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.

Inside the synod: Ideas for implementing the new evangelization

By Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas
One in a series

Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012

VATICAN CITY —  The synod recessed on Saturday afternoon and only returned to session on Tuesday. In the interim the rapporteurs,  those elected to serve as secretaries of each of the small groups, have been working hard to formulate the propositions for consideration by the synod fathers.

There were 330 propositions submitted by the small groups. Over the weekend, they were  organized by the rapporteurs  according to similarity of content and reduced in number. This morning, 57 propositions were presented to the synod fathers covering a wide range of recommendations.

After prayer, before the announcement of the propositions, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, announced to the body that the Holy Father had intended to send a delegation of synod fathers to Syria to show solidarity to the people suffering the ravages of war and violence, but circumstances have made it necessary to postpone that trip until a time when it can be determined how the visit could be conducted safely and with maximum effect. While disappointing, the visitation remains a hope for the near future.

Many in our country and around the world have expressed interest in this Synod on the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith and hold great expectations for a renewal of faith during this Year of Faith. That expectation is moving toward reality in the formulation of the initial propositions.

Pope Benedict XVI leads a meeting of the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization at the Vatican Oct. 9. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Among the propositions (my summary; the official document covers 29 pages) that will now receive attention over the next two days as well as further revision by the small groups were:

  • Evangelization has to be understood in a broad and profound theological/doctrinal framework reminding us that the new evangelization is not just a bunch of programs but needs to be grounded in the faith, the activity of word and sacrament emphasizing the primacy of God’s grace.
  • There is a need for all Catholics to awaken their faith and to be inspired to witness that faith and share it with others. Each culture and society needs to find ways for this to happen in the circumstances of their society. Continue reading

After two years and 7,500 dead, cholera still plagues Haiti

A demonstrator carries a sign during a protest in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Oct. 19 calling for United Nations peacekeepers to leave the country. The protest marked the second year anniversary when cholera strain was introduced into the country by Nepalese peacekeepers. The sign reads, “Justice for 7,000 dead, 500,000 others that lie down in hospital with disease outbreak.” (CNS/Swoan Parker, Reuters)

Hundreds of Haitian demonstrators took to the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, Oct. 20, calling for the United Nations to withdraw all of its troops from the country.

The vocal demonstration came days before the second anniversary of the outbreak of cholera in the Caribbean nation.

The U.N. force, known as the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti, or MINUSTAH, is widely believed to be the source of the disease.

A U.N. investigation into how the water-borne disease was introduced was inconclusive. However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study in 2011 said U.N. soldiers from Nepal stationed in Artibonite department were the most likely source.

Established in 2004 to help the poorly equipped Haitian National Police maintain security, the size of the MINUSTAH force was increased following the January 2010 earthquake.

As of Oct. 11, Haiti’s Ministry of Public Health and Population reported 600,885 cholera cases and 7,568 deaths across the country. Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe told Reuters last month that the epidemic has been brought under control.

The U.N. Security Council Oct. 12 voted to maintain the MINUSTAH force but to reduce its number by 15 percent immediately. Full withdrawal is expected by June.

Haiti continues to struggle since the massive earthquake claimed more than 300,000 lives. The U.N. estimates that 390,000 people remain in tent camps scattered across the earthquake zone.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton visited northern Haiti Oct. 22 to help open an industrial park in Caracol, near Cap Haitien. The project represents part of the aid the United States has pledged to help the country recover from the earthquake and includes a power plant that will provide electricity to the new garment factories.

Inside the synod: Deliberating on the new evangelization, and applause for a young catechist

By Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas
One in a series

Friday, Oct. 19, 2012

VATICAN CITY — Bishop Shlemon Warduni, Chaldean auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, Iraq, reflected on today’s reading at our morning prayer. I came to know Bishop Warduni when I visited Baghdad recently on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Bishop Warduni speaks with passion and lives with courage in a land torn by violence. I remember well his impassioned plea to me that the United States help in the recovery of a land that suffers from the ravages of war and has become racked by divisions.

Bishop Warduni in today’s meditation called the synod to work together to awaken faith. He challenged us to be courageous in living our faith and announcing the Good News. He spoke not just with words but the witness of his life.

Today we heard reports from the small groups that met all day yesterday. Each group reporter had 10 minutes to summarize their group’s deliberations, which are meant to help the synod fathers formulate propositions for presentation to the Holy Father. Among the points identified in these wide-ranging discussions are the following:

-There is a need to clarify the meaning of the new evangelization. Is it only reaching out to those active in the church seeking a deepening of their faith? Does it reflect concern for those who have not yet known the Lord? Is the new evangelization only for those countries long steeped in the faith? Wouldn’t it be better to speak of renewal evangelization? There are three receivers of the new evangelization: those who are believers and want to deepen their relationship with Christ and his church, those who have grown distant from the church, and those who have not met Christ. Continue reading

Youth merge marketing & new media to spotlight their newest saint

VATICAN CITY — Move over Flat Stanley, there’s a new kid in town.

His name is “Pedrito” and his goal is to reach the four corners of the Earth, helping people learn about the Catholic faith and get closer to God.

Pedrito, of course, is a doll-version of soon-to-be Saint Pedro Calungsod, a Filipino teen catechist killed in Guam in the 17th century.

People who have purchased the limited-edition of the small doll (it’s a little more than one-foot tall) are asked to take photos of him wherever he may be in the world and upload them to a special page on Facebook. People can also track him with geo-mapping or follow his journey to sainthood on www.sanpedrocalungsod.com

The idea comes from a special team of young people who work on the New Media Committee of the communications office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. From their site:

In a YouthPinoy! interview, New Media Committee head Eilleen Esteban explained how Pedrito is meant to adapt the very Pinoy culture of “picture-picture” by having Pedrito meet pilgrims, have his picture taken with them and post them on social media as part of a geo-tagging tracking of his whereabouts.

Being true to Bl. Pedro’s quality of dynamism and energy, ‘mini Pedro’ has been moving around Rome – riding the Italian metro trains and buses ― nearly non-stop since touching down yesterday.

Image

The new media team we met today at the Vatican Press Office gave their Pedrito his own “iPad.” They said it’s obvious he’d have one because “he is the saint of the youth” and even though he died in the 17th century, “he is a saint for the 21st!”

People can also follow Pedrito and the new media team’s coverage of the canonization on twitter @jpcalungsod or on Facebook at FilipinoSaintPedroCalungsod.

Brooklyn bishop off to Haiti to see reconstruction progress

Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros of Brooklyn, N.Y., will get his first look at church-led reconstruction in Haiti when he visits several projects next week.

He will be representing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops during his Oct. 22-25 visit to three projects west of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

Specifically, the projects on the bishop’s schedule include the new St. Francis of Assisi Church in Grand Goave, Our Lady of Angels School in Leogane and the IDEPH diocesan school in Jacmel on Haiti’s southern coast.

The projects are being completed under the auspices of PROCHE, or Partnership for Church Reconstruction in Haiti, which was formed in collaboration with the Haitian bishops’ conference, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services following the January 2010 earthquake that devastated about 20 percent of Haiti’s geography.

St. Francis of Assisi Church already hosted its first Mass Oct. 4, the feast day of the saint. Auxiliary Bishop Glandas Toussaint of Port-au-Prince presided at the liturgy, which was broadcast on Haitian television.

PROCHE continues to review reconstruction and repair projects across the earthquake zone. Jacques Liautaud, Haiti manager in the U.S. bishops’ Office of National Collections, told Catholic News Service that 37 projects are in the pipeline, most of which are in the planning or design stage.

“This should give us a good feeling because we’re making progress,” Liautaud said.

Church agencies, including U.S. parishioners donating through a special collection conducted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Catholic Church in France and Adveniat, the German bishops’ agency for solidarity in Latin America, have about $70 million available for reconstruction. That’s less than half of the $150 million estimated in 2011 needed to rebuild parishes and schools, Liautaud said.

As projects are completed, Haitian and American planners involved in the reconstruction effort hope to leverage additional funds for future undertakings.

Inside the synod: Auditors speak, Christian/Islam concerns, and Cardinal Wuerl sums up the synod so far

By Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas
One in a series

Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012

VATICAN CITY — The preacher for today’s prayer opening the synod’s day was Bishop Edward Hilboro Kussala, the first bishop of the new country of South Sudan. There was much joy at the establishment of South Sudan and the beginning of a time of peace in an area torn by war and violence.

Regretfully, the enthusiasm of that day that marked a new free state has been dampened by continued violence, Bishop Kussala spoke of courage, a quiet courage that continues to work confidently and to live joyfully despite obstacles, despite setbacks, despite forces that disrupt and destroy. Bishop Kussala witnesses such courage in his service in South Sudan. Some of the bishops present in the synod hall live in danger, serve amid violence, struggle to minister in a local church in tension and in turmoil. We admire them. We learn from them. We pray for them.

Final interventions were made today, some by auditors. Auditors are men and women, religious, a deacon, lay women and men who have been invited by the Holy Father to participate in the synod either because of their founding or involvement in organizations focused on evangelization or because they bring a particular pastoral focus to the gathering.

One clear emphasis of the auditors and the intervention today by Bishop Winston Fernando of Sri Lanka was the important role of the laity in the new evangelization. The laity need to be empowered to transform the world. Clergy on their own cannot realize this new evangelization.

Manoj Sunny, founder of Jesus Youth, was an engineer by profession but for a number of years has devoted his life to evangelization. Yesterday he called for catechesis of the laity so they can be sent forth to bring the Gospel to all. He asked for the formation of full-time lay missionaries.

Sister Mary Lou Wirtz, president of International Union of Superior Generals, spoke of people who are alienated from the church, hurting, and on the margin. They need pastoral care and support. The church must become more pastoral and less judgmental. “Can we enter into the pain of our people?” She reminded the synod of the role of religious in serving the needy, bringing back the alienated.

It struck me that the few auditors who spoke communicated with a different kind of language, accessible and concrete. They spoke from specific examples and life experiences, including their own experiences that connect with the listener. The laity can help us learn how to communicate better and to get our message across more effectively. It was clear that the auditors are laity who care about and love the church and want to assist the church in its new evangelization. We should feel very blessed by their presence among us and strive to find ways to empower them to lead in the new evangelization. It was disappointing that more of the auditors could not speak because of a lack of time, but they will engage with us in the small groups.

Again today synod fathers spoke of the relationship between Islam and Christianity. It has been a recurring and troubling theme that preoccupies many bishops from Muslim nations. While at times the religions work together, value and respect one another, at other times Christians feel they are second-class citizens in Muslim countries. They are merely tolerated or are persecuted. Sometimes Christians feel Muslim states wish they would leave and move to the West. Yet this is their home, a place where they have lived for generations. The question was raised whether evangelization is possible in Islamic countries where conversion is against the law. Bishop Kyrillos William of the Catholic Coptic Church in Egypt emphasized the need for Christians to live their faith and to be proud of their contributions to the society. They can witness the values of their faith which  can inspire others to embrace Christ.

This theme of the relations between Muslims and Christians needs serious attention, intensified dialogue between the two faiths, and a concerted effort to address fundamentalism and violent elements in both faiths.

Bishop Paul Desfarges of Algeria the other day quoted the Emir Abdel Kader, the son of a patriarchal chief of an Arab tribe in Algeria. The emir was born in 1806 in Mascara near Algeria. His family was Muslim and his father took him to Mecca when he was 8. His Muslim faith was deep in his heart. He said “fear that man who fears not God.” Although he fought against Christians  he was concerned for his Christian prisoners and called upon a priest to attend to them spiritually. Bishop Desfarges mentioned that the emir’s understanding of conversion of Christians or Muslims should be seen as going from God to God from the embrace of God to the embrace of God. Clearly this stands in opposition to some attitudes toward conversion and the importance of freedom of conscience.

Today provided an opportunity for Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, relator general for this synod, to draw together the varied interventions that marked the substance of our time together so far. He has been listening carefully, taking occasional notes, organizing the messages into categories, forming an outline of what contributes to the new evangelization. The summary is presented in Latin and a bound copy is given to each participant. This document guides the formulation of propositions that will be the work of the small groups that begins tomorrow. He has taken the various individual broad brush strokes made by the synod fathers and drawn them into a portrait of what, we pray, will realize a new evangelization.

In his presentation Cardinal Wuerl recalled experiences the synod fathers have had from the liturgies we celebrated with the Holy Father to the moving words of the pope at the opening reflection on ‘confessio’ and ‘caritas’ during morning prayer. At this synod we have already had a number of shared experiences that have given direction to this synod.

He reflected on four themes that became apparent in the interventions:

  • The Nature of the New Evangelization.
  • The Context of the Church’s Ministry Today.
  • Pastoral Responses to the Circumstances of the Day.
  • Agents/Participants of the New Evangelization.

He raised questions for the synod’s further work on realizing a new evangelization. He underlined that “it is God who speaks and acts in history” and that “evangelization is at the very heart of the church.” He underscored the “vital participation of every Catholic …  in the mission of evangelization.” While we say this, the challenge is how to bring this into the consciousness of every Christian, that they bear a responsibility to evangelize, to care for the poor, the sick, those with disability, to be Christ in the world today.

In our Diocese of Tucson as in so many dioceses, most Catholics are at best Sunday observers. They do not bring their faith into daily and active involvement in proclaiming Christ in their homes, places of work, and in the community. How can we engage them in their responsibility to make their faith central to their lives? How can we get Catholics more engaged in the social mission of the church?

A challenge for the synod fathers is to understand how we might better catechize the people, deepen their knowledge of the faith and their understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Christ. All of us struggle with this challenge. So few people take part in adult faith formation. We have so little time with young people in religious education classes and in our Catholic schools. Can we find more effective ways of communicating the faith, especially with the young?

Cardinal Wuerl reminded us of what we know so well, that “parishes … are the recognized place where … the life of the church unfolds.” Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk wrote a book in which he said the parish is the place where our people live. I see this in our diocese. Some feel their faith is deeply nourished by their parish and some feel their spiritual lives are left barren in their parish.  If only we could make every parish alive and thriving.

Within the parish, the role of the catechist, the family, the laity and the priest are preeminent. Cardinal Wuerl raised the question whether this is the time to give the catechist an instituted, stable ministry in the church? “How might the church better support and guide the family in its crucial ministry in their responsibility for the transmission of the faith and human values?” “How can the church more fully integrate the laity in the organization of the local church?” “How can the church foster a renewed missionary imperative to the ministry of priests?” How can seminaries form a generation of priests intent on evangelization?

In the open discussion following Cardinal Wuerl’s presentation, bishops identified several areas that were not sufficiently addressed in the summary, namely the role of religious, the role of theologians, the importance of liturgy in evangelization, reviving the sacrament of penance, the need for an exact definition of evangelization, the place of prayer in realizing the new evangelization, the need for the conversion of the church, the importance of beauty and contemplation as a means to evangelization, the positive role of the world in evangelizing, the benefits and blessings of Islam and the participation of ecumenical bodies.

Now the most important work begins, finding strategies to address these biting questions and move the church to a new evangelization.

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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.

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