Inside the synod: The synod fathers’ various viewpoints

By Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas
One in a series

Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012

VATICAN CITY — The synod fathers began today to make their five-minute interventions. And it must be five minutes, since one’s mic is turned off exactly when five minutes have passed. Those getting close to being turned off rush to get in as much of their text as possible. Each synod father has the option to make one five-minute exhortation, as well as do the fraternal delegates (representatives of other ecclesial communities) and the auditors.

Most of the U.S. bishops spoke on the first full day of interventions.

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles spoke on the need to reflect on the diverse cultures that make up our dioceses and to find new ways to communicate with these cultures. In Los Angeles, Mass is celebrated in so many languages. We need to find ways for these differing cultures to form one family in Christ,

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York emphasized that if the new evangelization is to happen, it will happen when the evangelizers are themselves evangelized. He reminded us that what is wrong with the world is us. We are sinners and if evangelization will take place it will be through the Sacrament of Penance.

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

Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio called upon the Holy Father to consecrate the world to the Holy Spirit at the end of the Year of Faith. The Spirit can bring about a new Pentecost, a new vigor.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., suggested that the Blessing of the Child in the Womb can be a powerful ritual that can lead to the evangelization of parents and families. It would be a way of welcoming families and sharing in the hope and excitement of a new child about to enter the family. It would be a preparation for the child’s baptism. Regretfully, some couples are not having their children baptized. it is hoped this blessing might encourage parents to bring their child to the font.

I spoke of the importance of works of charity and justice as necessary and powerful ways to evangelize. I suggested that the synod would strongly and unequivocally assert that works of justice and peace are at the heart of the new evangelization. Some have expressed concern that the “instrumentum laboris” does not adequately emphasize the role of charity, justice and the social doctrine of the church in the new evangelization. Yet works of charity are among the strongest ways to evangelize, especially the young.

Other interventions emphasized the importance for the church to be humble, to listen, to be respectful of all. One bishop asked, “Have youth lost the church or has the church lost the youth?” Some emphasized the need to form seminarians and priests in the new evangelization. They must be set on fire to set others on fire. They cannot evangelize unless they themselves are evangelized.

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

One bishop expressed concern about the number of people who have left the Oriental churches and the importance of encouraging Oriental Christians to remain engaged in their rites. Another indicated that in their country they have embarked on a Year of Grace alongside the Year of Faith. There is a need to rediscover what it means to be a part of the church. Christian faith is not just teaching or a code of morality but a relationship with Jesus Christ.

One fraternal delegate from the Lutheran church indicated that the synod is crucial to all Christian churches. All are eager to recover the joy of believing. He expressed concern that so many were not bringing their children to be baptized  He rejoiced that we no longer have to condemn one another but we have learned to respect one another and strive together for deep internal renewal. We need an ongoing renewal for all Christians.

As I listened to the different interventions I could only think of how varied are the ways people think, act, and feel. Each bishop saw a different path into the new evangelization, placed a different emphasis, identified what he saw to be a priority. Each continent and every country face similar and dissimilar challenges in making the faith come to life. This reflects St. Paul’s reminder that we are one body made up of different members. Each member is unique and plays a critical role in the life of the body. listening to all is core to “communio,” that we draw upon the wisdom and insights of all. St. Benedict in his rule reminded us that everyone in the community has a part to play, a voice to be heard, even the youngest in the community. The opportunity for each one to speak is at the heart of the synodal process.

The new evangelization encompasses a wide range of emphases that surfaced in the various interventions today. The synod will attempt to formulate propositions to be considered by the synod fathers and ultimately presented to the Holy Father for inclusion in the post-synodal exhortation that will be written.

Pope Benedict XVI leads the opening prayer during a meeting of the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization at the Vatican Oct. 9. At right is Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, the synod relator. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Today’s session concluded with a report from Cardinal Marc Oeullett, who had served as the relator general for the 2008 synod, on the reception of the post-synodal exhortation titled “Verbum Domini.” The Bible cannot be simply a Word from when the reception ends to become a living and relevant Word. He explored the meaning of reception. How does the church take possession of the document and make it its own? Cardinal Oeullett mentioned that large numbers of Bibles were distributed in countries around the world since the synod, making the Scriptures more available.

The emphasis on “Lectio Divina” from the document has taken a larger place in the spiritual lives of many people in all walks of life, reflecting a growing love for the Scriptures based on the prayerful and reflective reading of the Bible. The Scriptures now play a greater role in the pastoral life of the church,

Liturgy is the privileged place where God speaks to us. In liturgy we celebrate the living and relevant Word of God. Homiletics was also emphasized in the document. Our U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has a homiletic guide for priests and deacons, and the conference is now writing a document on preaching, which will be discussed in November.

For me the opportunity of having been at the synod on the Word in 2008 left me inspired and determined to read the Word of God more, to pray that Word and to encourage people to love, appreciate, and value the reading and praying of the Word. It was encouraging to hear how this has happened in many places as a result of the document “Verbum Domini.” We need to continue to develop a hunger and thirst for the Word which can inspire a new evangelization.

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.