VATICAN CITY, OCT. 15, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Following yesterday’s disconcerting announcement in the synod chamber that a father from an Eastern Church had forgotten his miter at Monday afternoon’s concert in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, we learned this morning that a pectoral cross of one of the Latin Rite fathers -- most likely an archbishop -- had been found in the synod hall.
The owner was invited to come forward and identify the pectoral cross before the Pope joined us later in the day. Needless to say, both announcements helped to lighten the mood, and allowed us to realize that forgetfulness is not limited to Eastern Church leaders.
The morning consisted of the last round of interventions from cardinals and bishops participating in the synod. I would like to make reference to two of the five-minute addresses from this morning’s congregation.
Salesian Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong spoke in perfect Italian about how the seeds of the Word of God are sown among a people who enjoy a “wisdom culture.” The cardinal spoke of the harmony that exists among the six religions in his country. He also said that the religious groups work together, not so much to formalize interreligious dialogue, but rather to unite to preserve the precious legacy of Chinese wisdom.
“The Church,” said Cardinal Zen, has always found an ally in the wisdom of Confucius. Cardinal Zen offered this wise advice to his international audience: “If we are moved by charity and are able to instill in the younger generation the Chinese virtues of […] fidelity, honesty, shame, then we would have helped them make a great step toward holiness.”
When these virtues are missing from the lives of the Chinese people, he added, there is a frightening decline if the sacred values of life, marriage and the family. He also pointed to the rise of blatant corruption, the silencing of the voice of conscience and the willingness to do anything to make a profit. Here he gave the example of the recent milk contamination scandal in China that resulted in the death of four infants and serious illness for tens of thusands of others.
Italian Cardinal Giovanna Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, offered a reflection that I think should be sent out to every bishop throughout the world. Drawing from the Second Vatican Council's dogmatic constitution “Lumen Gentium,” Cardinal Re spoke about the principle role of the bishop as being a “herald of the word of God, an authentic doctor, invested with the authority of Christ, one who points out the word and passes it on to others; a master who faithfully keeps this word, a witness who proclaims it even with the example of his own life."
The cardinal ended his presentation leaving us with a very compelling image. He evoked the significant moment during the episcopal ordination ceremony when the open book of the Gospels is held over the head of the newly ordained bishop, who is kneeling beneath the open book. Cardinal Re went on to say that the entire ministry of the bishop is placed under the word of God, with the unique purpose of announcing the word, proclaiming it and living it with fidelity.
He said the image of the open book of the Gospels suggests a roof that has been placed over a house: “The Word of God is for (us) bishops the home from which we leave each morning to go and meet the flock that has been entrusted to us and the home to which we return each night.
"The word is that sure roof under which we find shelter in the storms of life and it is that intimate place where our relationships, memories and sentiments, as well as our anxieties and pastoral concerns come together, allowing us to find in Christ refreshment for our soul and the energy to face the problems and challenges associated with our ministry.”
As Cardinal Re spoke these words, I noticed many synod fathers quietly nodding their heads in agreement.
I have always had great respect and admiration for Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the archbishop of Quebec and the relator-general of this world Synod of Bishops on the Word of God. What he did today in the Aula, in the presence of the entire assembly and Benedict XVI, was a real “tour de force” that left many people spellbound.
He had already delivered the opening talk of the synod in Latin last Monday, in which he outlined the major themes and directions of the present synod. This evening he delivered -- in flawless Latin -- a 70-minute talk called the "Relatio post disceptationem" (the lecture following the discussion).
Most people would need a month to process everything we have heard over the past 10 days in the synod hall. Some bishops present here said that they couldn’t even imagine pulling together the myriad of thoughts, suggestions, ideas that have emerged from this international group. Quebec’s cardinal and his team worked nonstop for the past two days in pulling together much of the data of over 200 synodal interventions.
The result was a masterful, thoughtful, comprehensive presentation that begins the next phase of the synod and the formulation of the propositions that are presented to the Pope next week. These propositions, among which is one that is favored by Benedict XVI, are subsequently used as the foundation for the post-synodal apostolic exhortation.
Among the new items that have come from this synod are the excellent summary questions for reflection that are found at the end of each section of Cardinal Ouellet’s 38-page report. Later this week I will share those questions with you in this diary.
Tomorrow a special press conference in the Vatican Press Center will formally present the "Relatio," and a team of cardinals and bishops who are involved in key positions of the assembly will answer questions from the world press corps.
The panel consists of Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, Australia (World Youth Day fame); Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, archbishop of São Paulo, Brazil; Cardinal Peter Turkson, archbishop of Cape Coast, Ghana; Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Ireland; and Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Imus, the Philippines. What a lineup!
Finally, this daily diary has reached out to people across the globe, many of whom have written to me or to ZENIT in Rome to let us know that “it feels like we are in the synod hall watching this great event unfold.” That was the whole idea: to share world experience of great significance with the universal Church.
This would never have been possible with the support and encouragement the ZENIT news service and of many people working in the Vatican who recognize the power of words and communication.
We cannot hide this light under a bushel, as we often do with so many good stories in the Church. Time does not permit personal responses to the tons of messages arriving each day. Know that you are remembered, however, in prayer at the tomb of St. Peter, and of many other great people who fill that sacred space under St. Peter's Basilica.
Stay tuned for more words on the Word!
* * *
Basilian Father Thomas Rosica is the Vatican's English-language press attache for the 2008 world Synod of Bishops. A Scripture scholar and university lecturer, he is the chief executive officer of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and Television Network in Canada, and a member of the General Council of the Congregation of St. Basil.