Now that more than 200 synod fathers, guests and auditors delivered their five-minute presentations, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet presented his "relatio post disceptationem," or summary of the proposals, the world Synod of Bishops moved into the next phase.
The assembly must now compose propositions, which will either be accepted or rejected by Benedict XVI, and if accepted, could become the basis for his post-synodal apostolic exhortation.
This is the nitty-gritty of the worldwide gathering that involves everyone at the synod -- cardinals, bishops, experts, auditors, fraternal delegates, the dedicated people running the synod secretariat and the hidden translators working feverishly in the "fungo" (media center) -- to accomplish a rather Herculean task. Any outsider peering into the process might wonder several things:
1) How can anyone possibly bring order out of the universal mishmash of ideas, suggestions, urgencies and proposals? In biblical imagery -- not a bad idea for this synod -- the process seemed rooted in Genesis 1 when the earth was null and void and chaos reigned.
2) Is this some kind of exercise in futility? What purpose does this serve? How do you move from the Tower of Babel of Genesis to the New Jerusalem of the book of Revelation in three days? Isn’t the Pope going to do whatever he pleases, synod or no synod?
3) The observant eye might also catch a glimpse of another Genesis theme: despite the chaos, “the Spirit of God hovered gently over the waters of the earth.”
And suddenly in the synod hall, that booming voice was heard once again: “'Padri Sinodali,' let there be propositions … to present to the Pope later tonight.”
Benedict XVI sat at the head table and smiled benevolently upon us. On the other hand, Croatian Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, was his usual calm and jovial self on the surface. But he was probably silently invoking all of the 280 saints and the 1338 blessed who were canonized and beatified by Pope John Paul II for immediate divine help with the synodal interventions and reports.Working questions
Cardinal Ouellet’s “'relatio' after the small talks" invited general comments from the assembly, especially in response to some of the questions with which he ended his masterful report. The questions were by no means exhaustive. Here are a few of those questions to allow you to understand the framework for our discussions.
How can we help the faithful to understand better that the Word of God is Christ, the incarnate Word of God? How can we go deeper in the dialogue dimension of Revelation in theology and in Church practice?How can we educate people in a living hearing of the Word of God, in the Church, for all people and every cultural level?How can we educate people in lectio divina?Is it possible to revise the Lectionary and modify the selections of the readings from the Old and New Testament?How can we help people to better understand the intrinsic link between the Word and the Eucharist?What means should be adopted for the translation and spreading of the Bible among the greatest possible number of cultures, in particular among the poor?How can we foster and encourage a good relationship between exegetes, theologians and pastors, and stimulate collaboration among them?How can the search for the unity of Christians and dialogue with the Jews be developed more around the Word of God?How can interreligious dialogue and the dogmatic affirmation of Christ, sole mediator, be reconciled?
After another round of linguistic group meetings, led by the previously elected moderators and reporters, lists were drawn up with responses, ideas, desires that would feed into the next stage.
Reporters from each of the twelve linguistic groups -- English, French, Spanish, German and Italian -- spent most of last night hammering out the first round of proposals and suggestions that were presented to the general assembly this morning by each relator.
From those reports, a mosaic has begun to emerge about the significance of this synod and why it was so badly needed at this time in the life of the Church and the world.Simplicity
French Archbishop Pierre-Marie Joseph Carré of Albi summed up very well what his group -- and many synod fathers -- are thinking and speaking these days in Rome: "Biblical renewal in the Catholic Church is still recent. […] We must work harder to make this great text better known.
"Simple propositions are necessary so that the Bible becomes the spiritual nourishment of all the members of the Church."
Speaking for his French-language group, but also for many gathered at the synod, Archbishop Carré offered some suggestions or propositions:
A reading of Scripture should start in the family and continue in biblical evenings of gatherings in the parish.We must teach a real listening of the Word of God.We should appeal to all pedagogical means, online support, including Internet, to simplify the understanding of the more difficult biblical passages.We would like to see a revision of the lectionary.We could envision extraordinary ministers of the Word, catechists, readers, animators of grassroots communities.There is an intrinsic link between the Eucharist and the Word: This requires of us our enhancing the roles of the servants of the Word (readers, cantors, preachers, etc.).Spread the Bible far and wide. Everything must be done to ensure the greatest number of languages for translations.The Holy Land is the fifth Gospel. A pilgrimage in the footsteps of Christ and his Apostles allows a renewal in faith.Women, "passers-on" (bearers) of the Word. We hope that women, and especially mothers, may receive a formation appropriate to their role as "passers-on" of the Word.Agents of mission
Speaking as relator from his English-language group, Australian Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Canberra-Goulburn said that there is a need to lead young people to know and love the Word of God so that they may assume their role as agents of mission, especially among their peers. He stated that there is also a need to stress the essential evangelizing mission of the laity by virtue of their baptism.
In particular, there is a need to focus on the family as the domestic Church. There is a need to stress that the life of the Church is mission and to empower as many people as possible to undertake mission without excessive fear as to whether they are fully equipped or not. There is a need for solid ongoing formation in the Word of God for all agents of mission, including the bishops.
This afternoon the synod fathers met again in their language groups to complete the proposals to be placed before Benedict XVI. At the end of the afternoon Archbishop Eterovic delivered the completed proposals to the Pope.
When I walked across St. Peter's Square late this evening, the lights were still on in the papal apartments. I could only imagine what was going through the Pontiff's mind as he poured through the reports from the synod and began to think about tomorrow morning's general assembly.
We will end this synodal week Saturday evening with solemn vespers in the Sistine Chapel presided over by Benedict XVI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. Their presence together, and their words to this synod, are more examples of the graces of Scripture and the presence of God’s Spirit at work, healing our divisions and breathing unity into the Church of God.
Stay tuned next week for more words from the synod on the Word.
On Saturday the "padri sinodali" can rightly exclaim: Let there be propositions! Let there be unity among us!
-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.