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"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.
16 - 09.10.2001
At 09:00 a. m. today, Tuesday October 9th 2001, in remembrance of St Dionysius and Companions martyrs and in remembrance of St John Leonardi, priest, founder of the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God, in the presence of the Holy Father, with the prayer Hora Tertia, the Thirteenth General Congregation began for the continuation of the interventions of the Synod Fathers in the Hall on the Synodal theme: The Bishop: Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World. The President Delegate on duty was H. Em. Card. Bernard AGRE, Archbishop of Abidjan.
This General Congregation ended at 12.25 with the prayer Angelus Domini and 229 Fathers were present.
Below are the summaries of the interventions:
The pressing cry from developing countries today is an appeal for 'poverty alleviation'. Let the cry of these poor people be heard today by the international community and by the churches. They cry for a sign and gesture of hope because they are in a hopeless and helpless situation. Poverty is the root cause of a lot of misery. It reduces man to indignity, it makes him a victim of manipulations by the rich and the powerful, and it makes him voiceless. It is the cause of many injustices. Poverty can be of different types and levels. For us in the third world, the worst type of poverty is ignorance. It may be ignorance
in faith, ignorance in human and moral values, or it may be ignorance in the form of complete illiteracy or in the form of poor and half knowledge. Ignorance and illiteracy is an evil and threat for the poor in this century of globalization and technology because they will be victimized by competition. The ignorant and illiterate will be more and more marginalized and forgotten while the rich and educated are going to take the helm of the economic, social and political power. The poor will become poorer and the rich will become richer. Only the rich will go into high schools and universities, they will get employment, they will control the economy, they will get into politics, and when elections come, only the rich and the educated will have the chance to campaign and take leadership. Let us hope that this does not happen in our dioceses for even for the Church, there can come the danger of absorbing vocations for religious life and for priesthood from families, tribes or circles of the rich and better educated. There will come a moment when the poor, feeling voiceless and defenseless, will be forced to react against the rich and educated. It will lead to violent conflict. Ignorance and illiteracy have sometimes been the direct or indirect cause of conflicts and of violent fanaticism in some societies. At other times it was due to inequitably and discriminatory provision of education and distribution of social services to citizens of the same country. As Bishops we must bring hope to the world of the poor and ignorant. Let us invest in education and where possible let us coordinate our efforts with those of our governments. As brothers in Christ let us join efforts and resources to empower one another in fulfilling this mission of distributing the love of Christ through education for the poor. We have to defend their rights, justice, dignity and equality. They hunger for truth, for knowledge and for education. They suffer from discrimination and degradation. They need faith and the social teaching of the Church to get truth for their freedom. They need to form their consciences. They need good secular education to empower them and to restore their dignity. Our gratitude to the Dicasteries and to other Aid organizations for their support for education in our mission countries. Due thanks to the Bishops’ Conferences in Europe, the USA, and Australia for their financial support for the same. Next month the Tanzania Episcopal Conference will give degrees in Mass Communications, the first ever in the country, to the first 35 students who were wholly sponsored by the Italian Episcopal Conference. We say grazie to the CEI and the Church in Italy. The German Episcopal Conference and the German Government are funding the Diploma Courses in the new university and since ten years they send money through our Christian Social Services Commission to support Tanzanian Churches in a very serious ecumenical program to improve education and health services in the whole country. To you brother Bishops, and to the faithful of your dioceses, we say thank you. Please continue to support us. In the name of the poor, we appeal for more help. On our part, we are committed to sacrifice our lives for the poor, following the example of Our Lord Jesus Christ the good Shepherd.
[00210-02.04] [IN170] [Original text: English]
Vatican Council II has described the episcopal ministry from the viewpoint of the triple "munus": prophetic, priestly and real, the concrete exercise of which implies a great variety of tasks that the bishop must face in his diocese. This great range of concrete actions can lead to a dispersion in the exercise of his ministry, as a result of such disparate actions. Considering the bishop as "witness of Jesus Christ" can help focus on his ministry, a mission that underlies the exercise of the triple episcopal "munus". The decree Christus Dominus (No. 11) reminds us that "Bishops should devote themselves to their apostolic office as witnesses of Christ to all", fulfilling the instructions of the Lord to be His witnesses "not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria and indeed to the earth’s remotest ends" (Ac 1:8).
According to the Book of Acts, the condition for belonging to the group of the Twelve Apostles is having been a witness of the Risen One (cf. Ac 2:32; 3:15; 13:31) and having lived together with Him, after the Baptism by John until his Ascension into heaven (cf. Ac 1:22). As successors of the Apostles, the ?Bishops have the mission of being witnesses of the Risen One. It is fundamentally a matter of being witnesses of "The One".
The witnesses of Jesus are asked on occasion to bear witness before the authorities and courts, as Jesus had announced to the Apostles (Mk 13:9; Mt 10:18; Lk 21:13). The suffering undergone for witnessing Jesus lead to the enjoyment of hope (cf. Rm 12:12). St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, writes in a letter to his brother Cornelius, Bishop of Rome: "I cannot express how great my joy and merriment is in hearing about your victory and strength; about how you went before your brothers, confessing in the name of Christ, and how your confession, as head of your Church, was in turn strengthened by the confession of the brethren" (Cyprian, Letter 60, 1). The word might convince, but the example prompts us. The witness of the elder brothers in the episcopate is a stimulus for the younger bishops.
[00224-02.03] [in171] [Original text: Spanish]
I only wish to recall here some aspects of the Bishop’s mission which emerge more evidently in such a unique context, characterized by a scarce population diluted over an immense space. Our Churches are young in all the meanings of the word, generally they are of a human dimension as are also the populations of all these islands where nobody can pass unnoticed. The bishop is known by everybody, the permanence of his role strengthens the impression that he is personally part of the landscape, which is usually the case of those who are in responsible positions. Differently to the latter, he lives his responsibility in solitude; the nearest bishops are thousands of kilometers away. Together with his priests, religious, catechists and other committed lay faithful, he watches over the unity of that part of the people of God who have been entrusted to him. The service of the Word of God often takes on an ecumenical dimension or even a vaster one, especially in cases of social or political crisis. In addition, he must watch over the unity of the Church in its universal dimension; in our diocese the filial attachment to the successor of Peter is spontaneous. Collaboration with the Bishops in a spirit of collegiality is for all of us a very important support; it is exercised at least at four levels:
-the Episcopal Conference, in spite of distances and cultural difference
-Geographical or linguistic regions, which exist within the Episcopal Conference
-The ecclesiastic Provinces, whenever they have a real and sufficient base, something which is very hopeful but which unfortunately doesn’t always happen
- The links with the other Episcopal Conferences, in particular within the framework of the Federation of Episcopal Conferences of Oceania. Thus living in Ecclesiology of Communion both inside and outside of the diocese determines a practical tension which is part of life; one must continuously find the balance. A rational use of modern means of communication has modified our way of working together and has made possible what just 22 years ago was unthinkable, at the beginning of my Episcopate.
To conclude, in the name of my brothers of the Islands of Oceania, I wish to recall here an unforgettable moment when the Church, which is in Oceania has experienced as collegiality "cum Petro et sub Petro" .
We, who are far away, have neither been forgotten nor left aside by you, Holy Father, when you decided to also include Oceania amidst your continental synods. That synod for Oceania, to which were summoned all the bishops working for the four Episcopal Conferences of the region (Australia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, New Zealand, and CEPAC) was an unforgettable experience of collegiality for the participants but also a strong time of ecclesial participation for the numerous faithful, priests, religious and lay faithful of Oceania, who had studied the Lineamenta. Now in our region there is great expectation from the document which should present us the fruits of this Synod...
[00212-02.02] [in173] [Original text: French]
The true reform of the Church and the authentically Catholic reform of the episcopate have always been together in the history of the Church. Also in our times, which is of Vatican II. Also with special insistence. One of our most important centers of gravity of council teaching has been Theology of the Episcopate and canon and pastoral renewal of the figure and the ministry of the Bishop in the Church; through the doctrine of episcopal collegiality but also and with strong meaning of historical actuality, bringing to light the principle of sacrementality of the origin, foundation and content of the episcopal ministry.
Thirty-six years later, there have been many fruits of theoretical and practical development of collegiality within the structural realities. One has to ask whether the same has happened with the principle of sacrementality within living realities: growth in sanctity of all the members of the Church, of the greater vigour and apostolic and missionary dedication and also in the evangelization and sanctification of temporal realities. Answering this issue is the main challenge of this Synod. The answer cannot neglect an essential element: the widely spread crisis of faith in the old countries of Christian tradition which does not stop at the doors of Christian communities which "is also globalized".
The answer should pass through the service of the Bishop to the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ for the hope of the world, proclaiming it, teaching it, and showing it as its authentic witness to everybody: priests, consecrated people, lay faithful, theologians and to public opinion. This service will be possible to the Bishop if he cultivates personal love for Jesus Christ leaning on the prayers of the whole Church, especially the contemplative sisters of Saint Theresa and her two daughters: Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus and Saint Theresa Benedict of the Cross- Edith Stein-. "The Christian of the future will be mystical or will not be Christian" - Karl Rahner-.
[00223-02.03] [in174] [Original text: Spanish]
1.In the index of Instrumentum laboris we can notice many times the words "minister", "ministry", "servant", "service". It is a key word which wants to be a message of the Synod. The existential attitude of the service is a style of life which makes the Bishop’s mission a consistent reflection of Jesus, the Servant of God. In fact, he did not come to be served, but to serve (cf. Mk 10:45) and thus reveal the life of the Trinity. He called the apostles to follow him along this way: "Come, follow me!" This vocation echoes in the famous hymn of the Letter to the Philippians: "ekénosen," he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave (cf. Ph 2:6-8). A pro-existensia model. A summa of the service. A splendid model of the bishop-servant "pursuing not selfish instruments but those of others" (cf. Ph 2:5).
2. This reality of the bishop-servant is not to be intended in an individualistic way almost as though the bishop were a kind of "private entrepreneur". In carrying out his task, he is tied to those whom he serves and, first and foremost, for collegiality to the Pope and to the other bishops. Speaking to a group to Bishops, John Paul II stated: "The Lord Jesus (...), did not call the disciples to an individual succession but inseparably personal and a community nature. (...) A renewed proclamation of the Gospel cannot be consistent and effective, if not accompanied by a strong spirituality of Communion." (Osservatore Romano 17/2/95).
In the life of the bishop, these two realities are therefore closely linked; his ministry and spirituality of communion. The personal attitude of being servant and the primary duty of building communion through the ministry walk hand in hand. Therefore the bishop "fosters and guarantees the active, sanctifying presence of Christ in the midst of His Church" (Instrumentum laboris, no. 51).
This priority of communion is a sign of the times recognized by the Popes and the ecclesial teaching and confirmed by the Spirit through the flourishing of the new Movements. With their radically evangelic life, these Movements are committed to spread a spirit of communion at all levels in the Church and in society.
3.Many of us have received an individual or individualistic education and now we feel these challenges: to be ministers in the style of the kenosi, builders of communion with a spirituality which is not only individual but also personal and a community nature. This requires an exercise in "continuous formation" also for the bishops.
4.As a true servant of the Word, Mary personifies the total "pro-existence" and thus is a model of the ministers of the Gospel. May she be our Hodighitria - she who shows us life.
[00213-02.02] [in175] [Original text: Italian]
1. Vatican Council II showed the urgency for prophetic commitment of the Bishop and of the Episcopal College: to proclaim the Gospel is our priority. It entrusted us with the responsibility to be "vigilant of the Christian Faith". But the Magisterium can only exert itself in a climate of "benevolence". The apostles which we are, must first of all commit themselves to meet the other as another. We are not the religious of the Book, but the believers in He who is the Word of God.
2. Today in our country, France, there are places and environments where the Gospel is ignored. Jesus Christ is a stranger We need evangelizers. Let’s take an example: I am the Bishop, Prelate of the Mission of France, a community of secular priests who are mostly "priests of professional work". One must find for them the way to meet and have dialogue. One will have to risk for them daily sharing and welcoming that part of truth which nourishes the other, the non-Christian neighbor, in his intimate existence. God precedes the testimony of the Gospel.
3. The time for prayer and missionary team life allows work of intelligence of Faith and theological search which makes an effort to say the Faith of always in the languages and cultures of today. This is where the responsibility of the bishop intervenes. He becomes the artisan of faith, lived in fidelity to the message. The service of the episcopal Magisterium must first and foremost be achieved by work of accompaniment of listening, of support, of questioning, of elaboration, of proposition, of discernment, of resourcing, with those whom the Bishop sends in mission as apostles. It is they who give back to the Church its concrete ability to show the theological and anthropological pertinence of Christian Mysteries. The bishop is apostle with them.
[00214-02.02] [in176] [Original text: French]
The ecumenical issue is not an accessory. It is in the centre of the pastoral work of the bishop. The ecumenical commitment is one of the great challenges of the beginning of the new millennium. The most important fruit of the ecumenical dialogue of the past 35 years is refound brotherhood of all Christians. But today we find ourselves facing new challenges. We realise that the ecumenical way will still be long and difficult.
We must reflect on the way according to which we can responsibly structure the current intermediate period. We cannot yet join together around the same table of the Lord, but we could already do together far more than we already do.
1. Ecumenism of life. Not in the sense of something which is added to ecumenical activity, but of an ecumenism of daily life. 2. Reception and formation. It would already be a great step if the valid results of ecumenical dialogues were acknowledged everywhere. This requires ecumenical formation for the lay faithful, for priests and also for bishops. 3. Ecumenism ad intra. We must achieve spirituality of communion first of all in ourselves and make our Church welcoming to other Churches and ecclesial Communities. We must therefore create a better equilibrium in communion between local Churches and the universal Church. 4. The ‘ecumene’ as a spiritual commitment. We cannot "do" or organise unity; unity is a gift of the Spirit. We must be ecumenically united in our prayer for unity, and we must pray , as the apostles did with Mary for the Spirit of God to descend upon us for the advent of a new Pentecost.
[00211-02.03] [ln172] [Original text: Italian]
Enlightened by faith, we can say that our fundamental and universal vocation is the acceptance recognising the merciful gift of this adoptive divine filiation in Christ and of this brotherhood among ourselves. A brotherhood without frontiers which neither comes from the blood nor the will of man, not even from social option but rather from God Himself. The service of the Gospel for the hope of the world is, no doubt, that of brotherhood and solidarity in the human family.
Necessary for eternal health, accessible to all men and women of good will, the way of adoptive divine filiation is inseparably ;linked to the one of brotherhood. In fact, in his sovereign freedom, the Lord want that those who love his Name to also love His image.
Reading of the Bible helps us to see that since the beginning the God of creation presented himself as God for man and with man. Having created him in his image, He made him his first love on the earth, the value number one in the world.
The Apostle St Peter presents the Saviour of the world as our peace. And peace, we know this well, is living together and acting together. It is mutual acceptance and mutual acknowledgement in the equality of human dignity. Peace is communion of hearts united in the awareness of one origin and in concerted effort to get to the top of one destination in the present time, as well as beyond time in eternity. I am speaking of integral peace, the one of the children of God. It is fraternal solidarity which the Lord gained for us on the throne of the cross. And what could be more contrary than to make war in order to finish with war? War is death, it is separation, it will never build living together and even less acting together.
Peace is dialogue, it is mutual listening and patiently resuming, as John Paul II told us in his Messages for the World Day of Peace, in particular in the one of 1985, entitled: IF YOU WISH PEACE GO TO THE POOR.
Dialogue is part of the wisdom of nations and reveals the meaning of history. To illustrate the good grounds of this statement, I wish to draw your attention to the document which I have just quoted. The Holy Father refers to the 150 armed conflicts after the great world war. They did not lead to justice and even less so to peace. To make peace, the belligerent people should have enter a dialogue. Since then, what could be more contrary to peace than excluding the enemy and refusing dialogue. For those who wish to make war perennial, there will always be pretexts against the enemy. However, whole countries will be condemned to depopulation, and fundamental freedoms will be given up in the hands of the strongest, putting the great majority in the towline of history.
In a chapter entitled "The Wealth of knowledge", a historian on economics wrote: "Institutions and culture first; money next; but from the beginning and increasingly, the payoff was to knowledge"" that is to say, institutions and culture first of all; money afterwards: but what relates to a long time is knowledge. Here we touch a neuralgic point of the dignity of peoples, including everything of world Peace. In fact, education conditions progress. This is a synonym of Peace. In the name of the poor and of evangelical solidarity, I beg you brothers of the "developed" world: come to our aide. Let’s build Peace and Progress together in solidarital fraternity. Thank you.
[00215-02.02] [ln177] [Original text: French]
My intervention here is in reference to chapter II, ns. 35 and the following of the Instrumentum Laboris, namely the ecclesial images of the Bishop drawn on the image of Christ.
I would be labouring the obvious if I tried to elaborate on the images of the Bishop in the Church as they are drawn heavily on the image of Christ. In fact, the Instrumentum Laboris is doing this in the chapter referred to. I should like to note that the multifaceted images of Christ himself as we see in the NT have emerged from the reality of his personality and from the various roles he played in his redemptive mission given by His Father. The inference is clear. Though the image of the Bishop in the Church is rooted in his divine vocation to the Episcopal ministry and described in line with the image of Jesus Christ, it is concretely shaped by the roles he plays in fulfilling this ministry. This would require of us to distinguish the ideal image he ought to bear from the actual image he acquires in the exercise of his ministry . The Instrumentum Laboris is certainly giving us, and rightly so, the ideal picture of the Bishop in the Church. In other words, it describes what is the nature and mission of the Episcopal office in the Church as designed in the economy of salvation. In this context, I am reminded of a story. Once there was a funeral ceremony. Many funeral speeches were made and some in glowing terms glorified the deceased. At the end of them, the wife of the deceased was so confused that she asked her son to go and check if it is truly his father that lies in the coffin.
In our effort to effect the renewal of our Episcopal ministry it is important and necessary to find out what actually is the image of the Bishop that has emerged in concrete in the course of the history of the Episcopal ministry in the Church and if it has been distorted. If we discover a discrepancy between the ideal and actual, it is time to focus our attention on the ways and means for removing the anomaly. In this context, we may do well if we look into the past, examining closely if the roles the Bishops had undertaken, or imposed on them, have distorted the original image they ought to have had in the exercise of their Episcopal ministry, as commissioned by Jesus Christ himself or as stipulated by the Apostles in the formation of the Apostolic Churches and communities namely, teaching and baptizing with divine authority the peoples of all nations (Mt. 28:18f), doing the ministry in love of Jesus (Jn. 21:15f), shepherding God's flock more by the example of life rather than lording it over them (1 Pt. 5:1f), cultivating the Christian virtues in a life of Faith (1 Tim. 5:1f). It is also worthwhile to check if we inherit some distorted images of the office of Bishop in the Church shaped by the cultural and socio-political factors that influenced the institutional set up of the Church in various parts of the world.
In discussing the image of the Bishop as shaped by the exercise of his Episcopal ministry, we may point out the significant role our people have in the process. In fact, their concepts, persuasions and perceptions have a considerable influence in the process of formation of the image of the Bishop. The role of the Bishop for and amidst them should be relevant for them both in their life on earth and after.
Speaking for India, our people whatever be their race, language or religion, cherish the image of a Bishop as a man of God, with tremendous spiritual power, we may call it Spirit-filled, far above the worldly to subdue its power and allurements, categorically standing out as a constant reminder of the presence of the divine in and for the world, an image true only to Jesus Christ and yet accessible to his disciples who have received in abundance the Holy Spirit and his powerful gifts.
[00216-02.04] [IN178] [Original text: English]
In many parts of the world today, and more especially in the older Churches of the West, there is acute decline in priestly and religious vocations. On the other hand, the number of young people who feel called to the priesthood is on the increase. Many people call it Vocation Boom. These third world countries where this increase is prevalent, have a high birth rate. The reason for this increase is not just because of poverty or lack of employment as some people may infer. A good number of vocations are to be found in the families of the middle class in these areas. In any case, Christ recruited his apostles from the lowly in society. Persecutions of the early Christians helped to spread the Gospel. In the same way, God can use the refugee problems and hardship in the poor countries to supply the spiritual needs of the older Churches.
It is painful for a Bishop to turn away many genuine vocations simply because he does not need them. The Church which is figured as THE FAMILY OF GOD should rejoice in the gifts of her members and benefit from them.
Bishops in those areas that lack vocations should feel free to approach their brother bishops with plenty of vocations for help, while assisting them to train these priests. This will really be applying communion and mission co-operation in practice. Ad Gentes, Redemptoris Missio and Ecclesia in Africa, are clear on this point. One should not be deterred by the fact that some cases exist of some priests who refuse to come back to their home dioceses after their studies in Europe and North America, nor of some priests that get into trouble. One should not lose sight of many priests from the Mission countries who are missionaries to other third world countries of Africa, Asia and the Caribbean Islands under difficult conditions.
There seems to be the tendency of the media to blow problems of priests of the Mission territories out of proportion and context, and often generalized. This does not do any good to the image of the Church , rather it is a calculated attempt to ridicule the Church and her disciple on celibacy. While not condoning the bad behavior of some priests in Africa and elsewhere, it must be strongly noted that there are very many priests who are living out the evangelical councils and bearing witnesses to the faith.
[00217-02.04] [IN179] [Original text: English]
I give my reflections inspired by numbers 24, 96 and 141 of the Instrumentum Laboris.
No.24 says: "In the future, the Church of the third millennium will slowly see a shifting of the centre of the Catholic population towards Africa and Asia, where, as witnessed also in Latin America, young Churches are being established full of fervour and vitality and rich in vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life, a situation which oftentimes helps the scarcity of vocations in the West."
This is a prophetic statement which gives great hope to the Church. While the old tree may see its vitality diminishing, the vitality of its young saplings is or should be a cause of rejoicing, for it is from its seed that the young are sprouting. The missionary endeavours of the Churches of the West during the just ended millennium are slowly starting to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God.
In order not to allow the marauding birds of the air to reap where they have not sown, the youth, the young people who are more than 60% of the population of these countries, must be specially attended to. They are the future of the Church and humanity. A minister of hope cannot do any better than construct the future with those to whom the future has been entrusted.
Investment in the youth, investment in the young people, investment in the young Churches could be one the priorities of the whole Church as Family of God, in the third millennium.
There is however a new phenomenon affecting the populations of these young Churches and their young population. This is the menace of the disease Aids that has yet no medical cure. The young populations of these young Churches are particularly hit by this disease. There is a generation of orphans who are losing hope in life after losing their parents to the Aids pandemic. Like sheep without a shepherd, a number of orphans, lacking parental support turn to millenarian sects which exploit their credulity leading to terrible consequences like at Kanungu, in South Western Uganda, in March 2000.
In the current situation, the Bishop, mindful of his title as Father and Defender of the Poor, must be near these orphans so that they may at least acquire life skills for their future.
Like the lame man at the gate of the Temple (Acts 3), these orphans look to us as we go to the Temple and to our Churches.
Like Peter and John at that time, it will give hope to the young people especially the orphans if we can tell them: "Look at usSilver and gold we may not have, but we have Jesus who is greater than those." The Successor of Peter has told us in the name of Jesus: "Duc in altum". Let us invest in the youth, let us invest in the young Churches. They will soon grow and join us in praising God.
[00218-02.04] [IN180] [Original text: English]
The communion of bishops has an enormous value and for this task of announcement and of communication of the Gospel for the hope of the world, that the Pope has assigned as the central theme of reflection for this synodal assembly. I would like, in particular, to underline that the first form of communication and proclamation of the Gospel is precisely, communion.
Between communion and communication, in effect, there exists a very close correlation which, already intuited and also described by Saint Thomas Aquinas (as shows the study of his lemma communio/communicare/communicatio made with the auxillary of the Index Thomisticus prepared by p. R. Busa S.J.), is today more and more highlighted in the anthropological studies and in the sciences of communication. Communication, in fact, is not foremost transmission of information and news, but, and more profoundly, on an onthologic level, opening and gift of oneself to another. That is communion.
All this may be brought back to its own level in the life of the Church and referred to the task, entrusted by Jesus to his Apostles, to proclaim the Gospel to all creatures until the ends of the earth. I would simply like to affirm that one proclaims the Gospel not only by the word, but also with communion.
To explain myself I would like to cite a passage of the Regula non bullata of Saint Francis of Assisi, whose figure so informed by apostolic life has already been recalled in our Assembly. In the text it is written thus: "The brothers that go among the infidels may act between themselves in two ways. One way is that they do not have any fights or disputes, but are subjects to every human creature for the love of God (cf. 1Pt 2:13) and they confess to be Christians. The other way is that, when they see that it pleases the Lord, they proclaim the word of God..." (ch. 16).
This franciscan norm, which highlights the evangelizing force of brotherhood, I consider also applied to the communio episcoporum and I would like to do with an expression of Paul VI, that I truly believe is pertinent: when "agreed and united work", the episcopal collegiality will appear to him "pushed by the breath of the Holy Spirit, to give a testimony to Christ and to his Gospel, to continue in the world the missionary thrust of Redemption, to radiate the truth that, emanating from the heart of the Father, is shining on the face of Christ...(cf. 2Cor 4:6)" (Alloc. In this phase of 24/5/1976). ????
[00219-02.04] [in181] [Original text: Italian]
1. Sanctity and the Episcopal Ministry
I was consecrated a Bishop very recent1y, on the 15 of August, and as I start my ministry what stimulates me most is the testimony of so many of our predecessors as successors of the Apostles. As I reflect and meditate on the lives of our predecessors, one fact strikes me very much: they grow in sanctity as they go about their task of teaching, serving and especially loving the People of God to whom they were sent. It is through the exercise of our ministry and not apart from it that we sanctify ourselves. And as we sanctify ourselves we enter, each day, each year, more fully into the ministry that is ours. We need of course to take time off for prayer and for our own continuous formation, to re-centre our lives on Christ, the one and only Good Shepherd. He sends us back to the flock reinvigorated and reminding us how he tirelessly ministered to the people on whom he had pity because they were like a flock without a shepherd.
2. Participative ministry
We read in the book of Exodus, Chapter 18, that on the advice of his father-in-law, Moses chose 70 elders to help him in the task of ministering to the needs of the people of God. Perhaps this is the first reference to what we call today "participative ministry". As the demands on our limited time and resources grow in a world that is each day more complex, perhaps like Moses we too need to pay more attention to this participative model of ministry, not only from a practical point of view but again for more ecclesiological reasons: others, both ordained and instituted ministers, share in our pastoral ministry and are to be associated with it.
3. Episcopal Conferences
My Diocese of Port-Victoria, The Seychelles, is an island Diocese. Like many other similar Dioceses, it is small and isolated, with limited human resources. In this situation the help of fellow Bishops in the Episcopal Conference is of vital importance. The sharing between Bishops, the mutual support, as well as the concrete collaboration for specific projects is essential if we are to develop the life of the Church in our part of the world. The development of Episcopal Conferences in the Church since the Second Vatican Council is a blessing and it is with great interest that I will participate in the debate engaged at this Synod about their development and their specific status as an expression of the collegiality of the Bishops.
[00220-02.04] [IN182] [Original text: English]
Speaking of the minister of government of the bishops, Instrumentum laboris (nos. 117 ss.) affirms that "one of the forms of which one explains the pastoral charity, therefore, it is the compassion, in the imitation of Christ."
It is treated with an intelligent compassion, that "may not be separated from the truth of Christ." Not remaining free from the "canon law of the Church". The authority, according to the Gospel, embraces a two-fold dimension, maternal and paternal. The maternal dimension corresponds to a capacity for empathy, while that the paternal one consists in the capacity to propose the truth, determining ways and establishing rules of behavior.
Jesus gets "closer" to the Father. "Abba" is the maximum synthesis of a grace that we disciples of Christ dare to pronounce in a stuttering way. This is the Gospel of Hope closer and fuller, that jumps for joy til the end of the hidden recesses of the empty and bored soul, submerged in the nausea or "enjoyed"in the mirage of consumerist society.
In this "society without a father" and with multiple situations of "abandonment", the theme of our synodal debate appears to be extremely real and urgent. Who does not want the vigourous hug of a father, who instead of an accusatory look will be able to celebrate because the son that was abandoned came home?
Will they find the "orphans" and the "abandoned" of this way, this Hope through our episcopal minister? Jesus prays especially for us so that we will have our experience of the disciples in which resides his Spirit: "I shall not leave you orphans" (Jo 14:18: cf. Is 49:14-15).
[00225-02.03] [in183] [Original text: Spanish]
With regards to the theme "The bishop and the special care for priests" (Instrumentum laboris 86-88) attention has been called on the attempt to develop permanent formation in our dioceses, which we began two years ago and thanks to which until now we have had extraordinarily positive experiences.
Our diocese is a small one, with about one hundred priests in 70 parishes. The priests of the diocese, diocesans and religious persons, go to the episcopate every year for one week. They pray, eat and celebrate the Eucharist with their bishop, also available for community or personal dialogue. Thus they make a community experience with their fellow brethren who work for the same Kingdom of God and fight against the same difficulties.
The concrete program for the first year foresees conferences on pastoral-liturgical themes, which the bishop himself holds with his priests. The second year, those same priests organize their own program, while the celebration of the Eucharist and of the Liturgy of Hours, remain communal, as well as the meals. The most important theological library is available for the studies in a reading room. We call the weeks of the first year "week of cloister", those of the second year "sabbatical week".
Each group is constituted by the episcopal Ordinariate, based on options. During the summer months, the seminarians stay home. A visit by to the bishop emeritus is also included in the program.
Concluding I would like to make an appeal to our fellow brothers of our Episcopal Conference. Evermore often the priests of our country, especially in Western Europe, try to take charge of these dioceses, without their Ordinary knowing about it. We would ask you to contact us before taking any decisions regarding this matter.
[00241-02.03] [in184] [Original text: German]
Even if, after the enthusiasm of the following years of Vatican II, the Ecumenic Dialogue in apparently does not respond sufficiently to the expectations of Christian people, and it is truly believed that much is done in this area, with many Hearts of hope.
In addition what every bishop tries to do in this sense in his Eparchy—and what makes the Council of the Churches of the Near East, of which is part of the Catholic Church, our annual symposium of seven Eastern Catholic Patriarchs invites our Orthodox Patriarch brothers—Greek, Syrian, and Armenian—to a day of brotherly meeting, and they voluntarily respond willingly. Many of their pastoral points have been settled (Baptism, marriage, teaching of the catechism) and some problems that divided them were resolved. The dialogue of life has been established among the Heads and the faithful of the different Orthodox and Catholic Churches. Besides, in our last annual meeting that happened last month, our Patriarch Orthodox brothers had insisted that there should have been another fraternal meeting during the year.
Certainly, the question of the Primate of the Soverign Pontiff of Rome remains a rock for our Orthodox brothers. However we pray and put all our trust in the work of the Holy Spirit, and we hold a strong hope that the Holy Father John Paul II, who humbly asks to be helped with the tasks of Peter to guide the Church during these ecumenical questions which are so delicate, to find a just and fair conclusion so that, like Christ, the Good Shepherd, can "gather together into one the scattered children of God" (Jn 11:52).
[00242-02.04] [in185] [Original text: French]
I wish to draw the attention of this august gathering to the challenges of dialogue and collaboration with people of the Islamic faith, from the experience of the Bishops of Nigeria.
The bishops of Africa gathered in Synod with the Pope in 1994 affirmed that in Africa, Islam is a difficult but necessary partner in dialogue. I believe this is true for the universal Church as well, as recent clamorous events have highlighted, powerfully and tragically. Islam is now in the front line of world attention.
On the level of the world Church, there has been an appreciable attention to the world of Islam. The Holy Father, especially during his pastoral visits to many parts of the world, supported by the Roman decastery for Inter-religious Dialogue, has been doing marvelous work in the promotion of Christian-Muslim dialogue. However, these moves at the top level need to be complimented, balanced and confirmed by appropriate action at the local levels.
In most countries, there is an Islamic presence to some degree. In some nations it is dominant and dominating. Countries, which seem to have made religious intolerance and fanaticism the basis of state policy, should not be allowed to continue to get away with gross violation of human rights, in the name of religion.
Our country, Nigeria presents a privileged situation of Christian-Muslim dialogue and collaboration, with our population of about 120 million almost equally split between Christians and Muslims. Most of the time we actually live in peace and harmony with one another, as we face together the challenges of building a nation that is free, just and prosperous.
There are however occasions every now and again when friction and conflict flare up, at times violent and bloody. These difficulties arise from two main reasons; the utterances and activities of fanatics, sometimes on both sides, and the manipulation of politicians who misuse religion for selfish purposes. The attempt to impose the Sharia as state law is a case in point. Our response to all these challenges include deepening the faith, patient dialogue and cornmitment to the pursuit of the common good. We are full of hope that, with God's grace, despite everything, we can still make our nation a model of a harmonious and just Christian-Muslim community, for the world to emulate.
[00243-02.05] [in186] [Original text: English]
1 - The Church - the Family of God ferment of the new world
After the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops convened in 1994 by Pope John Paul II, the dioceses of Burkina, in the wake of the dynamism of organic pastoral solidarity, of ecclesial communion and of missionary cooperation, they went ahead between 1997 to 2000 to celebrate each diocesan Synod. This collegial approach, animated by the firm conviction of belonging to the same Family Church of God, was concluded by the celebration of the inter-diocesan Synod at national level where this pastoral orientation came out: the Family Church of God, ferment of a new world.
In an ecclesiology of communion and mission, it is a matter of constructing a family type Church through the structure of the basic Christian community (B.C.C.) built on the model of the Holy Trinity, of the first Christian communities in the Acts of the Apostles and in the positive values of the African family.
"The Church can only progress by strengthening the links of communion with its members, starting from its pastors" (E.I.A. No.17). Taking into account this perspicacious assertion of the Holy Father, the two main Conferences of West Africa, that is to say A.E.C.A.W.A. (English speaking) and the C.E.R.A.O. (French speaking), met in Ouagadougou from 16 to 19 November 2000 on the theme: "Build the Family Church of God in West Africa: challenges and resources at the threshold of the third millennium".
The Bishops of the sub-region celebrated and reaffirmed their communion and set the grounds to meet and tackle together the multiple and complex challenges of Africa: missionary cooperation, regional integration, promotion for peace, solidarity and fraternity.
2 - The Bishop as Hope for the new world
For the new world to emerge, it is necessary to open ways of evangelization, but even more so apostolic agents who are well formed, who are numerous and who are saints. Hence the importance of pastoral work for vocations: the support for small and big seminaries for the formation of future priests, the formation and life of catechists...To this effect cooperation among the Churches is more and more necessary.
In addition, solidarity within the Family Church of God is urgent to foster gradual self-funding of the poor Churches.
This perspective would be an illusion if Christians, starting from the pastors, did not take ownership of the Strength of the Good News...The Strength to love.
"One can exaggerate in everything except in Love" (Frère Charles de Foucauld).
[00227-02.02] [lm187] [Original text: French]
The eighth briefing for the language groups will take place tomorrow, Wednesday October 10th 2001 at 13:10 (in the briefing locations and with the Press Officers indicated in Bulletin No. 2).
We would like to remind the audio-visual operators (cameramen and technicians) to request the access permit (restricted) from the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
The eighth pool for the Synod Hall will be formed for the opening prayer of the Sixteenth General Congregation of Thursday morning, October 11h 2001.
The list for registration to the pool is available to the editors at the Information and Accreditation Office of the Press Office of the Holy See (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 to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications to participate in the information pool for 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 respectively by an officer of the Holy See Press Office and from the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
The next Bulletin No. 17, regarding the works of the Fourteenth General Congregation of the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of this afternoon will be available to the accredited journalists tomorrow morning Wednesday 10 October 2001, at the opening of the Holy See Press Office.
Bulletin Synodus Episcoporum - X Ordinary
General Assembly - 2001