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Thursday 11 October 2001


In the Cenacle, the Apostles were only twelve, yet, although they had different characters, came from different environments and had their own different styles of practising

the one apostolate, they were joined in prayer and in the common solicitude to spread the Kingdom of God.

In this Synod Hall, we, today, are over 200 and, in the whole Church, the Episcopal College is formed by over 4,500 Prelates, of which the residential and Titular Bishops and the Bishops Emeritus.

We also all come from different experiences and it is therefore logical that we have different sensitivities.

In this situation, it is essential for the College of Bishops to keep a vital and operational unity through affective and effective bonds of strong collaboration with the Bishop of Rome and all the Brothers.

However, it will not be out of place to turn and reflect on the fact that, with the episcopal Ordination, we have all been counted in the one Coetus Episcopalis, which succeeds the College of the Apostles. The fact that each one is then destined to one office or another is certainly of secondary importance.

A short while back, it was rightly observed that before the local Church the universal Church existed, and this both ontologically and temporally.

By analogy, we can therefore say that each of us, through the episcopal Ordination was first of all inserted in the College of Bishops and has, therefore, the duty to feel he is a member of this body wherever he may be called to work. Likewise, one is a Bishop until death whatever ecclesial service may be required of us.

This Synod is truly a beautiful image of the great "episcopal mosaic", whose unity is wonderfully made up of so many different pieces.

Here, in fact, there are Representatives of 11 Eastern Catholic Churches (6 Patriarchs, 2 Archbishops Major and 3 Metropolitan Bishops). Delegates from the 112 Episcopal Conferences existing in the world today are present here, in addition to the Bishops elected directly by the Holy Father. There are also 25 Prelates who, in the respective Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, collaborate with the Supreme Pontiff in his solicitude for the universal Church.

Personally, I am part of this latter group of Bishops and I am pleased to notice the great collegial spirit which reigns in this hall.

To all the Brothers in the Episcopate, I wish to say that the 25 Bishops, who are responsible for the respective Dicasteries of the Roman Curia are constantly committed to fostering this spirit of fraternal collaboration with all the Bishops in the whole world, in the wake of the directives which the Holy Father has given us in the famous Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia of 28 June 1988 with the very significant title: Pastor Bonus.

The different origin of the Dicastery Heads facilitates the understanding of the pastoral realities in the different countries on earth. In fact, of us, 6 come from Italy and 6 from the Spanish language area; 3 are from English speaking countries and 3 from German speaking areas. Then there is Dicastery head for each of the following areas: French, Portuguese, Polish, Arabic, African, Japanese and Vietnamese.

The Pope then called a Patriarch to guide the Congregation for the Eastern Churches. All together we make the effort to give our contribution to better serve the Supreme Pontiff and, therefore the universal Church.

To the Brothers who work in the Dioceses allow me to ask not to demand impossible things from us who work in the Curia. We all have our limits. The Apostle told us counter-positions are not useful: ""Alter alterius onera portate!".

May this be the spirit of our common work, animated by the same flame of charity which Christ instilled into our hearts.

Lastly, I wish to assure you that this is also the spirit with which the Bishops sent by the Pope as His Nuncios and Apostolic Delegates work in the various Nations. Today, they are over one hundred, and some of them serve in very difficult situations.

And here I would like to pay tribute to the late Apostolic Nuncio in Papua - New Guinea, Archbishop Hans Schwemmer, of the Diocese of Regensburg, in Germany, who died on duty a few days ago, as well as to all those who, with great sacrifice, are working in the most needy and distant areas.

I am sure that, also on the part of the local Prelates the hard work of the Pontifical Representatives will be facilitated - inspired by the one purpose which unites us all: the ideal of spreading the Kingdom of God.

At the beginning of the Third Christian Millennium, the Episcopal College will appear before the world as said, as the College of the Apostles in the Cenacle appeared, and will bear strong witness of being truly "cor unum et anima una".

To conclude, may this be the Synod of unity.