Commission for information of the
"The Bishop: Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World"
The Bulletin of the Synod of Bishops is only a working instrument for journalistic use and the translations from the original are not official.
04 - 01.10.2001
This morning Monday 1 October 2001,in commemoration of Saint Theresa of Baby Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, at 9:00 a.m., His Holiness Pope John Paul II blessed the new Synod Chapel (see the description in Bulletin No.2). After the chant of Psalm 26, the Holy Father lit a lamp with the light drawn from the Well of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, received by the Supreme Patriarch Catholikos of all the Armenians, Karekin II, in the Apostolic Cathedral in Etchmiadzin, at the end of His trip to Armenia on 27 September 2001.
Before reciting the benediction prayer, the Holy Father pronounced the following words:
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This morning Monday 1 October 2001 at 9:10 a.m., in the presence of the Holy Father, in the Synod Hall in the Vatican City, with the chant Veni, Creator Spiritus, began the works of Ordinary general Assembly of the Synod of Bishops with the First General Congregation.The President Delegate on duty was His Em. Card. Presidente Delegato di turno Em.mus D.nus Card. Giovanni Battista RE, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
The Synodal Assembly opened this morning by Pope John Paul II, who presided yesterday over the solemn Eucharistic Concelebration in the Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican City will gather a representation of Prelates of the world until 27 October 2001 on the theme The Bishop: Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World.
The following intervened in this First General Congregation: the President Delegate His Em. Card. Giovanni Battista RE, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, for the salutation by the President Delegate; His Em,Card. Jan Pieter SCHOTTE, C.I.C.M., General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops for the Report by the General Secretary; His Em. Card. Edward Michael EGAN, Archbishop of New York, for the Report before the Discussion by the General Relator.
The entire texts of the interventions delivered in the Hall are published here below:
The First General Congregation of the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops ended at 12.30 with the recitation of the Angelus Domini led by the Holy Father.
236 Synodal Fathers were present.
The Second General Congregation will be held this afternoon 1 October at 17:00 p.m.
This Synodal Assembly is of very particular interest to us Bishops since it has our ministry as its theme. De re nostra agitur, it regards us. The theme is, in fact, "The Bishop: Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World."
It is therefore with sentiments of great and profound gratitude that we thank Your Holiness for having dedicated to us Bishops this Tenth Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops, which is the first of the Third Millennium. Thank you for the theme chosen and thank you for this convocation.
All those present in this Hall under various capacities join us, members of the Synod, in this respect: Fraternal Delegates, Experts, Auditors and Collaborators in the different offices.
We know well how great our responsibilities are as the legitimate successors of the Apostles and how much today’s society expects from us: a society to which we have the duty to transmit the truths we have received and which we are striving to sanctify and guide as shepherds according to the heart of God.
The lifestyle we Bishops have adopted over these years has become simpler, closer to people and more concerned about the needs of the faithful. The Bishop’s mission has become even more challenging due to the new social phenomena, the new cultural developments and the greater difficulty in illuminating with the wisdom of the Gospel the problems of our time, characterised by rapid changes and transformation, but also seeking valid reasons for believing and hoping; reasons that mere scientific and technological progress cannot give.
Today, the Bishop must be aware of the challenges of the present time and must have the courage to face them with all his energies.
The specific treatment of the ministry of the Bishop as Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World, is almost a complement to and culmination of the recent Continental Assemblies and of the last Ordinary Synodal Assemblies, which have dealt respectively with the Mission of the Laity (1987), the Formation of Priests (1990) and Consecrated Life (1994), and comes within an ideal continuity with the Magisterium of Vatican Council II.
Vatican II has, in fact, extensively dealt with the theme of episcopal service, deeming it to be a central topic for the life of the Church. "The bishops - according to the decree Christus Dominus - ...are successors of the Apostles as pastors of souls and, together with the Supreme Pontiff and subject to his authority, they are commissioned to perpetuate the work of Christ...For Christ commanded the Apostles and their successors and gave them the power to teach all nations, to sanctify people in truth, and to give them spiritual nourishment" (No. 2).
The Bishops, in communion with the Pope, are thus called upon to be, through the Holy Spirit which has been given to them, the first witnesses of the Gospel of Christ in the world. As successors of the Apostles, they are entrusted with the proclamation of the reasons for hope (cf. 1 Pt 3:15). And above all, with proclaiming that Christ is our hope and that in Christ the expectations will be fulfilled and the hopes of the human heart will be realised, to the men and women of our time, often taken by illusory myths or menaced by the pessimism of evanescent dreams.
At the dawn of the Third Millennium, therefore, a new reflection on the life and the ministry of the Bishops is required, placing special attention on the diocesan Bishop in the fullness of his ministry in the particular Church entrusted to his pastoral care. Trusting in the words of Christ "Duc in altum!" (Lk 5:6), we Bishops feel the need to give a new dynamism to our ministry, so that the community of the faithful may "launch forth" in the vast ocean of the contemporary world and bear witness to the whole world of the truths that lead to heaven.
In other words, the proclamation of salvation needs to echo with new impetus in the world, so that all of humanity "may believe, by believing it may hope, and by hoping it may love" (DV, No. 1).
We are aware, Holy Father, that this Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, by giving the Synodal Fathers the occasion for an exchange of news, experiences and evaluations, as well as offering suggestions and proposals to Your Holiness, may represent a greatly appreciated form of collaboration with the Successor of Peter in his solicitude for all the particular Churches, where "the one, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Christ is truly present and operative" (CD, No. 11).
We trust in God’s help, keeping our eyes on Christ, the Good Shepherd (cf. N.M.I., No. 16). We also trust in the help of Your Holiness; your supreme Magisterium, your exemplary witness of faith and of dedication to Christ, as well as your untiring apostolic impetus, also shown in your recent pastoral visit to Kazakhstan and to Armenia, will be of great support and encouragement to us during these days of Synodal works.
Starting the works of this Synodal Assembly "in nomine Domini", led by Your Holiness, we Bishops turn our eyes towards Christ, the light of the world and our Teacher, desirous of only one thing, being faithful to He who called upon us to be successors of the Apostles ‘cum Petro et sub Petro’.
Bless us, Holy Father, and confirm us in our proclamation of the Gospel and in bearing witness of Christian hope to the men and the women of our times.
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Most Holy Father,
Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ,
After the Great Jubilee of the year 2000, which was lived in the grace of God and in the joy of celebrating his glory and mercy, we have been invited to this Tenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the beginning of the third millennium of our salvation.
Praise and thanksgiving be given to the One and Holy Trinity in whose name we begin all our actions and works.
His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, who is here among us and to whom we manifest our joy and gratitude, has convoked this assembly to deal with a topic of special importance – The Bishop: Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World.
We also cordially thank all of you for your presence in this Aula, a presence that places you on a path of common work.
But above all, we are thankful for your presence, Most Holy Father, which fills our hearts with joy, provides us with comfort, exhorts us to constancy and confirms us in faithfulness to pastoral charity and communion.
At the beginning of each assembly it is the task of the General Secretary to inform those present in the Aula of the work accomplished by the General Secretary of the Synod, and most importantly of the work of the Secretary’s Council and the work that was carried out since the last Assembly.
We warmly thank the members of the Council of the General Secretary for their collegial cooperation, which was most helpful during the Ninth Assembly and during the preparation for the Tenth, a period that lasted seven years – the longest in the history of the Synod.
Venerable Brothers who come from Eastern Catholic Churches, Bishops’ Conferences, the Roman Curia, the Union of General Superiors and you who are members nominated by the Holy Father: receive all my good wishes that great results might come from our work under the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord, whose fruits are charity, joy, peace, and patience, shown in an effective and affective collegiality, in prayer, in work and in communion.
My greeting is also addressed to all: the President-Delegates, the General Rapporteur, the Special Secretary, the Members of the Commissions, the Fathers of Eastern Churches, the Presidents of Bishops’ Conferences, the Presidents of Regional Episcopal Assemblies, the Bishops of territories without a Bishops’ Conference, the Fathers elected by Bishops’ Conferences, those elected by the Union of General Superiors, the Heads of Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, the Members nominated by the Holy Father, the Fraternal Delegates, the Experts and the Auditors.
Please receive my heartfelt gratitude for the generosity with which you have accepted the task that awaits us and for the time and effort that you have spent to walk on this "common path" (óýíïäïò) that is the Synod. You have left your regions and your current occupations, but you have not abandoned them, because you carry them in your heart and because the fruits that you will gather here will help those who turn their eyes toward you and accompany you in prayer from your communities. To you we express our gratitude and may God bless your particular Churches!
It is my task, therefore, to briefly inform you about the preparation for the assembly; that is to say, about the consultations for the topic of the Synod, the drafting of the Lineamenta, the responses received from those duly appointed, the composition of the Instrumentum laboris, and about the organization of the Synod (cf. Vademecum, art. 32).
With this introduction, we wish to make known to all the work of the General Secretariat in its primary function as "a permanent institution founded for the service of the Synod, and a permanent link among the different assemblies" (Ordo Synodi Episcoporum, art. 11 §1). When speaking of the preparation, we are thinking not only of the succession of work phases, the great amount of work done, the number of people involved, the effort and hours spent for this Assembly, the instruments used, the travels we may have undertaken, or of the sometimes difficult circumstances we may have undergone, but also of the results that have been obtained. Above all, we think of the service that will be given by the exercise of a better ecclesial communion and Episcopal collegiality, brought about through a careful study of the topic of the Synod, the mutual assistance provided by the responses to the Lineamenta, and by studying the Lineamenta so as to draft the Instrumentum laboris. By proceeding in this way, the particular Churches know what the Synod does for them and, at the same time, the Synod enters into contact with the communities from which the Fathers come, communities to which this Synod directs its thoughts in its daily congregationes. In this way our communio viarum expresses and affirms itself as a definite path toward unity in our actions on the way towards the Lord, who is the "Way, Truth and Life" (cf. Jn 14:6) of the Church.
I shall now present my report, which I have divided into four parts:
I. ACTIVITIES BETWEEN THE NINTH AND TENTH ASSEMBLIES
1. Activities after the Ninth General Assembly
a. Relatio circa labores peractos
After the closing of the Ninth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, whose topic was Consecrated life and its role in the Church and the World, the Relatio circa labores peractos was presented according to the usual norms, so that all the work accomplished by the synod could be gathered into one document and sent to the Bishops’ Conferences.
This document showed the different stages of preparation for the assembly, from the consultations on the proposed topic for the Synod, to the drafting and editing of the Lineamenta.
The General Secretary’s task of preparing the Instrumentum laboris was a complex one. In light of this, the Vademecum booklet concerning the proper procedures was published.
With regard to the preparatory work, we must also mention the convocation or indictio; the selection of the President-Delegates, the General Rapporteur, and the Special Secretary, as well as the nomination of the Experts and the Auditors.
After the various reports were presented at the beginning of the synod, the topic was discussed in 27 general congregations, followed by 15 small group sessions. Five sessions of particular importance were dedicated to preparing the Propositiones, of which there were 41. Each of these were then voted on and received a nearly unanimous approval. The Message to the People of God was then published and a gift was presented to the Holy Father.
We must also recall other work done by the Synod, such as the renewal of the Council of the General Secretary, the proposal of topics for the next assembly, and the reports and contributions of the Fraternal Delegates.
In the Patriarchal Basilica of the Holy Father, the Supreme Pontiff beatified five founders and foundresses, thus counting them among the blessed in the liturgical calendar. Their lives and actions were thereby proposed as examples for all members of the consecrated life.
The last solemn act of the Ninth Assembly was the personal farewell of the Holy Father to the Fathers and to all the other participants. In conclusion, a solemn Eucharistic celebration took place in thanksgiving.
b. Institutional Cooperation
From February 21st to 23rd, 1995, the Council of the General Secretary met to respond to the Holy Father’s petition for assistance in drafting a Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation. There were a number of ideas explored in depth and presented to the Holy Father for this future Exhortation, ideas whose content and internal structure adhered to the spirit of the Propositiones of the Synod and to the Council’s suggestions. The Council then sought to deal with specific matters brought up by the Synod on how to improve the formation of priests.
The second meeting of the Council of the General Secretary, which took place from June 13th to 15th, 1995, gathered observations and suggestions to be given to the Holy Father for the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation.
From October 10th to the 12th of the same year, the Council of the General Secretary met a third time to furnish another set of suggestions for the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation.
The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata was then made public on March 28, 1996 in a press conference held in the Press Office of the Holy See. There was much anticipation for this document after the closing of the synod, and it was welcomed with great enthusiasm.
Special consideration should be given to the thinking of the Exhortation, which is truly theological, pastoral, and positive; its foundation is Trinitarian and Christological, pervaded with a spirit of communion and is bound up in the Paschal Mystery. For these reasons, and also because of its understanding of contemplation, the prophetic vocation, the mission of the Church, and the primacy of the spiritual life, this document is the Magna Charta for a true renewal of the consecrated life.
Consecrated persons have greatly admired certain points in this document for their strength and beauty, such as those concerning vows, the dignity of women, inculturation, formation, the prophetic nature of consecrated life, the cloister, the habit, common life and new forms of consecrated life as a sign of our times. There was great approval as well for how the Exhortation considered the relationship between consecrated life and the Church, seeing the consecrated life as an organic part of the Church with a particular identity and that also has the task of being an impetus to holiness, communion, and fraternity.
A commission for mixed institutes works in The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life. The Union of General Superiors, several national conferences of superiors, and a number of mixed conferences have all promoted research and held congresses. Several Pontifical Universities in Rome have done so as well. And some bishops have distributed the Apostolic Exhortation to all the consecrated persons in their diocese.
L’Osservartore Romano also published commentaries on the Exhortation. Needless to say, this document should be read by priests so that they might better know and esteem the consecrated life. Numerous studies have been published in order to spread and to deepen the teachings of the Exhortation.
2. Preparation for the Tenth Ordinary General Assembly
By means of a letter dated October 9, 1996, His Eminence the Cardinal Secretary of State announced the topic of the Synod desired by His Holiness John Paul II. After the consultations required by law, the topic was declared to be, The Bishop: Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World – a theme agreed upon and desired by all.
a. Convocation or Indictio
The convocation of the synod was announced through a letter from the Secretary of State dated February 19, 2001. The Tenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops was thus convoked for the year 2001. The topic was The Bishop: Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World. The synodal Fathers are to meet from September 30th to October 27th, 2001.
With regard to the topic at hand, we should recall several pertinent elements. For a successful synod, we should focus our discussions on the proposed topic and avoid digressions. We should carefully study the figure of the Bishop dedicated to his ministry in his constitutional and pastoral relationship with his diocese. This study not only concerns the universal Church, but also involves a specific point of view that is rich in consequences for people of the Church and for the needs of various peoples.
b. Council of the General Secretary
In order to work more efficiently, the Council of the General Secretary met twice in 1996 to prepare a general outline of the Lineamenta. While the first session identified the questions to be discussed, the second produced a brief outline.
Afterwards, from March 11th to 12th, 1997, the same Council drafted an initial outline of the Lineamenta, and solicited the advice of the experts who, in turn, prepared the final document.
Along with a letter dated June 16, 1998, the General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops sent the Lineamenta to the particular Churches so that they could promptly meditate on the topic chosen by the Holy Father. The content of the Lineamenta is based on the advice received from the first consultation on the topic, and especially on the indications of the Council of the General Secretary of the Synod, which, with the collaboration of experts, conducted an in-depth study on all the aspects of the topic. Great importance was also given to the Questionnaire. Then all those who are competent were invited to send to the Secretariat a summary which, following the same format as the Questionnaire, gathers the observations and suggestions of the Bishops and the assemblies directly concerned. This summary was to be sent to the Secretariat of the Synod before September 30, 1999, since this Assembly was planning to meet in the fall of the Jubilee Year 2000.
The responses to the questions dealt with in the Lineamenta that were sent to the General Secretariat were diverse in nature. Some originated from assemblies of Bishops’ conferences, others from an Episcopal commission or from a group of experts whose conclusions were then approved by the president of the conference. Other methods were also employed to define and to clarify the positions that were to be adopted. Having carefully considered all the material, the Instrumentum laboris was then drafted from the responses, making the Instrumentum laboris a complete document that is adapted to current circumstances.
Numerous responses have contributed valuable elements that have proved to be very useful in drafting the Instrumentum laboris. The Synod Assembly has thus had at its disposal counsel and advice that have truly helped to begin a profound reflection upon the Synod’s topic of the Bishop’s ministry in service to the Gospel.
These responses, which were ex iure, were added to by many others that either came from individuals or assemblies, or from associations and institutes that were not directly implicated and have responded using modern technological means, such as the Internet. All these responses were also considered in the preparation of the Instrumentum laboris, even if they seemed to be less representative.
There were 70 out of 112 the conferences of bishops that responded representing, therefore, a 62.5% response ratio (1).
The following table briefly compares the responses from past synods:
1974 Evangelization 75.38 %
1977 Catechesis 67.18 %
1980 Family 50.37 %
1983 Reconciliation and Penance 42.75 %
1987 Lay Faithful 59.85 %
1990 Formation of Priests 63.94 %
1994 Consecrated Life 66.05 %
2001 The role of the Bishop 62.50 %
It seems the responses to the Lineamenta of this assembly are very few. Forty-two of the Bishops’ Conferences and 15 from other organs of the Roman Curia did not respond. We should not, however, forget certain events of importance that occurred during this time of preparation, namely the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. Our assembly itself has felt the effect of the Jubilee Year since it had planned to meet last year, but rescheduled to 2001. As Tertio Millennio Adveniente clearly points out, the purpose of this delay was not to let the Synod sleep but, rather, as you all know, to allow other continental assemblies to meet.
All of these events had a strong impact on the lives of the dioceses, pastors and lay faithful who have lent their efforts and strengths to serious and involved tasks. Among those tasks, we should mention the long preparation for this assembly, which, in a certain sense, has taken up a lot of energy.
Despite these obstacles, the Lineamenta have pleased everyone with its wise and knowledgeable treatment of the proposed topics that touch upon the life and ministry of pastors, especially the spiritual life and holiness of bishops, as well as the responsibility of the Bishop in his diocese.
Let us recall some general topics proposed for consideration in the Lineamenta: the Bishop’s mission in today’s circumstances, certain specific elements of the Bishop’s ministry, the pastoral ministry of the Bishop in his diocese, the Bishop as minister of the Gospel for all men, and the spiritual path of the Bishop.
Not all topics are dealt with in the Lineamenta, since it is a document that is meant to allow for consultations. In this booklet, therefore, we will not find many points whose proper place is in a manual regarding the order and discipline of the Bishop. Points, for instance, that have to do the Bishop’s residence or with transferring him, or questions having to do with auxiliary bishops and bishops emeriti.
Having before our eyes the excellent preparation of the Lineamenta and its grateful reception, which elicited praise and consent from everyone, it is not surprising that the Instrumentum laboris abundantly cites the Lineamenta, such that one can see a great unity and coherence between the two documents, which easily incorporates the doctrinal and pastoral suggestions taken from the responses.
The preparation of the Instrumentum laboris has required special effort on the part of the Experts, but above all on the part of the Council of the General Secretariat. The composition of the Instrumentum laboris took three sessions of the Council: November 16-17, 1999; May 16-17, 2000; October 9-10, 2000. It was on its tenth and final meeting, from April 24th to 25th, 2001, that the Council finished the Instrumentum laboris. The text, having been sent to all those duly appointed, was then presented to journalists in the Press Office of the Holy See on June 1, 2001. This document arises from the responses which were given to the Lineamenta sent according to the norms established by diverse assemblies in the Church: Bishops’ Conferences, Synods of Eastern Churches, Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, and the Union of General Superiors. Responses were also added that came from other assemblies and from individuals, such as cardinals, bishops, national and international conferences of religious, priests, religious, theologians, and others as well. The Instrumentum laboris was sent to all the competent persons on April 21, 2001 so that the Fathers of the Synod might be able to know and to study the Synod topics with a sufficient amount of time. Furthermore, since the Instrumentum laboris was made public by will of the Holy Father, the entire Church is called to give a final push to this important preparation of the Synod on the Bishop, minister of the Gospel.
In its tenth and last session, April 24-25, 2001, in the presence of the President-Delegates, the General Rapporteur and the Special Secretary of our Assembly, the Council has also discussed the suggestions submitted to the General Rapporteur that might be useful to include in the Relatio ante disceptationem, for the beginning of our work here in this Aula and of the various articles of the Vademecum proposed to facilitate the of work of the Synod.
c. Vademecum and Calendar
After the publication of the document that established the Synod, i.e., the Motu proprio Apostolica Sollicitudo of Pope Paul VI (September 15, 1965), and the first edition of the Ordo Synodi (June 24, 1969), which is the law of the Synod, a text was needed with a practical aim, a manual that gathered the useful precepts for being proposed to the members of the Synod. The Vademecum, an adaptation of the Ordo Synodi, was thus born, in which new principles were established in accordance with the different requirements of the Synod itself. After 1990, this practical aid determined the synodal process for all assemblies, thereby showing its utility. All these norms and precepts do not have the same importance. For instance, those arising from the Codex Iuris Canonici, the Codex Canonum Ecclesiarum Orientalium, and the Ordo Synodi have the force of law. The others contain customs and guidelines used in various Synods.
As far as the duration of this Synod is concerned, it will last from September 30th to October 27th, 2001. A quick glance at the calendar should inform you of the different stages of work of the Synod and how they are respectively ordered and interconnected according to size, schedule and logical division. One should also note that the Synod includes two solemn celebrations of Holy Mass: one to inaugurate it and another to conclude it. There are twenty-five general congregations and seventeen small group discussion sessions. A cordial meeting will then be held to conclude the Synod.
The logical connection appears in the first session of the small group discussions that take place during the first week of work; i.e., providing the necessary period of time to get to know one another in order to elect Moderators of the small groups and, since the 14th General Congregation, to elect Rapporteurs of small groups as well.
For the preparation of the Propositiones, four small group sessions are needed, as well as sessions held at night and on feast days for the Fathers and the Experts. There are five sessions planned for the collective drafting of modi on the Propositiones, and three sessions to check the modi, while only one session will be dedicated to analyzing the Propositiones by deciding placet or non placet. In one more session the Message will be analyzed and presented for vote. Two sessions are planned for the election of Members of the Council.
Though not mentioned in the calendar, three meetings will also be held by the Commission for Information to inform journalists in the Holy See Press Office on October 1st, 12th, and 26th. Two sessions are planned for the Auditors and one for the Fraternal Delegates. Through these structured and demanding work sessions, we can note a wide variety of activities that follow a coherent order and that encourage a "culture of dialogue" to take place.
d. Other Achievements
It is now useful to mention in front of all some praiseworthy achievements that were carried out in the preparation of this assembly.
The Union of General Superiors has worked a great deal during the meetings of its members from May 23rd to 26th, 2001, in examining some topics of extreme importance. They have, in fact, analyzed in depth the following areas: communion with bishops in the responsibility of offering hope to the world; communion in the Church, in spirituality, and in service to the Gospel as a source of hope. In a certain sense, this meeting can be considered as the single most important contribution of the Union of General Superiors concerning the responses given to the Lineamenta, resulting from a profound discussion of the Synod topic, as well as a broad and fruitful participation that characterized the meeting.
Similarly, many bishops from the United States published a ten chapter volume dealing with ten topics: hope; the Trinity; pastoral authority; the lay faithful; the Magisterium; holiness; the pastor’s duties; the Gospel; and the spiritual life. Two cardinals, two archbishops, and six bishops of this country have thus publicly exercised their pastoral duty.
Some pontifical universities organized congresses that focused on the Bishop’s ministry in a way that it is consonant with the demands of our time.
In March, 1999, the Department of Theology of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross organized its Fifth International Symposium that dealt with Bishops and Their Ministry. Articles from that Symposium were published in the year 2000 in a volume that has the same title.
Additionally, the "Regina Apostolorum" Athenaeum held a congress in the year 2000 that dealt with "Bishops as Witnesses and Ministers of Hope". Participation was reserved only to bishops.
1. The Particular Synod of the Bishops from the Netherlands
The Particular Synod of the Bishops from the Netherlands, which took place in 1980, carefully studied the Church’s situation in that country. In the following year, the Post-Synodal Council, which was renewed throughout the years, has dedicated itself to carrying out the indications of that synod. That Council met six times during the years 1991, 1992 and 1993. They discussed topics that emphasized the pastoral demands specific to certain milieus of that particular Church. They also reviewed the pastoral life of the parishes and the teachings of Catholic universities, theology departments and institutes, pastoral agencies and the liturgy.
At the moment, the last meeting of the Council was held on November 10, 1995.
2. The Special Assembly for Africa
The Special Assembly for Africa was held from April 10th to May 8th, 1994, less than a month before the Ninth Ordinary General Assembly. In the years that followed, the Post-Synodal Council that was established at the end of the Assembly for Africa worked on carrying out the resolutions of the Synod. The Council met for the first time at the General Secretariat in September, 1994, in order to give an account of the Synod and, more specifically, to examine what still needed to be accomplished for the Synod that was to be held in Africa, as well as any other possible need of the Special Assembly. During the second meeting, which was held during January of 1995, some initial suggestions were given for drafting the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation and for the Pope’s trip during the celebrations phase. The same topics were brought forth during the third and fourth meetings in 1995.
The Holy Father traveled to Africa on the occasion of the Synod from September 14th to 20th, 1995. During his trip there were several celebrations in the various cities and nations of Africa, such as Yaounde in Cameroon, Johannesburg in South Africa, Nairobi in Kenya, and also later in Tunisia.
After the pontifical trip, the Post-Synodal Council met another five times from 1997 to 2001. The Fathers of the Council examined the contemporary circumstances of the Church and society in Africa in their repeated interventions and in other ways. They discussed the reports on how the indications of the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa were being put into practice, and reflected on how to widen the scope of that work so that it might account for the new circumstances and problems of Africans. A book that gathered the reports on the work of implementation of the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa in the particular Churches of Africa was edited.
3. The Special Assembly for Lebanon
The Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Lebanon was announced by Pope John Paul II on Thursday, June 12, 1991 during a public audience in the presence of the Catholic patriarchs from Lebanon. On June 13, 1991, those same patriarchs met with the Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon and the General Secretary of the Synod to agree on the creation of a restricted commission whose specific aim was the preparation of the Assembly. That same day, the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Lebanon was announced in the Press Office of the Holy See.
The General Secretary of the Synod visited Lebanon from September 11th to the 15th, 1991. He visited local churches, met with pastors, communities and institutions in order to assure an adequate preparation. On January 30, 1992, the Council of the Secretariat for the Special Assembly for Lebanon was formed. It had ten members along with an in situ coordinator, and met three times in 1992. In these meetings they spoke about the nature of the Assembly, the tasks of the Council and Coordinator, informal consultations that were to be carried out on Lebanese territory, topics to be proposed for the assembly, the drafting (with the aid of experts) of the Lineamenta on the topic chosen by the Holy Father: Christ Our Hope: Renewed By His Spirit, United Witnesses Of His Love.
During the same year of 1992, experts met to continue assisting in the preparations. Then, the following year, in 1993, the Council reconvened in Lebanon and the Lineamenta for that Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Lebanon was made public. On December 12th-13th, 1994, the General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops intervened during the meeting of patriarchs and bishops that was being held at Adma, Lebanon, in order to take the final steps in the preparation for the assembly. The members of the Pre-Synodal Council, with the help of some experts, met several times in 1995 with the aim of preparing the assembly. There, they discussed the responses to the Lineamenta and drew up a primary outline of the Instrumentum laboris which was sent to those duly appointed on August 26, 1995. The Synod Assembly took place from November 26th to December 14th, 1995.
The Post-Synodal Council was formed by the Holy Father on December 13, 1995, and convened for the first time from March 4th to 6th, 1996. The prelates who made up the assembly discussed how the Message of that same special assembly for Lebanon would be welcomed and made suggestions to send to the Holy Father for the drafting of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation.
During the several months that followed, and during the various meetings that were held either at the Vatican or in Lebanon the Council devoted itself – always with the help of experts – to bringing forth suggestions for the topics and for the drafting of the future Exhortation, as well as for the Holy Father’s Synodal visit to Lebanon. This papal visit, which finally took place from May 10th to 11th, 1997, concluded the celebrations stage of the Synod. During the visit, the Apostolic Exhortation Nova Spes pro Libano was promulgated.
In the months that followed, the Council had another three meetings that focused on the situation of the Church in Lebanon after the promulgation of the Apostolic Exhortation, both from an internal and a social point of view. It also considered the Exhortation’s implementation in all the Churches under the direction of the patriarchs, while taking into consideration the current inter-religious dialogue and particular social conditions. Along these lines, several projects were initiated to apply the various recommendations of the Exhortation that also had the collaboration of diverse ad hoc commissions created by the President of the APECL.
The Council, whose membership has changed and whose members have received different responsibilities, prepared a report on all that has been done to put the exhortation into practice. The first report to be drawn up was Le Rapport sur les activités de l’Assemblée des Patriarches et des Évêques au Liban (A.P.E.C.L.), en application des recommandations de l’Exhortation Apostolique post-synodale «Une Espérance Nouvelle pour le Liban » (10 mai 1997) de Sa Sainteté le Pape Jean-Paul II. And another contribution was Le Rapport sur l’application de l’Exhortation Apostolique synodale « Une Espérance Nouvelle pour le Liban », dans l’Église Maronite.The Post-Synodal period in Lebanon was marked by another special event that occurred for the first time: the First Congress of Catholic Hierarchy in the Middle East, which took place from May 9th to the 20th, 1999.
4. The Special Assembly for America
The Special Assembly for America was convoked on May 29, 1997 with the topic of: The Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: The Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America.
In Rio de Janeiro from February 6th to the 9th, 1995, the General Secretary participated at the C.E.L.Am. meeting which was called to take the first organizational measures for the Special Assembly for America. The Pre-Synodal Council met four times from 1995 to 1997 to prepare, with the help of experts, the Lineamenta and the Instrumentum laboris, which were then respectively published on September 3, 1996, and on September 11, 1997. The Special Assembly was then held from November 6th to December 12th, 1997.
The Post-Synodal Council of the General Secretariat was convoked during the Synod, i.e., on December 9th in the Synod Aula. After the Assembly, the Council met several times with the aim of resolving several questions that dealt with certain concrete suggestions for the Synod.
The Relatio circa labores peractos was published on December 12, 1998.
The Propositiones of the Synod were studied so that suggestions could be given to the Holy Father for the drafting of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America. It was finally published on January 22, 1999 in Mexico during the apostolic visit in which numerous Synod Fathers and auditors participated.
In the years that followed, the Council held three sessions to discuss criteria for implementing the Exhortation and to promote initiatives that would bring this about. A letter was then sent to all interested bodies in order to gather opinions on how the Apostolic Exhortation might be put into practice. The responses to this letter were given to the Council for examination so that it might determine which instruments should be used and what actions should be taken in order to put the recommendations of Ecclesia in America into practice.
5. The Special Assembly for Asia
On January 15, 1995, the Holy Father Pope John Paul II announced in Manila the convocation of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Asia. A short time later he decided upon the topic of the Synod: Jesus Christ the Savior and his Mission of Love and Service in Asia: "…That they may have life and have it abundantly"(Jn. 10:10)
In order to prepare the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Asia, the General Secretary went to Manila in the Philippine Islands to attend the meeting of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (F.A.B.C.) from January 10th to the 17th, 1995. The Pre-Synodal Council was then formed and met twice to draft the Lineamenta. This document was presented on September 3, 1996. The Council then met another three times to discuss matters pertaining to the preparation of the Synod, the drafting of the Vademecum, and the preparation of the Instrumentum laboris which was finally published on February 16, 1998. The Special Assembly took place from April 19th to May 14th, 1998.
During the Assembly, the Post-Synodal Council was formed and met for the first time in the same Aula. Other meetings followed to study the Propositiones and give suggestions to the Holy Father for the drafting of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation. The Relatio circa labores peractos was published on November 1, 1998.
The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia was promulgated on November 6, 1999 in New Delhi during the Holy Father’s apostolic trip for the celebration phase of the Synod. After this phase, the Council met to discuss how to put the Exhortation into practice.
6. The Special Assembly for Oceania
The series of Synods that were to be organized before the Great Jubilee of the year 2000 according to the Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, also included one Special Assembly for Oceania.
The preparation of this Assembly began when the General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops went to Oceania from March 7th to 29th, 1996. Among other events, he took part in the Federation of the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Oceania (FCBCO) from March 13th to the 15th. The Pre-Synodal Council was formed and its members met both in the General Secretariat and in Oceania to prepare the Lineamenta. The Lineamenta was then discussed with the aid of a group of experts, and the responses to the questions from the particular Churches posed in the Lineamenta were examined. The Council also discussed guidelines for participation and some aspects of the liturgical celebrations that were planned for the Synod. Then it proceeded to discuss the drafting of the Instrumentum laboris and the Vademecum.
The Special Assembly for Oceania took place from November 22nd to December 12th, 1998. The topic under discussion was: Jesus Christ and the Peoples of Oceania: Walking His Way, Telling His Truth, Living His Life. During the Assembly, the Post-Synodal Council was formed and met for the first time on December 11, 1998 in the same Aula. In the months that followed, the Council dealt with topics proper to the Post-Synodal period – topics occasioned by the Propositiones of the Synod – and submitted suggestions to the Holy Father for the drafting of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation.
The Relatio circa labores peractos for this Assembly was issued on February 25, 1999.
7. The Second Special Assembly for Europe
The Second Special Assembly for Europe was convoked by the Holy Father on June 23, 1996 during his Angelus address in Berlin, Germany. On April 18, 1997, the topic chosen by the Holy Father for the Second Assembly was announced: Jesus Christ Alive in his Church, Source of Hope for Europe. As with the other assemblies, the Pre-Synodal Council was formed. Its task was to find a topic for the Synod and draft the Lineamenta that were finally sent to those duly appointed on March 16, 1998. The criteria for participating in the Synod were determined by the Council so that there might be equal representation from all the pastors of the particular Churches of Europe.
The responses to the Lineamenta were examined by the Council, who then used them to draft the Instrumentum laboris, which, with the aid of experts, was finished during the last session of the Council on March, 1999. On June 9, 1999, it was sent to the usual competent people.
The Second Special Assembly for Europe took place from October 1st to the 23rd, 1999. In order to deal with the various topics of the Synod, a Post-Synodal Council was formed. For the most part it discussed the welcoming of the Second Assembly, examined the Propositiones drafted by the Synod Fathers and gathered suggestions to give to the Holy Father for drawing up a post-synodal document. The Relatio circa labores peractos was published on July 11, 2000.
The Second Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Europe concluded with a series of Synods organized for the preparation of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.
III. THE COMPOSITION OF THE TENTH ASSEMBLY
As the fifth article of the Ordo Synodi states, this Tenth Ordinary General Assembly brings together the Patriarchs, Major Archbishops and Metropolitans of Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris; the Bishops elected by each National Bishops’ Conference; ten religious representatives of the Clerical Religious Institutes; those elected by the Union of General Superiors; the heads of Dicasteries of the Roman Curia; and members nominated by the Roman Pontiff.
The name and the origin of all the Members of the Synod are clearly indicated in the booklet that has been distributed to you with the title of Elenchus Participantium. So the Synod Fathers are:
Elected Fathers: 175
Fathers nominated by the Pope 35
Fathers ex officio 37
The Ordo Synodi, as is well known, allows the Bishops’ Conferences to elect substitutes so as to guarantee equal synod participation in case one of the elected Fathers is absent. In this assembly, there are eight substitute Fathers for those who have been elected, but cannot participate due to illness or other reasons. Regarding this point we should mention that an elected Father who becomes emeritus after his election to the Synod and does not hold another office that makes him a full member of the Bishops’ Conference that he belongs to, loses his right to participate.
It will be helpful to keep in mind the various categories of the Synod Fathers who make up our assembly: of 247 Synod Fathers, 41 are Presidents of Episcopal Conferences, 3 Emeritus Bishops, 3 Military Ordinaries, 7 Auxiliaries and 4 Coadjutor Bishops. Bishops coming from the diocesan clergy number 184 (74,49%) and 63 (25%) belong to the consecrated life.
There are other points we should mention regarding participation in the Synod. The long period that had passed since the last ordinary assembly has had consequences that have affected the ways in which one might participate. It will be helpful to recall some particular problems. Some elected auxiliary bishops, after being made resident bishops, have found it difficult to fill their role in the Synod; as a result, some elected members were impeded after a long lapse of time; sometimes those elected became emeriti; in certain countries social problems prevented holding Bishops’ Conferences; the criteria of participation for an Ordinary Assembly are not the same as those for Special Assemblies and this difference has caused confusion in some conferences. The Fraternal Delegates of other Christian churches also participate in the Synod; their number and their names can be found in the same booklet. The names of those who hold positions of direction in the Synod Assembly are also included in this booklet – the Roman Pontiff, its President by right, the General Secretary, the President Delegates, the General Rapporteur, the Special Secretary and the Adjoint Special Secretaries. The Commissions that contributed to the successful organization of the Assembly can also be found in the booklet: the Commission for Information, the Commission for the Message, the Commission for Controversies.
Article 14 of the Ordo Synodi provides for the appointment of Experts to assist the Special Secretary; i.e., to help him accomplish his task of examining the topic of the Synod. For this Synod 16 experts have been appointed. This Synod Assembly also includes women and men Auditors whose names are indicated in the Elenchus. They are composed of 14 men and 9 women.
IV. MISCELLANEOUS MATTERS
1. Some remarks
In the first place, it will be helpful to recall a few things regarding the institution of the Synod itself. The work accomplished since its beginning and throughout the years is clear to all. If we consider the evolution of the Synod, we can see how the number of assemblies have multiplied. For the sake of simplicity, we can trace three periods in the history of the Synod according to the terms of General Secretaries of the Synods. The first period runs from 1965 to 1979. During these fourteen years, there were five Synod Assemblies. The second period runs from 1979 to 1985 during which there were three assemblies. The last period begins in 1985 and has lasted, therefore, for sixteen years, holding a total of twelve synods.
It is also good to mention the Post-Synodal Councils for already past Assemblies. There has been eight of these councils up to now and they have lent an exceptional service by fostering collegiality, for nearly 100 Prelates have met continuously to diligently work together.
All this seems to allow us to affirm that the Synod of Bishops has become increasingly more important in the life of the Church, not only from a quantitative point of view, but, most importantly, from a qualitative one.
This is seen in a particular way in the Special Assemblies, where one can discern the importance of the Synod for the good of the universal Church and the particular Churches from all over the world. This was primarily brought about because of the Holy Father’s firm insistence on the frequency and universality of these assemblies, a universality which was exceptionally united to the pastoral good of the collegiality of Bishops, in such a way that Synodal collegiality has been naturally confirmed and widely seen.
From the time that the Lineamenta is prepared and meditated upon until the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation is put into effect, the Synod process forcefully shows a communion that closely unites the different particular Churches in their members and with the universal Church. This is achieved through meditation on the Synod topic, prayer, spiritual dialogue, the exchange of life experiences and Christian witness. And in the carrying out of this task an extraordinary characteristic of the Church is displayed, which can be called a mutual interiority, that gives vital nourishment to the relationship between the particular and the universal Church. This is the same mutual interiority that John Paul II so admirably spoke of in his memorable address to the Roman Curia on December 20, 1990. Therefore we can rightly say that the body of the Church brings about this characteristic of the Synod through its own organic activity.
We have seen the same truth emerge as the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 unfolded in Rome and in the various dioceses around the world. The series of Synods, which the Sovereign Pontiff had wanted to announce in his Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, have been held and have been very fruitful. Indeed it has brought forth strength in the particular Churches for receiving the great gifts of mercy and fidelity to the Lord in order to give, with ingenuity and in different ways, a testimony of penance, of a renewed life, of Christian joy and hope. At the same time, the method followed by the synod, constituted by a communion of dialogue and of love, considerably strengthened the preparation and celebration of the Jubilee, a meeting point with God on the path of the Church.
We can also speak of the principal theme that nourished the soul and the prayer of the Church at the end of the second millennium, at the Synod and during the Jubilee. In the synods and during the Jubilee, everything was centered on Christ, the Son of God, the Lord of time and of history who has entrusted to the Church the mission of announcing the Gospel to all peoples with a new force and a new will to evangelize. And our Synod, which gathers at the beginning of the third millennium, professes that that same mission is entrusted to each bishop, since he is a servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the hope of the world.
2. Some new things
a. In order to carry out its function, the General Secretariat counts on the General Secretary and the Council of the General Secretary. The General Secretary calls together ecclesiastical aides as well as, in case of need, (as it is the case today), lay men and women, among whom one belongs to a secular institute and the other has been married for some time. The priests come from various countries such as Argentina, France, Italy, and the United States, thus carrying out tasks according to the various languages. With the officials of the Secretariat making up such "a small flock" and with several synodal assemblies having taken place in past few years – with very small periods of time occurring between them – it was necessary to call upon extraordinary assistants to take up the weighty task of preparation. Our respect and profound gratitude goes out to all these for their daily and faithful service to the Synod of Bishops and to the universal Church.
b. As article three of the Vademecum indicates, there is a small chapel with the Blessed Sacrament reserved on the first floor. In past Synod Assemblies, this chapel was always newly decorated to accommodate the piety of all the participants. This time, however, the chapel was completely renovated for our Assembly and will stay this way permanently next to the Synod Aula.
The elements of this oratory were chosen and arranged to express and, at the same time, to illustrate the truth of communion and of collegiality. The circular form was adopted to signify the situation of each one in the Church and, above all, of each bishop in the college; that is to say, to be beside other bishops, with everyone facing each other in the presence of the Lord. The pastoral ministry which is assumed collegially and is lived in the grace of the Holy Spirit and received in and for the Church, is specially represented by the altar, under which we can see a ship in the middle of waves whose sail is held up by the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, thereby encouraging us to prayer so that the vast sail of our faith and of our profession might be filled by the wind of the Holy Spirit and that we might be driven forth by waves of preaching, according to what that famous brother of ours in the episcopate, St. Hillary of Poitiers, has said in his De Trinitate (Book 1, 37). The Coming of the Holy Spirit is also depicted in the stained glass located in the ceiling, bringing to mind the outpouring at Pentecost over the college of the apostles gathered in the Cenacle with Mary the Mother of Jesus. The statue of Our Lady placed in the chapel also illustrates the topic of our Assembly, since she bears the name "Mother of Hope". All the work that went into constructing this chapel arouses our admiration and our gratitude extends to all those in the Vatican that have taken part in this work: the Government, the Gardens, the group of experienced artists and craftsmen, all coming from Vatican agencies. May this chapel contribute to the piety of all and the spirit of communion with God and with our brothers.
c. Finally, to the services already offered in the atrium of the Paul VI Hall, we have added a new instrument – a new computer connected to the Internet. The Vademecum speaks of it in article 17c. This tool will allow for easier communication, so that each Father can send and receive information whether it be for diocesan or other matters.
Allow me to propose some concluding words. As you can see, all our documents for this report bear the date of the day when they were edited, September 17th of this year. This was not done by chance. For this is the day in which the liturgy commemorates another distinguished bishop of the Church, St. Robert Bellarmine, who is also one of the saints we have invoked in the litany of the liturgy that opened this Synod. I would like to present some examples taken from the life and teachings of this holy pastor regarding the responsibility and the dignity of the Bishop’s ministry.
Cardinal Bellarmine, in a document that Pope Clement VIII asked him to write, deals with the abuses during the 16th and 17th centuries, a period which saw the greatest vacancy of bishoprics, irresponsible nominations, bishop’s abandoning their place of residence, the nomination of one bishop to two sees, carelessness in Episcopal transfers, and the inappropriate resignation of bishops (cf. J. Brodick, Robert Bellarmine-Saint and Scholar, pp. 181ss). The Cardinal himself had once found a Polish priest, and after having assured himself of this man’s virtues and merits, began work so as to name him bishop, which was done. The Cardinal then wrote a letter to the bishop-elect in which he opened up his heart. He told him that it was not a moment to celebrate but to pray that he might bear the fatigues and dangers of the episcopate well, so that his weighty responsibility might be lightened (cf. ibidem). He suggested to Pope Clement VIII that in the naming of bishops, the ability to preach should not be considered any less necessary than all other requisites. In fact the first bishops of the Church instituted deacons to serve the table, so that they themselves might remain dedicated to prayer and to the service of the word (cf. ibidem, p. 236). In that which concerns prayer in the life of the bishop, it is worth recalling that which Saint Ambrose has written on the subject. In commenting on the last verse of Psalm 118, I have wandered like a lost sheep; come look for your servant, for I have not forgotten your commandments, he raises this prayer towards the Sovereign Pastor Jesus Christ: "So come, Lord Jesus, come and look for your servant, your tired sheep; come, O pastor, and look for me as Joseph did for his sheep. Your sheep is lost while you are living, while you are staying in the mountains. Abandon your ninety-nine sheep and come look for that lonely sheep that has been lost. Come without dogs. Come without evil workers, without mercenaries, who do not enter by the door. Come without help, without messenger, since it is long that I have waited; I know that you are coming, for I have not forgotten your commandments. Come not with a shepherd’s crook, but with charity and a spirit of sweetness…Look for me because I need you, look for me, find me, and receive me from the hands of Mary, virgin without corruption, but especially virgin who by grace is without the blemish of sin. Bring me to the cross, salvation of those who are lost, sole repose of the weary, sole life of the dead" (Comm. Ps. 118, n. XXII, 28-30).
We here who read these words can say that a pastor’s prayer should also be his pastoral rule, that is to say, the norm of his life. Not only because all pastors should pray, but especially because the pastor should know how to transmit to others that which he demands of himself. In this way, the pastor’s prayer contains in itself the commandment regarding the life of the shepherd. If his mouth says to the Lord, "Come without a shepherd’s crook", he should act accordingly in his life and set aside his crook when he welcomes the sheep. In this way, the lex orandi becomes lex agendi, action follows the logic of prayer.
And in concluding our discourse, it might be good to remind everyone that this Synod is a communion of paths, a communion that St. Ignatius of Antioch, writing to the Magnesians, praised with these words: "Make the effort, therefore, to affirm yourselves in the teachings of the Lord and his Apostles, so that in all things you might succeed in body and in spirit, in faith and in charity, in the Son and in the Father and in the Spirit, at the beginning and at the end, with your praiseworthy bishop meriting the precious spiritual crown of your presbyterate with your holy deacons. Submit yourselves to your bishop and submit yourselves one to another as Jesus Christ in his Incarnation submitted himself to the Father, and the Apostles submitted themselves to Christ, to the Father and to the Holy Spirit, so that their unity might be both in body and soul."
(1) The following Conferences of Bishops have submitted responses: Angola and Sao Tomé, Antilles, Arab Regions, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Belorus, Bolivia, Botswana and South Africa and Swaziland, Brazil, Burkina Faso and Niger, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czech Republic, Ecuador, England and Wales, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, India: C.C.B.I., Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Laos and Cambodia, Liberia, Lithuania, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mexico, Mozambique, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, North Africa, Pacific, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Papua-New Guinea and Solomon Islands, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, Senegal, Mauritania and Cape Green and Guinea Bissau, Sri Lanka, Spain, Sudan, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, Ukraine, United States of America, Uruguay, Venezuela, Vietnam, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
From the Roman Curia: Congregation for the Eastern Churches, Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline for the Sacraments, Congregation for Bishops, Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Pontifical Council for the Laity, Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Pontifical Council for Culture, Pontifical Council for Social Communications; From the Eastern Churches: Responses were received from the Synod of the Maronite Church, Synod of the Chaldean Church and Synod of the Syro-Malabar Church.
[00008-02.04] [nnnnn] [Original text: Latin]
Most Holy Father and My Brothers in the Lord,
During the preparation of this Relatio Ante Disceptationem, two statements that seem to set the theme of our Assembly in remarkably clear focus caught my attention. The first is taken from The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium. It reads as follows: "The shepherds of Christ’s flock ought to carry out their ministry with holiness, eagerness, humility, and courage, in imitation of the Eternal High Priest, the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls. ...Chosen for the fullness of the priesthood, (they) are gifted with sacramental grace enabling them to exercise a perfect role of pastoral charity through prayer, sacrifice and preaching, as through every form of a bishop’s care and service" (41).
The second statement appears in the Holy Father’s Ad Limina Address delivered in 1982. In it, Pope John Paul II, has this to say: "Without hope we would not only be unhappy and deserving of pity, but all our pastoral works would be fruitless; we would not dare to undertake anything. In an unwavering hope rests the secret of our mission. It is stronger than disappointment and doubt, because its force comes from a source which is not depleted by our lack of attention or our negligence. The wellspring of ou
r hope is God himself, Who through Christ conquered the world once and for all and Who today, through us, continues His salvific mission among men" (AAS 74  1123).
Instructed and inspired by such expressions as these, we are gathered here to consider a truth that both captivates and challenges us. That truth is simply this: We bishops have been called to be servants of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the service we render is to bring hope–supernatural hope–to an often discouraged world.
At the outset we need to stress, however, that our service must always be a humble service. For the model of every word we speak and every act we perform is Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, Who on the night before He died, in an extraordinary gesture of humility, knelt to wash the feet of His Apostles, telling them in clearest terms, "...you also should do as I have done to you" (Jn 13:15).
Such humble service can, of course, be frightening. We know our weakness. We are keenly aware of a multitude of reasons to harbour fears for the future. Still, we have been summoned and appointed to preach and live a Gospel of hope. To this, therefore, we gladly commit ourselves, together and in union with the Successor of Saint Peter, the humble fisherman who, when losing hope in the waters of the Lake of Genesareth, was enjoined by his Redeemer to put aside his fears, so that he might "catch men" and bring them to their God (cf. Lk 5:10).
Servants of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World–this is our calling, and we gladly embrace it. For we are strengthened in the knowledge that the Son of God is here among us (cf. Mt 18:20), that the People of God across the world are praying for us and with us (cf. Acts 12:5), and that the Vicar of Christ will be guiding and confirming us, his brothers, at every step along the way (cf. Lk 22:32). Likewise, we cannot fail to sense the presence in our midst of Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, who urges us, as she urged the attendants at the marriage feast in Cana, to listen to her Son and "do whatever He tells you"(Jn 2:5).
Similarly, we are greatly encouraged in our work in this Tenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops by all that has been achieved in the Assemblies of the Synod that preceded this one. We note with particular interest the Synod concerning the laity, the Synod concerning the clergy, and the Synod concerning those in consecrated life. All three culminated in splendid Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortations of the Holy Father that provided the Church with a wealth of wisdom and spiritual guidance. They are, of course, Christifideles Laici of 1988, Pastores Dabo Vobis of 1993 and Vita Consecrata of 1995. To each we will undoubtedly be making frequent reference in the weeks that lie ahead. They are sure and thoughtful guides for the entire Church as it makes its way into the third millennium of the Christian faith.
Add to all of this the Special Assemblies that brought together the bishops of Europe in 1991 and 1999, the bishops of Africa in 1994, the bishops of America in 1997, the bishops of Asia in 1998 and the bishops of Oceania also in 1998 to discuss and plan the work of the Church in their nations and continents; and there is at our disposal truly a treasure-trove of wisdom and experience to be explored and meditated.
Finally, we need to keep in mind three additional resources that were developed in proximate preparation for this Assembly, namely the Lineamenta that were issued in 1998 and sent to the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, the Oriental Churches, the Union of Superiors General and the episcopal conferences across the world for comment, the responses which were forwarded to the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, and the Instrumentum Laboris that was gleaned from the Lineamenta and responses, and published in June of this year. Together, they reflect with extraordinary thoroughness the insights and concerns of the aforementioned Assemblies and the entire episcopate of the Church Universal. Thus it is that we launch into the subject of our Assembly, confidently trusting in the Lord and richly blessed by the labours of our Holy Father, our brother bishops and the gifted staff of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops–to all of whom we are deeply grateful.
There remains but one final preamble to our discussion. As the Instrumentum Laboris observes, this Assembly is primarily concerned with the diocesan or residential bishop, that is to say, with the bishop who serves a local church as teacher, sanctifier and shepherd (cf. 9). Nonetheless, auxiliary bishops, bishops in the Roman Curia, bishops in Vatican diplomacy and retired bishops as well, are all within the purview of our study and reflection. For as members of the College of Bishops, cum Petro and sub Petro, all are "consecrated...for the salvation of the entire world" (cf. The Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church Ad Gentes, 38). And therefore duty-bound "to promote and to safeguard the unity of the faith and the discipline common to the whole Church, to instruct the faithful in love for the whole Mystical Body of Christ,...and, finally, to foster every activity which is common to the whole Church..." (cf. The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 23).
In seeking to decide how best to address the subject assigned to us in this Assembly, one cannot help but notice how frequently the classic munera of the bishop as teacher, sanctifier and shepherd are mentioned both in the Apostolic Exhortations of the Holy Father that followed previous Assemblies and in the Lineamenta and Instrumentum Laboris of this one. Accordingly, it seems quite fitting to adopt this division of duties as the basic outline of our Relatio Ante Disceptationem, beginning with the bishop as teacher of his flock.
The mandate of the Lord to the magistri fidei of His Church is marvelously clear. "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me" (Matt 28:18), the Divine Teacher reminded the Apostles, whose successors we are. "Go, therefore," He continued, "and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matt 28:19-20).
Certainly, evangelization is a fundamental and, indeed, essential ministry of the bishop, as the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council indicated, for example, in The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, where we read that "among the principal duties of Bishops, the preaching of the Gospel occupies an eminent place" (25).
The ways, however, in which a bishop carries out this ministry are today more numerous and diverse than ever before. To be sure, he preaches the Gospel first and foremost in the celebration of the Eucharist, where Word and Sacrament come together with the greatest of spiritual power (cf. The Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests Presbyterorum Ordinis, 4). But this is only the beginning. He preaches it in the celebration of the other Sacraments; in spiritual and corporal works of mercy; in pastoral letters; in sermons and addresses to clergy, those in consecrated life and laity; in published statements and articles; in appearances on radio and television; even in private meetings with men, women and children who are seeking to embrace or deepen their love for the Gospel message. And all of this he is to do, keeping ever in mind the missionary character of the Church. For, "as members of the living Christ, all the faithful have been incorporated into Him and made like Him through Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist" (36), the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council remind us in The Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church. "Hence," they conclude, "all are duty-bound to cooperate in the expansion and growth of His Body" (36), that is, His Mystical Body, His beloved Bride, His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Inculcating a "missionary spirit" into the hearts of his people is therefore an essential element in the work of a bishop as teacher and preacher of the faith.
The responsibilities of the bishop as a doctor veritatis in the Church, however, reach far beyond his own individual efforts. If he is to be the kind of witness to the Gospel that the Lord expects, each successor of the Apostles must also associate with himself as many fellow preachers, evangelizers, instructors and catechists as he can possibly assemble. Moreover, he must work with them diligently, patiently and lovingly to be sure that their teaching is the teaching of the Church, fully in accord with the Magisterium and firmly grounded in Sacred Scripture, Tradition and the declarations of the Popes and Ecumenical Councils down through the ages.
His guidance in this regard is especially needed by teachers of Religion in Catholic elementary and secondary schools; by catechists in work with converts and in diocesan and parish programs for children, youth and adults; and by professors of Theology on the university level. Each group, of course, requires a specific kind and measure of direction. Nonetheless, all have this in common: they need to hear from their bishop what the Lord has revealed, whole and entire; and they need to sense his sincere respect for them in their sharing and explicating of it. In this way, the bishop will be a living sign of Jesus Christ Who inspires hope.
This can be a daunting task, one that calls for both prudence, tact and a fortitude that comes from the Holy Spirit. Certainly, we may never in any way tolerate false doctrine. Still, whenever confronted by it, we need to deal with it as the father of a family, ever willing to explain precisely what the Church teaches and ever willing to answer questions and objections that come to the fore, so that all of our collaborators in proclaiming and elucidating the Gospel might be enthusiastic heralds of sound doctrine "in season and our of season" (2 Tim 4:2). In working with professors of Theology, we will, of course, be wisely guided by The Instruction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Donum Veritatis of 24 May 1990) and The Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae of 15 August 1990; and in all of our labours and discussion with preachers, evangelizers, instructors, catechists and professors too, we will confidently avail ourselves of that precious gift of Pope John Paul II to the People of God, which is The Catechism of the Catholic Church.
As teachers of the faith, however, it is imperative that we not neglect another crucially important ally in our announcing of the Gospel, namely, parents. They are the first teachers of the faith. No one can instill it, no one can nourish it as effectively as they. A bishop should therefore seize every opportunity to assist parents, particularly on the parish level, to learn their faith in depth and to pass it on with zest. Classes for parents in proximate preparation for reception by their children of Baptism, First Penance and First Communion and Confirmation as well, are golden opportunities for such instruction. We need to look for others and make of them every use we can.
Finally, to be truly powerful teachers of the faith, the bishop needs most importantly to work with the priests and deacons of his diocese, who are his principal cooperators in preaching the Gospel to the faithful. The essential pre-requisite for this is, of course, excellent seminary education for his priests and excellent programs of theological and spiritual training for his permanent deacons. The bishop must personally involve himself in all of this with a generous commitment of time and energy, just as he must personally involve himself in the fostering of vocations in his diocese. He needs to know who is intellectually and spiritually forming his future clergy, what they are teaching, and whether they are performing their assigned tasks in such a way as to inflame their charges with a love of Christ and His Church, expressing in a pursuit of truth and holiness. To assist in all of this, the magnificent Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, will be of immense value.
After ordination, though, guidance from the first teacher of the diocese must continue with ongoing programs of education in the Sacred Sciences for both priests and deacons. Without this, the Gospel may be heard, but not with the freshness and ardour that come from continuing study of the wonders the Lord has revealed. As Pastores Dabo Vobis insists, post-ordination training for the clergy is humanly, intellectually, pastorally and spiritually essential if we are truly to "stir into flame the divine gift of faith" that those anointed into the Lord are charged to share with His Holy People (cf. 70, 2 Tim 1:6).
The proclamation of the Word of God serves as the foundation for gathering the faithful together in worship. This "gathering" the bishop achieves as sanctifier and priest, that is to say, as the "first minister of grace" for his flock.
Nowhere, to be sure, does the bishop exercise this office as powerfully as in the celebration of the Eucharist, the "basis and center" of every community of faith, to borrow the celebrated expression of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council (cf. for example, The Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6). It is clear, therefore, that he is obliged to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with the greatest measure of piety and fervour that he can muster. His clergy, those in consecrated life and the laity observe him at the altar with an attention they accord no one else. As Saint Peter takes pain to remind us in his First Epistle, we are to be from the heart "an example to the flock" (1 Pt 5:3). Small wonder then that our manner in praying the Mass with our people is often as compelling a sermon about love for the Eucharist and belief in the Real Presence as any we might deliver from the pulpits of our cathedrals.
The same holds true as regards our administering of the Sacrament of Confirmation, our hearing of Confessions, our witnessing of Marriages and especially our conferring of Sacred Orders. We seek to make the faithful fervent. We need to be fervent ourselves. Stewards of grace that we are, we can never allow our leading of the People of God in prayer to be anything less than authentic, devout and inspiring.
All of which brings us to another essential duty in our ministry as sanctifiers of the faithful–that, namely, of seeing to it that the liturgies in our churches and chapels are in harmony with the norms and practice of the Church and carried out in a spirit of true devotion. We are the principal liturgists in our dioceses. As The Code of Canon Law reminds us, "First and foremost, the bishops exercise the office of sanctifying; they are high priests, principal dispensers of the mysteries of God and moderators, promoters and custodians of the whole liturgical life of the Church committed to them" (canon 835, §1 in correlation with The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 22, 39). Ours, we all know, has been an era of numerous changes and developments in the worship of the Church. As a result, we will not always be able to avoid controversies about rubrics, liturgical appointments, church architecture and the like. In dealing with them, the bishop has to be willing to listen and no less willing to lead. He must insist upon the limits of good taste; he must exhibit appropriate regard for established traditions; and he must respect and encourage those popular pieties that genuinely nourish the faith and fervour of his people. The task can be quite demanding. It will call for wisdom and, yes, diplomacy too; and it will be most successfully carried out in trusting partnership with the priests of the diocese, the bishop’s "closest co-workers," as our Holy Father loves to call them (cf. for example, Discourse during the Wednesday General Audience, 31 March 1993, 1).
Lastly, in fulfilling his mission as sanctifier of the faithful, the bishop needs to be sure that certain key liturgical ceremonies are afforded the particular attention they deserve because of the lessons they inculcate and the fervour they stir. Among these are the ceremonies of Holy Week, the rites in connection with the Baptism of catechumens and the admission of persons into full communion with the Catholic Church, ordinations, religious professions and the dedications and blessings of Churches, chapels and altars. These are singular opportunities for instruction in the faith. These are grace-filled occasions for leading our people to holiness. Time and energy expended in their preparation, in cooperation with such liturgical and musical commissions or offices as there might be in a diocese, are time and energy well-spent for the building up of the local Church according to the grace of God. (cf. 1 Cor 3:10).
The munus regendi of a bishop is unique among all of the expressions of leadership in the world. The bishop rules as a servant with the heart of a loving shepherd who guides his flock humbly, seeking nothing but the glory of God and the salvation of souls. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council repeat this message over and again. Thus, in The Decree on the Bishops’ Pastoral Office in the Church Christus Dominus, they tell us, "In exercising his office of father and pastor, a bishop should stand in the midst of his people as one who serves. Let him be a good shepherd who knows his sheep and whose sheep know him" (16); and in The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, they add, "Bishops govern the particular Churches entrusted to them as the vicars and ambassadors of Christ. This they do by their counsel, exhortations and example, as well, indeed, as by their authority and sacred power. This power they use only for the edification of their flock in truth and holiness, remembering that he who is greater should become as the lesser and he who is the more distinguished, as the servant" (27).
To measure up to all of this, the bishop needs, above all else, holiness of life. Accordingly, like all other followers of the Lord, he must avail himself of the many powerful means of sanctification which the Church provides to all of her children, among them, the Mass, of course; the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation; Eucharistic adoration; a filial Marian devotion, particularly the daily recitation of the Rosary; retreats and days of recollection; holy hours; and meditation on Sacred Scripture and the writings of the Fathers, Doctors and great theologians of the Church. Nor is the reason for all of this hard to understand. To rule the Holy People of God, the Bishop must himself be holy. Indeed, according to the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, the bishop by the holiness of his life is expected to "hallow," that is, to sanctify, the local Church of which he is ruler and guide. (cf. The Decree on the Bishops’ Pastoral Office in the Church, 15).
As shepherd of his people, the bishop must also be a supporter and coordinator of the works of his clergy, those of his diocese in consecrated life and the committed laity as well. For this reason, he needs to attend with great care to the service that he and his closest collaborators render to parishes and ecclesiastical institutions of education, charity, healthcare and spiritual formation. This may seem at first to be merely a matter of administration which the bishop should leave to others. Rightly pursued, however, with appropriate organization and delegations, it is a loving service to the People of God that is often much needed and ordinarily much appreciated as well.
Accordingly, to the extent possible, there should be in our dioceses a well-trained curia to advise and assist parishes and diocesan agencies, an experienced tribunal to treat cases regarding the nullity of marriage and other judicial issues, and offices or persons to guide the diocese and its various components in such areas as finance, real estate, the civil law and development. For instance, a diocesan finance council that is made up of informed and experienced clergy and laity can ensure proper funding and planning for the diocese, its parishes, its schools, its works of charity, its care for the aged and infirm, its support of retired clergy and religious, and so much more. He is a wise and compassionate shepherd who has in place, insofar as he can, the "machinery" of expert guidance and thoughtful administrative direction for himself and for those who labour with him in service to the local Church.
Likewise, in carrying out this munus regendi, the bishop has to be deeply concerned about the condition and initiatives of his parishes, ever ready to aid pastors, parochial vicars, deacons, those in consecrated life and lay leaders–all of whom at times feel alone and become discourages in their vital and demanding tasks. It is true that not all dioceses are constituted as communities of parishes. All the same, in those that are, it is essential that the bishop be present to his parishes as a loving father, priest and friend. This he can do most effectively by means of frequent visits and joyful participation in parish celebrations, anniversaries, dedications and such. Furthermore, if he can meet on a regular basis with pastors and their staffs for meaningful discussion of parish programs and for prayer as well, his duty to guide his flock will be greatly enhanced (cf. Congregation for Bishops, The Directory on the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops Ecclesiae Imago, 22 February 1973, 166-170). How wise the humble Shepherd and Saint, Alphonsus Liguori, who observed, "The bishop must hold the door ever open for his pastors, assuring them that their coming to see him is always appreciated!" How astute the learned Cardinal Bona, when he remarked, "The Church walks with the feet of its pastors!" As bishops, we need to honor and esteem the priests who lead our parishes. Our affection for them can never be too evident or too heartfelt.
Because of the necessary and irreplaceable contribution that those in consecrated life make to the local Church in every corner of the world, the bishop who is truly a shepherd-servant in his diocese must also give to consecrated men and women in their parishes and institutions sincere respect and genuine support, as the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata makes abundantly clear (cf. 48-50). Meeting regularly with their leadership, advising and assisting them in their various undertakings, joining them in prayer and seeing to it that they know that their bishop considers them a very special blessing for the entire diocese: these are the fundamental approaches to being a shepherd to those in consecrated life, and they are signs of love and concern that are often more appreciated than the bishop imagines.
Finally, authentic episcopal leadership in our day necessitates as well that the bishop be open to and supportive of the new ecclesial communities and groups which are springing up throughout the Church with immense promise for spiritual good. Because they are new and therefore unfamiliar, they may occasion fears or suspicions, as was noted in several of the responses submitted to the Synod of Bishops from episcopal conferences. This, however, should not lead us to discourage or stand apart from them. When guided with fairness and understanding, they can provide great benefit to the local Church, alerting it to new insights into the Gospel message and reminding it of ideals and values that may need to be revived or strengthened (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, 29–31). Helpful guidelines in this regard have been issued by the Pontifical Council for the Laity as a result of the 1987 Synod on the Laity.
All of these pleas for episcopal leadership are both fundamental and familiar. There are others, however, that are quite new and even unexpected. The Lineamenta, the Instrumentum Laboris direct our attention to a number of them that appear to cry out for prayerful consideration by this Assembly. They will be treated here in rather broad strokes, to be explored at length and in depth during our sessions throughout the coming month.
The first and perhaps most urgent would seem to be in the area of family life. There is hardly a community in this travailed world of ours in which reasonable and decent people are not lamenting the attacks that are continually being launched from a multitude of sources against the basic, holy institution of husband, wife and children. Anti-family education and anti-family publications, even anti-family movements and anti-family entertainments, have grown up on every side. The damage they do to all people both as human beings and as children of God can scarcely be overstated. A bishop, therefore, stands before his Lord and his flock plainly obligated to teach both the sacramental character of marriage as instituted by Jesus Christ and the designs of the Creator regarding family. He must as well assist husbands and wives in discerning God’s will in married life and provide such pro-family programs and initiatives as thorough pre-marital instruction; professional counseling for couples in troubled marriages, where this is possible; effective catechesis for children and youth regarding morality and marriage; and programs to bring young people together in wholesome recreational environments where they can deepen their faith and learn to live it day-by-day.
The bishop in our time must likewise lead in the twin areas of poverty and peace. The two go hand-in-hand. For where misery caused by injustice and hardness of heart prevails, conflict is to be expected. Thus it is that every bishop, as we enter a new millennium, should strive to sponsor in his diocese effective agencies of charity for the poor in the local community and creative programs in parishes and educational institutions to teach the need and beauty of peace at home and abroad. Furthermore, in those regions of the world where a measure of prosperity is to be found, the bishop is additionally required to remind his people in clearest terms of their obligations to the poor and destitute beyond the boundaries of their diocese or nation. In all of this, he will be wisely guided by Pope John Paul II’s Encyclical Letters Laborem Exercens of 14 September 1981 and Sollicitudo Rei Socialis of 30 December 1987 and the document of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace of 27 December 1986, entitled At the Service of the Human Community: An Ethical Approach to the International Debt Question.
In this context, the issue of globalization immediately comes to mind. For some, it constitutes a threat whereby the rich of the world become richer and the poor, poorer. For others, it offers hope that the discoveries and advances of science and industry might be shared more widely and equitably, thanks to new means of transportation and communications. As worthy shepherds and guides of our people, we must be keenly aware of both the threat and the hope, warning against the former and facilitating the latter. Thus, the issue of globalization can be an opportunity for the bishop to evangelize, proclaiming the Gospel message of justice and compassion. Borrowing the formula of our Holy Father, we must continually and urgently strive for a "globalization in solidarity," one that responds to the needs of all peoples–rich and poor alike–honorably, generously and nobly (cf. The Message for the World Day of Peace, 1 January 1998).
Intimately bound up with poverty, peace and globalization is another critically important matter begging for episcopal leadership in our day–the mass movements of men, women and children seeking to escape wars, civil strife, misery and disease. This phenomenon can easily evoke attitudes, statements and even movements in opposition to the basic human rights of immigrants and refugees, attitudes, statements and movements which are altogether incompatible with the Gospel of compassion preached by the Son of God, Who has "nowhere to lay His head" (Matt 8:20). Against all such, the successors of the Apostles may not hesitate even for a moment. Our hopes here and hereafter reside with a God Who warned us in the plainest of language that He is often hidden behind the mask of a "stranger" who cries out to be fed, clothed and welcomed (cf. Matt 25:31-46).
All of these issues of social justice render us ever more sensitive to certain evil and growing practices in our time which violate the most elementary of human rights, the right to life. No bishop committed to teaching, sanctifying and shepherding his people according to the truth and spirit of the Gospel can fail to oppose in word and deed the killing of human beings at any stage of their development, from the embryo to the adult, from the adult to the aged and infirm. Until rather recently all of this was quite clear and straightforward. We spoke and struggled against abortion, euthanasia and capital punishment; and most of humanity understood our positions and our reasoning. Now, with new discoveries, especially in the biological sciences, issues are less clear and at times quite beyond the comprehension of those who are not experts in the matters under discussion. Nevertheless, in patient dialogue with well-informed scientists who seek and speak the truth, and aided by such documents as the Encyclical Letter of our Holy Father, Evangelium Vitae of 25 March 1995, his Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte of 6 January 2001, 51 and his Statement to the President of the United States of America on 23 July 2001, we renew our resolve to defend life in its every phase as a blessing from God, never to be sacrificed, never to be compromised. Our people expect nothing less.
One last challenge to the leadership of bishops that needs to be considered here is often summed up in a single word that has become quite familiar in the life of the Church over the past forty years. The word is "dialogue." After the Second Vatican Council, as a result of The Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio and The Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions Nostra Aetate, the People of God soon became involved in meetings, discussions, joint religious services and joint initiatives in pursuit of justice and peace. All of this activity was aimed primarily at achieving unity among those who call upon Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and at deepening understanding with the world’s great religions, particularly Judaism.
Now with the growth of the Church, particularly in Africa and Asia, and with the ever-increasing movement of peoples from nation to nation and continent to continent, dialogue with adherents of other world religions has become a key factor in the current life of the Church. It presumes knowledge of and sympathy for their values and beliefs, a willingness to share insights and understandings and a sincere desire to cooperate in worthy causes of all kinds (cf. Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio [7 December 1990], 55-57 and Novo Millennio Ineunte, 55-56). Always, however, the bishop must keep in mind that no cloaking or compromising of the essentials of the Catholic faith may ever be countenanced. Jesus Christ is the one and only Saviour of the world. The redemption accomplished by Him is unique and universal. No dialogue may ever be allowed to call any of this into question, as The Declaration on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church, issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on 6 August 2000, made abundantly clear. We bishops are, above all else, witnesses of the Gospel in its fullness (cf. Acts 1:8).
An overview, like this one, of the many and varied challenges that face bishops in this new millennium can be very unsettling indeed. How, we might ask ourselves, can we ever hope to deal with all of this? Mere humans that we are, are we striving beyond our capacities?
The simple answer is "yes," unless we take into account the fact that we are never alone in our labors as successors of the Apostles. Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Mary, is always with us (cf. Matt 28:20). His love and grace are more than sufficient for us (cf. 2 Cor 12:9, 1 Tm 1:12). He is that toward which the whole world struggles and groans (cf. Rom 8:19-22). He is the Eternally Begotten Son of our Heavenly Father; and He has chosen us to be prophets, priests and pastors for the people for whose salvation He was "obedient unto death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:8). In Him Who strengthens us, there is nothing we cannot do (cf. Phil 4:13).
Nor must we ever forget that there are others who join us in our mission of service to the People of God. We think first of the Vicar of Christ, who walks resolutely beside us with his prayers, his preaching, his writing and his Apostolic journeys across the globe. We think of his Curia–dedicated clergy, those in the consecrated life and the laity–with whom we need to work ever more effectively in mutual trust and mutual understanding. We think of our Episcopal Conferences, wherein we share plans and dreams, successes and failures, with our brother bishops in a spirit of abiding confidence and affection. We think of our Presbyteral Councils, wherein we become with each passing year more closely bonded to our clergy so as to advance the faith and holiness of the local Churches we serve together. We think of the consecrated men and women of our dioceses whose lives fill us with admiration and hope. We think of our beloved laity who so generously support us with their time, their prayers, their resources and their love.
No, we are never on our own in our work as bishops. We are ever in communion with our particular Churches and the Universal Church as well (cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte, Chapter IV). It is this communion with our Divine Saviour and His Mystical Body that strengthened us daily and gives us the courage to continue our episcopal mission with unlimited hope. There are problems. There are reasons for genuine concern. But there is also Jesus Christ Whose Gospel we serve with delight for the hope of the world.
"It is very important to cross the threshold of hope, not to stop before it," our Holy Father reminded us in a delightful book of his, published seven years ago (cf. Crossing the Threshold of Hope, concluding Chapter entitled, "Be Not Afraid"). We listen to his words; we thank him for his leadership; and in union with him and Mary, the Mother of the Church whom he loves so dearly, we approach a threshold together and confidently cross it.
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After the break, the president delegate on duty pronounced the following words:
In giving the floor to Cardinal Egan, Archbishop of New York, I would like to reassure him, in the names of all present, that we are close to those in these days of terrible tragedy.
We still have before us the pictures of the Twin towers that fell after the gigantic terrorist attack and we know that the Archbishop of New York ran immediately to the two Towers to give comfort and to participate, also risking to be hit when they fell.
To him and his Archdiocese we assure all of our closeness and solidarity.
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The First Press Conference on the Synod Works (with simultaneous translation in Italian, English, French e Spagnolo) will be held in the John Paul II Hall of the Holy See Press Office, tooday Monday 1 October 2001 at 12.45 p.m..
The audio-visual operators (cameramen and technicians) and photographers are requested to apply to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications for their entry permit.
The authorised audio-visual operators are kindly requested to be in the John Paul II Hall 30 minutes before the beginning of the Press Conference; authorised photographers, 15 minutes before. Journalists are invited to take their seats in the Hall 5 minutes before the beginning of the Press Conference.
The following Synodal Fathers will be speaking:
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The first briefing for the language groups will take place tomorrow Tuesday, 2 October 2001 at 1:10 p.m., at the end of the Third General Congregation held in the morning (in the briefing locations and with the Press Officers indicated in Bulletin No. 2)
The audio-visual operators (cameramen and technicians) are kindly reminded that they must apply to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications for their entry permit (very restricted).
The second Information Pool for the Synod Hall will be created for the prayer at the opening of the Third General Congregation, Tuesday morning, 2 October 2001.
The lists for applying to the Information Pool are available to the editors at the Information and Accreditation Office of the Holy See Press Office (at the entrance on the right).
We would like to recall that the audio-visual operators (cameramen and technicians) and photographers are kindly requested to apply at the Pontifical Council for Social Communications to participate in the Information Pool at the Synod Hall.
We would also like to remind the participants in the Information Pool that they are kindly requested to be at the Press Area at 8:30 a.m., outside the entrance of the Paul VI Hall, when they will be called by name to enter the Synod Hall, always accompanied by an officer of the Holy See Press Office or from the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
The next Bulletin, No. 5, regarding the works of the Second General Congregation of the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be available to the accredited journalists on Tuesday 2 October 2001, at the opening of the Press Office of the Holy See
From Monday 1 October to Saturday, 6 October 2001, the Holy See Press Office will maintain the following opening hours:
Bulletin Synodus Episcoporum - X Ordinary
General Assembly - 2001