if it would be boring and tedious (there have been such times for sure), it has been more than anything fascinating to hear the topic each bishop chooses from the Instrumentum and how he expands on that theme, most often based on his pastoral experience.
Today we heard how Sacred Scripture is the background for the Church’s teaching on social justice. So many sections of the Bible emphasize the exercise of charity. Specifically one of the Synod Fathers talked about welcoming the stranger, the immigrant, the person on the move.
It was mentioned that we ought to encourage immigrants to bring with them the Word of God. Often in our desert, Samaritans find religious articles, prayer cards, rosaries, even Bibles left behind on people’s journey north through the Sonoran Desert. Many migrants are people of simple, deep faith who find hope in God’s Word that life can be better.
The Scriptures remind us to receive the stranger as a guest, God in disguise.
There was more discussion about the section of the Instrumentum on ecumenism and the hope that we could find intercommunion in the Word. Cardinal Sean Brady of Ireland reminded us that listening to the Word of God together can be a path to unity. He acknowledged the contribution of Protestant scripture scholars.
I remember fondly the opportunities we have in the Diocese and in many Dioceses to participate in ecumenical prayer services around Thanksgiving or during Christian Unity Week. These are privileged moments when we as followers of Christ can set aside our differences and join in common prayer with the Word of God.
A challenge was given by one of the Synod Fathers asking how we might carry the Word of God to those who never come to Church or who have left the household of faith. How can we bring the Word into the marketplace? This is a perplexing challenge and one I struggle with a lot. Most ears are not open to hearing the Word.
I hope the Synod might think of new and creative strategies to invite and persuade people to open their ears to God’s Word. The Bishop suggested that we cannot simply condemn or dismiss those who have strayed or not yet encountered Christ. We need to entice them with God’s Word to a new way of living, the way of Christ.
This Lent in the Diocese we are planning to develop a program on reconciliation. The initiative will attempt to reach out to those marginalized or alienated from the Church to invite them to come back home. This is so critical today when so many live their lives without Christ.
Today the Synod Fathers received a gift from the Holy Father. Instead of an afternoon session we were invited to join Pope Benedict XVI at St. Paul Outside the Walls for an evening concert as part of the VII International Festival of Music and Sacred Heart.
Before the concert we had an opportunity to visit the tomb of St. Paul, which has only recently been made accessible to view. It is a moving experience to participate in the scavi tour at St. Peter’s and now at St. Paul’s.
These early apostles ground our faith. Their faith and witness of giving of their lives for Christ strengthens us in our faith.
The Holy Father enjoys and delights in music, being a musician himself. He experiences in music the sacred and divine. The concert was most delightful and filled with the beauty that opens the heart to God.
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 U.S., invited to participate in the Synod. Among the women who addressed the assembly were: Maria Voce, President of the Focolari 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 General 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 began, some expressed concern whether the voice of women would be heard at the Synod. The women who spoke today did so effectively, each adding her 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.
Wednesday, Oct. 15
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 from 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.
-- 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.
-- 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.
-- 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.
-- 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
-- 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.
-- 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 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!
Thursday, Oct. 16
We spent most of this day in our small groups.
The dynamic of the small groups is fascinating because there is a greater opportunity for give and take. The varied perspectives of bishops and experts from various parts of the world help form a diverse picture of pastoral approaches from which we can all learn.
Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I., our group's moderator, invited each member to identify what he considers to be the critical issues that emerged in our discussions. As you can imagine, there surfaced a wide-ranging array of issues.
We will now attempt to formulate these ideas into propositions that will be presented to the Synod Fathers for amendation.
For me, a highlight of today was seeing "Testimony," a film about Pope John Paul II that is based on the memoirs of Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who attended to Pope John Paul II from the time he was cardinal in Poland until his death in Rome. Cardinal Dziwisz knew the Holy Father so well, and his friendship, esteem and love come through clearly in this cinematic account of his life.
The audience for the screening included Pope Benedict XVI, the Synod Fathers and a number of special guests.
Cardinal Dziwisz, now the Archbishop of Cracow, gave a reflection after the film in which he spoke movingly about the hopes and dreams that motivated the pontificate of John Paul II. Clearly, John Paul II had a profound impact both on the Catholic Church and on society. While the wide range of his contributions is impressive, most impressive to me are the holiness and faith of this man whose courage inspired so many.
I hope you have an opportunity to see "Testimony."
Friday, Oct. 17
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 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.
Tuesday, Oct. 21
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.
Wednesday, Oct. 22
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 of 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.
Thursday, Oct. 23
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 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, Prefect, 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 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 been attending 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.
Saturday, Oct. 25
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).