Inside the synod: Small groups consider final propositions

By Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas
One in a series

Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012

VATICAN CITY — Today was spent in our language groups meticulously considering each of the 57 propositions presented to the synod yesterday. All synod fathers have an opportunity to offer an amendment or ask to drop or to replace a proposition.

One realizes the different ways each reader views the wording of any proposition. The text is understood from the synod delegate’s perspective, affected by his experiences in his own diocese, the culture and society from which he comes. Yet we all hold a love for the church and a respect for her teaching that binds the group together.

A view of our language group. (Photo by Bishop Kicanas)

Our English-language group reviewed the English translation of the propositions. One issue is the challenge and difficulty of translation. Some of the concerns raised had to do with how the translator understood the Latin text or the English text. It seemed to our group that greater benefit would come in addressing substantive issues rather than focus solely on concerns regarding individual word differences in the two texts. So that became our focus.

The Tower of Babel continues to influence our communication, which makes it so hard to fully understand one another. How beautiful is the rich diversity of the church felt here at the synod but how complicated it is to hear and understand one another even when everyone in our group speaks English.

The English spoken in our group is colored by Indian, Scottish, Thai, African, Ethiopian, Tongan, Filipino, Sri Lankan, and Malaysian accents and nuances. All of this adds rich color to the deliberations by the synod fathers’ efforts to formulate propositions for consideration by the Holy Father in his post-synodal exhortation.

Certainly the ultimate work of the synod is benefited by the eyes of each synod father reviewing the texts of the propositions and offering his perspective on the wide range of factors that affect the new evangelization. The diversity of the propositions provide each bishop with a wealth of directions for developing a pastoral plan for the Year of Faith that will give his diocese an opportunity to engage the new evangelization with  “new ardor, new methods, and new expressions.”

I enjoy so much the interplay of our group. We learn so much from each other in listening to the pastoral blessings and challenges faced in different parts of the world. For example, the forces of secularization are not as strongly felt in some countries as they are in the United States and Europe. Authority and respect are experienced in different ways. English words can have different connotations. This calls us to be more humble. As Americans we can think our way is the only way, but when the universal church gathers, as at the synod, you realize there are other legitimate, even wiser perspectives.

From left, Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, our moderator; Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow, our  rapporteur; and Rev. Dr. Timothy George, a fraternal delegate representing Southern Baptists. (Photo by Bishop Kicanas)

Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, India, our moderator of the small group, and Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow, our rapporteur, are doing a masterful job bringing our group to consensus on the many helpful revisions that have been suggested. They show great patience in letting each synod father have his say and offer his perspective. I expect that the other 11 groups are experiencing somewhat the same in their deliberations.

This tedious and thorough process will benefit greatly the ultimate formulation of the final propositions. The synod process is a reminder of the importance of giving each person a voice and for all in the group to be working together toward a final resolution. This is an important lesson and an example for our councils and consultative bodies in the diocese and in parishes.

Our group went the longest, hopefully contributing substantially to the revision of the propositions. We had some great laughs and have come to appreciate one another’s company. A great rapport developed in the group and respect for one another grew. There was a comfortability between bishops, the men and women auditors and experts as well as the fraternal delegate, Rev. Dr. Timothy George of the Southern Baptist tradition who teaches at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Ala.

Another view of our group. (Photo by Bishop Kicanas)

As we ended our work Cardinal Gracias asked Archbishop Malayappan Chinnappa of Madras-Mylapore, India, to close. He mentioned that everyone has a charism from God that he or she can share for the good of the community. He said his gift was the joy of singing and he wanted to conclude our work by singing a Tamil song in praise and thanks to God.

He broke into a beautiful song in his native language as his face was aglow with delight in sharing his music with us. Charisms can move hearts and he did move our hearts, a marvelous way to end our time together.

When I returned home I learned that the Holy Father unexpectedly had named some new cardinals including Archbishop James Harvey from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee who has served for many years in the Vatican and has been such a good friend to many. There will be much joy in this appointment.

Among the others named were four synod fathers I have come to know quite well: Archbishop Luis Tagle of Manila, whom we had hoped would preach this year’s priest convocation in Tucson but was not able; Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria, who as I mentioned in a previous blog referring to his reflection at the synod, has a brother in Tucson and has visited recently talking at our Youth Fest; Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai, who had invited us to his home for dinner; and Syro-Malankaran Archbishop Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, who also has a brother in Tucson and who has been a frequent visitor.

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Bishop Kicanas, of Tucson, Ariz., is chairman of the board of Catholic Relief Services and is a former vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Also a former chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Communications Committee, he is blogging from the world Synod of Bishops this month by special arrangement with Catholic News Service. He was elected an alternate delegate to the synod by the U.S. bishops and became a full delegate when Cardinal Francis E. George was unable to attend.

4 Responses

  1. Some beautiful ideas among the 57 propositions. Thank you for an amazing summary, Bishop.

  2. Beautiful! Thanks be to God!

  3. There’s only one real common language that every person in every country understands and which IS ALREADY spoken by millions of unaffected ordinary people. They have no problem understanding each other. They are engaged in the world and are actually living the Message of God. Love is the language of this Message that speaks louder than any words uttered.

    It’s no wonder these bishops are having trouble understanding each other; from their lofty pulpits, far removed from the very world that God so loved, most of them have never really loved anyone other than themselves. The majority of these bishops are world and women hating, delusionary, abusive, immature and hollow who masquerade as religious leaders.

    It’s no wonder these bishops are so eager to ‘win over’ the minds and hearts of the still unsuspecting and innocent youth. The youth are the only ones left that can still be fooled. The adults have all fled from the distorted message which most of these detached, inbred, and neurotic bishops spew forth.

    Every thinking adult knows that this current ‘powwow’ going on in Rome, among mostly the bishops, is just a smokescreen used to divert the attention of the good people of the world from the sick behavior of the bishops themselves. The people have seen through this charade and other recent highly paid for Madison Ave. ‘public relations ‘advertizing campaigns: such as the bishops fake claims that their church is being undermined by religious Sisters; by theologians; by politicians; and from anyone else who dares to act like mature thinking adults.

    The people will never again allow themselves to be conned and controlled by these so called ‘bishops’ who have proven to be both sexual abusers and abusers of religious authority.

    So while these bishops take a nice little vacation for themselves, they once again contrive ‘programs’ that are designed to instill neurotic guilt in the already good people who are the only ones trying the best they can, to really live the Message of love, and which in the end is the only dogma that really matters to the all loving God.

    Matthew 22:34-40

    But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with your entire mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

    1 Corinthians 13

    If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
    Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

    Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child; I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

    And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

  4. I can’t help but hope that the fraternal delegates will return to their own faith communities with a new understanding of the Catholic Church. That alone would be a blessing from this Synod.

    And despite the persistent hatefulness of some people, the words from this Synod have reinforced for me the goodness of the Church which is guided by the Spirit, despite its flawed human members. I think this Synod is one of the best things to happen in the Church since Vatican II.

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