CNS launches new Vatican II look-back project

Yesterday, Catholic News Service launched a new feature, “Vatican II: 50 years ago today,” a step back in time to the daily activities of the Second Vatican Council.

Pope John XXIII called for an ecumenical council in 1959, the first to be held since 1870. After more than two years of preparatory work, the council convened in its first session, Oct. 11-Dec. 8, 1962. After the pope’s death the following year, Pope Paul VI reconvened the council for three others sessions. These ran Sept. 29-Dec. 4, 1963; Sept. 14-Nov. 21, 1964; and Sept. 14-Dec. 8, 1965.

A total of 2,860 bishops, referred to as council fathers, participated in one or more of the sessions. The council produced 16 documents — two dogmatic and two pastoral constitutions, nine decrees and three declarations. The documents address everything from liturgy to Scripture, missionary activity to ecumenism and interfaith relationships, and the functions of clergy and laity to religious freedom.

During the four years of the council, Catholic News Service, then known as News Service of the National Catholic Welfare Conference, the predecessor of today’s United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, or in shorthand, “NC,” provided some of the most comprehensive English-language coverage of the sessions, the council fathers and those who assisted in the work. In 1965, it published a compilation of its reporting, the working documents and proceedings of the council in a remarkable three-volume set known simply as the Council Daybook. It was edited by then NC director and editor-in-chief Floyd Anderson and was mainly the work of Msgr. James I. Tucek, a priest of the Diocese of Dallas-Fort Worth who was NC Rome bureau chief from 1956 to 1964.

Pope Paul VI presides over a meeting of the Second Vatican Council in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in 1963. (CNS photo/Catholic Press Photo)

Writing in the preface of the first volume of the Council Daybook, Bishop Albert R. Zuroweste of Belleville, Ill., said, “The first session of the Vatican Council II created more ‘firsts’ than any previous ecumenical council. Among these ‘firsts’ and one of the most important was the establishment of the United States press panel as a source of daily news releases that gave to the session the greatest news coverage ever accorded a religious convention, meeting or council. The world today is linked by a vast network of communications media, and the press panel made the daily events of the council available to all.”

The bishop said that as the council’s first session began, journalists and writers were told that no prior texts would be made available and pre-written stories — the practice in those days since texts usually were handed out ahead — would be inaccurate. Those covering the council could only get texts at the end of the day, if available. “The rule of secrecy, more often violated than observed, added to the confusion,” he wrote. There was near revolt by the press corps.

The U.S. bishops acted quickly to create a daily press panel composed of specialists in Scripture, canon law, dogmatic and moral theology, and church history and social sciences. It was an immediate hit.

“The panel assisted and guided the [newspersons] in interpreting the daily proceedings of the council and furnished valuable background information,” Bishop Zuroweste wrote.

“It also established good will and corrected the dissatisfaction that was general in the first days of the council sessions. The satisfaction with the panel as a source of reliable information grew with each meeting, and before the first session was completed, the attitude and morale of the correspondents were excellent,” he wrote. “At the last session of the panel, the press corps publicly expressed its thanks to the United States bishops for establishing this source of accurate information.”

In this new service, CNS will present the fruits of that vast labor of the bishops, panels of experts and NC editors and correspondents.

Each day CNS will post the entry from the Council Daybook, just as it was reported on the corresponding day at the council 50 years ago. The entries are unaltered from the reporting styles of those times. CNS will often include important addresses of the popes and council fathers or interventions of experts. We also will identify some of the people or issues in the dispatches when the references may not be clear to today’s reader. However, for the most part this will be a page of history as it was reported then.

CNS is grateful to the past U.S. bishops and the U.S. council fathers still with us today, the press panel experts, Floyd Anderson, other former NC editors, especially NC assistant director Burke Walsh, and to all of the past NC correspondents — James C. O’Neill, Patrick Riley and Benedictine Father Placid Jordan, who covered the council and whose contributions appear in the Council Daybook. It is an astonishing and important legacy of Catholic journalism for the church.

You can get to the new service by visiting

Inside the synod: Celebrating Vatican II, launching Year of Faith

By Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas
One in a series

Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012

VATICAN CITY — Today the bishops dressed in miter and green vestments streamed down the center aisle in the Square of St. Peter on a strikingly beautiful day of bright sunlight and deep blue skies. As I walked in procession looking up at the newly restored facade of St. Peter’s Basilica, I thought how fitting it was that we were celebrating outside of the basilica for this 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the opening of the Year of Faith. After all, the beloved Pope John XXIII had called the council to open the windows and let fresh air into the church.

Here we were in the world, in its midst with occasional sirens blaring and noises of every kind, not within the walls of the Basilica. Vatican II taught us that the church is not set over and above the world, not antagonistic to the world but the breath of the world, meant to transform the world into the world God intends it to be. We celebrated that symbolically, bringing to the world the praise and glory of God .

Pope Benedict XVI celebrates a Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Oct. 11 to mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. The Mass also opened the Year of Faith. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

As we processed, I imagined the procession of bishops 50 years before as the council began. A few of them were in our midst. Surely those bishops as they celebrated the opening Mass of the council with Blessed John XXIII must have been wondering what would happen, what would unfold. No council had been held in anyone’s memory. Yet they were making history, bringing the church into a new era.

Through their deliberations, discussions, and writing, profound documents were produced including “Lumen Gentium” and “Gaudium et Spes” on the church, “Dei Verbum” on revelation, and “Sacrosanctum Concilium” on the sacred liturgy.

Pope Benedict XVI exchanges the sign of peace with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Looking ahead I saw on the dais, near to where the pope would sit, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholmew I. He is the successor of St. Andrew and the 240th person to hold the title of Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. He is “primus inter pares” (first among equals). He promotes and sustains unity in the Eastern Orthodox communion numbering about 300 million congregants

On the other side of the pope’s place was Archbishop Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. I could only think of the incredible energy that came out of Vatican II for ecumenical and interreligious dialogue as well as the call for religious liberty, both of which remain challenges today. The document “Unitatis Reintegratio” on ecumenical dialogue and “Dignitatis Humanae” on religious liberty were ground-breaking documents that gave direction for the church’s agenda.

It was moving to see Archbishop Williams and Patriarch Bartholomew embrace as brothers before the Mass and Pope Benedict’s embrace of each of them during Mass. While our Christian faith remains divided, perhaps this celebration, remembering Vatican II, will stir the embers, giving new energy and life to the dialogues, which although now more difficult, are still important. The disunity of the Christian faith is scandalous and exactly what the Lord prayed at the Last Supper would not happen.

The Holy Father in his homily referred to the rich thought and clear articulation of the church’s continuous teaching that can be found in the documents of Vatican II. He indicated that he has called for a Year of Faith to inspire us again to encounter Jesus Christ and to realize the new evangelization which has been a major theme of his pontificate,

Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., center, arrives with other bishops for Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Square to mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

This Year of Faith is a marvelous opportunity for all dioceses to reinvigorate the faith. In the Diocese of Tucson three words describe my hopes for this Year of Faith: Awaken, Discover, Inspire. Through this year we will hold activities to awaken the faith in those who are practicing their faith by deepening, enriching, and strengthening our relationships with Jesus Christ. We will seek to discover anew what the church teaches and strive to inspire others to come to know Jesus Christ by the way we live our lives. The year will be an opportunity to learn the history of our diocese and of each parish so all can understand how the faith was planted in this area. It will also be an opportunity to share our faith journeys with one another and to study the documents of Vatican II. We will also engage in a diocese-wide service project in which all of us throughout a large geographic diocese will join together as one to serve others.

While I feel badly not to be in the Diocese of Tucson when we begin the Year of Faith the weekend of Oct. 13-14, it was a joy to join the universal church as our Holy Father launched the Year of Faith in St. Peter’s Square.

At the end of Mass Bartholomew I spoke in Italian of the importance of this occasion and the need to seek unity and dispel differences. He spoke of the historical significance of this event commemorating the 50th anniversary and the deep regard and respect he holds for the Holy Father.

The service concluded with the Holy Father meeting groups who represented the categories of people Vatican II spoke to: rulers, scholars and scientists, artists, women, the poor, sick and suffering, workers, artists, and the youth. He gave each member of the group the text of what was directed to these groups at the time of Vatican II and to some he gave a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church since we are also celebrating the 20th anniversary of its promulgation by Blessed John Paul II.

While 50 years have passed since these exhortations were written and so much has changed, many texts are exactly what one would write today. For example, to the young of the world the council wrote, “It is you who are to receive the torch from the hands of your elders and to live in the world at the period of the most gigantic transformation ever realized in history. … The church is anxious that this society that you are going to build up should respect the dignity, the liberty, and the rights of individuals. … Open your hearts to the dimensions of the world, to heed the appeal of your brothers, to place your youth energies at their service.”

Pope Benedict XVI greets the faithful as he arrives to celebrate a Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Oct. 11. (CNS photo/Paul Haring

The afternoon continued the interventions by the synod fathers. While many themes are beginning to recur, it is interesting to watch, on the screen in the front of the room, the enthusiasm and conviction with which each synod father presents his text. Clearly each one has thought seriously about what he wants to say to the whole body and he desires earnestly to make a contribution.

Among the common themes I am hearing are the following: the need to evangelize the evangelizers, priests and seminarians; the importance of reaching out to youth and families; and to make efforts to strengthen marriage. There is a hunger in human beings that only God can fill. We seek a relationship with Christ who alone brings joy. We need to be a humble church. Evangelization begins with each one of us. Our parishes must become evangelizing. There is a value to the ecclesial movements but they must be integrated with parish life. We need to see the importance and make better use of the new technologies. If we would evangelize we must be a serving church which leads others to the church. We recognize the importance of the lay faithful in the evangelization of the world. We must value contemplation, listening and silence. We need to recover the ecumenical dimensions of Vatican II and the call to unity in which we all need one another in our diversity of cultures and languages. It would be powerful to consider our own experiences of evangelization and communicate our own faith journeys, giving personal witness to the vitality of faith in our own lives. Another theme that surfaces from time to time in the discussions is the need to uphold the freedom of conscience and of religion especially in those areas of the world where public practice of religion is so restricted or conversion is not allowed.

We need to keep listening in the days ahead in order to develop helpful proposals for the Holy Father’s consideration in writing his post-synodal exhortation.

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: Small groups, and a graced visit from the archbishop of Canterbury

By Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas
One in a series

Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012

VATICAN CITY — Today in the morning the synod went into small groups by language, a refreshing change. Our group reflects the diversity of the English speaking church. Members come from Nigeria, Kenya, Cameroon,  Ghana, Ethiopia, from Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, New Guinea, Tonga, Sri Lanka, from Scotland, India, Macau, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Guatemala, and the Bahamas. Benedictine Father Jeremy Driscoll, a synod auditor who teaches at Rome’s Pontifical Athenaeum of San Anselmo and I are from the United States. Auditors, experts and fraternal delegates also take part in the small groups.

Each member of our group gave a brief introduction and what hopes he or she had for this synod. The responses were wide-ranging. A number brought up the need to respond more effectively to the young and to assist families in the awesome challenges they face. Some expressed concern that evangelization has to begin with the evangelizers, with seminarians and priests. It was expressed that the church must be more available, closer to people.

Some bishops are in countries were they cannot freely practice their faith. They suggested that we cannot be afraid to express the faith and one’s rights as a Catholic.

Another perspective was that social concerns are the gateway to evangelization. It is important to engage the world with a clear identity as Catholics.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York talks with Coadjutor Archbishop Nicholas Mang Thang of Mandalay, Myanmar, as they leave a meeting of the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization at the Vatican Oct. 10. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

One participant reminded the group that it is not enough to teach the catechism, our efforts must lead to conversion. It is not enough to know things about Christ, there must be a conversion of heart. One called for the re-evangelization of church structures, suggesting that Europe was more represented at the synod than the emerging, developing nations.

Some of the churches represented around the table are ancient, like the church in Ethiopia, recalling Phillip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch, and some new like the church in New Guinea. Our senior bishop present is 75 years and a bishop for 35 years, the youngest has been a bishop for only two years. The only permanent deacon in the synod is present in our group. He is a convert to the faith who embraced Christ only later in life but that relationship has become a passion for him and he now directs a catechetical program emphasizing the need for conversion.

There are three fraternal delegates, one representing the World Council of Churches, one the Lutheran Church and the third a Baptist who is writing a book on Mary as the great disciple. Two women are here too: one from Macau and the other from Nigeria and an auditor who founded a group titled Jesus Youth emphasizing the need for youth to have a personal encounter with Christ, to feel they belong to a community, and to service. Clearly the members who are not bishops will make very helpful contributions to our reflection on the new evangelization.

In the afternoon we returned to the five-minute interventions. While less engaging and, at times, more tedious than the small groups, it gives each bishop an opportunity to offer his insight to the whole body of the synod. Today, Archbishop William Skurla of the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh was the last U.S. bishop to speak. He suggested that the success of this synod will happen if we can find ways to bring young adults to believe in Jesus Christ as they leave home. We succeed in evangelization when young people come to say for themselves, “Yes, I believe.”

At the end of the day we were graced to hear from Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, who is finishing his service as the 104th primate of England and the Anglican Communion. He has been a bishop for 20 years and is an academic, a writer, and a composer, a husband and father. As a sign of respect, Pope Benedict came into the synod hall specifically to listen to Archbishop Williams.

Archbishop Rowan Williams (far right) attends the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization. (Photo by Bishop Kicanas)

Archbishop Williams expressed how honored he felt to be invited by His Holiness to the synod called for the good of all Christ’s people. He reminded us why we were gathered, that is, a desire to communicate effectively God’s word in our day. He suggested that the church has to ask itself some challenging questions as happened at the Second Vatican Council that spoke with fresh ways and saw with fresh eyes.

Vatican II presented a new Christian anthropology. It is at last possible to be human. Among his many thoughts, he observed that, “we have a distinctive human destiny to share with the world as Christians. … To be fully human is to be recreated in the image of the human Christ. … We share a contemplative humanity, giving selfless attention to the other. … To be contemplative as Christ is contemplative is to be open to the Father, receiving all the Father gives. … We are called to the silent gazing upon God. …In this self-forgetting gazing we come to see one another. … To be converted to the faith is to become a new person. … We avoid every effort to make oneself happy or to dominate others so as to become more free to love others as fragile fellow creatures held in the love of God.” He reminded us that works of justice and charity flow from making space for God. “True prayer purifies the motive in order to do justice.”

He emphasized that a contemplative perspective opens us up to the other. He gave examples of ecumenically shared contemplative practices even some for children and young people leading them to the depth of our faith. He commented on how contemplation allows us to live more humanly and live with a joy in the discipline of self forgetting. He insisted that the church cannot be just another institution, competing, ambitious.  We are looking to Jesus, the unveiled face of God.

In his responses to some synod fathers questions, he warned against fragmentation as a great danger. “We can lose the sense of our solidarity with those on the margins, seeing the beauty in one another. We need to reach across this fragmentation.” He mentioned what many have been saying so far in the synod that the reality and character of how we live is what speaks to people. Many at the synod have been concerned about the young, and Archbishop Williams said that, “The young without the church and the church without the young is lost. The young wish to be nourished and to grow, not to be entertained. With regard to ecumenism he commented that “no one should be glad for the suffering of another and we should be glad and rejoice for the success of the other.”

His reflection was stunning and held the attention of the synod fathers at the end of a long day, a day well spent.

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.

U.S. well represented among experts at Second Vatican Council

Pope John XXIII leads the opening session of the Second Vatican Council in St. Peter’s Basilica Oct. 11, 1962. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council in October 1962. We thought it would be a good opportunity to look back for the next year or so on some of the coverage of the council by Catholic News Service. CNS was known at the time as National Catholic Welfare Conference News Service, NC for shorthand.

Today’s blog is about the American experts who were appointed to assist the council fathers. Originally, the Pope John XXIII named 10 people, all priests, from the U.S. among the 195 experts from around the world. During the next three years of the council, almost a dozen more were added.

According to the NC report of Oct. 1, 1962, the experts “are specialists in fields such as theology, canon law and social action. They will be able to attend general sessions of the council, but may not speak unless called upon.”

The experts’ principal duty was “to collaborate with the members of the various council commissions — at the invitation of the presiding officers — to help compile and correct texts and to prepare them for publication.

The initial 195 experts were appointed in their own right. Later appointees first arrived at the council as personal experts or advisers to bishop members and were later appointed as experts to the full council. It was difficult throughout the council for NC — or any news organization — to get a handle on who had been appointed in later years, since the Vatican did not always announce the appointments in its public statements.

Here is the list of the initial American experts appointed, all giants in their field:

— Msgr. Francis J. Brennan, of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, dean of the Sacred Roman Rota.

— Msgr. William J. Doheny, of the Diocese of Superior, Wis., a Rota judge.

— Msgr. John Steinmueller, a Scripture scholar from the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y.

— Msgr. Joseph C. Fenton, editor of the American Ecclesiastical Review at The Catholic University of America. (The AER ceased publication in 1975.)

— Msgr. Rudoph G. Bandas, an educator and theologian from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

— Msgr. George G. Higgins, the legendary director of the Social Action Department of the National Catholic Welfare Conference in Washington, forerunner of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

— Father Fredrick McManus, member (and later dean) of the canon law faculty at The Catholic University of America and former president of the North American Liturgical Conference as well as head of the postconciliar USCCB liturgy office. (He was one of the architects of the council’s document on the liturgy.)

— Benedictine Father Ulric Beste, a priest of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minn., who was a professor of canon law at the Pontifical University of St. Anselm in Rome.

— Holy Cross Father Edward Heston, procurator in Rome for the Congregation of the Holy Cross.

— Assumptionist Father Georges Tavard, chairman of the theology department of Mount Mercy College in Pittsburgh. The priest, a noted ecumenist, was a native of France but spent most of his 60 years as a priest in the United States.

— Passionist Father Barnabas Mary Ahern, who served on the council’s theological commission. A top U.S. biblical scholar, he was a leader of the movement in the 1950s and ’60s to popularize the use and understanding of the Bible among Catholics.

— Jesuit Father Gustave Weigel, a theologian who was a major influence on the document on ecumenism.

By the end of 1962, the pope named 10 more priests. They were:

— Vincentian Father Nichale E. Persich, rector of Kenrick Seminary in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

— Father Joseph Baker, of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, a canon lawyer and Latinist.

— Msgr. William W. Baum, vice chancellor of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo. (He was later bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Mo., archbishop of Washington, and cardinal prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Apostolic Penitentiary at the Vatican.)

–Msgr. Ernest J. Fiedler, Kansas City- St. Joseph diocesan director of vocations and of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.

— Msgr. Mark J. Hurley, chancellor of the Diocese of Stockton, Calif. (He was later auxiliary bishop of San Francisco and bishop of Santa Rosa, Calif.)

— Msgr. Andrew P. Landi, of the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y., director in Italy for Catholic Relief Services-NCWC.

— Msgr. George W. Shea, a Marian scholar and rector of Immaculate Conception Seminary of the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J.

— Oblate Father John J. King, professor of dogmatic theology at the seminary of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Washington.

The next year John XXIII appointed five more Americans, including one of the most famous in the council’s history. They were:

— Msgr. Manuel J. Rodriguez, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, N.M.

— Father Vincent A. Yzermans, former editor of the St. Cloud Visitor, newspaper of the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minn., who was director of the NCWC Information Office and compiler of the NC Council Daybook. (He was later head of the National Association of Religious Broadcasters.)

— Msgr. William J. McDonald, rector of Catholic University and a priest of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

— Jesuit Father John Courtney Murray, professor of theology at Woodstock College in Maryland and editor of the magazine Theological Studies. He became one of the chief architects of  the council’s 1965 Declaration on Religious Freedom (“Dignitatis Humanae”), which redefined church-state relations and said religious freedom is a human right the state is required to protect.

— Msgr. John M. Oesterreicher, a convert to Catholicism from Judasim, who was a top theologian and leading advocate of Jewish-Catholic reconciliation. He was one of the architects of the council document “Nostra Aetate,” which among other things called for an end to anti-Semitism.

— Dominican Father John A. Driscoll, a native of St. Paul, Minn., the American assistant general of the Order of Preachers.

Other experts from around the world were named at the start and during the council sessions, but widely lost in the council’s history is the fact John XXIII also named two Italian princes as “custodians” of the council: Prince Aspreno Colonna and Prince Allesandro Torlonia, referred to as “prince assistants to the papal throne.”

According to the NC report, “The title of prince assistant has been held by the heads of the Colonna and Orsini families since the 16th century. The present Prince Orsini, however, was relieved of the title several years ago because of scandal.” Ouch.

“The duties of the custodians have not been announced publicly,” the report said. “The office — today more or less honorary — derives from earlier and stormier councils when military protection was sometimes needed to assure peace.”

Later NC dispatches noted heated disagreements during the council’s years, but as yet we haven’t come across any reports of sabers being drawn. At least literally.

An ecumenical pilgrimage to Rome’s Church of St. Gregory

Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams lights a candle in the chapel of the Church of St. Gregory in Rome. (CNS/Cindy Wooden)

ROME — Before delivering a major address to Pope Benedict XVI and the world Synod of Bishops on new evangelization this evening, Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury stopped for prayer at a church significant to both Catholics and Anglicans.

The Church of St. Gregory on the Caelian Hill is the church from which Pope Gregory the Great sent St. Augustine of Canterbury and his fellow monks to evangelize England in 597.

Archbishop Williams is supporting the efforts of the Camaldoli monks and nuns at St. Gregory’s to develop the church’s popularity as an ecumenical pilgrimage stop for Anglican and Catholic visitors to Rome.

In the little chapel of St. Gregory — where Archbishop Williams and Pope Benedict prayed together in March — the archbishop and Camaldoli Father Peter Hughes, the prior, led a short prayer service this morning.

Father Hughes told the archbishop, “The symbolic weight of pilgrimage to this holy place in order to pray for Christian unity cannot be overemphasized. When hope begins to fade and enthusiasm wanes, it is the corporate memory of moments such as these that inspires us and helps us recuperate the dynamic of the ecumenical vision, continue to legitimate it and reinforce our commitment to it.”

Archbishop Williams led the monks, nuns, Anglican and Catholic faithful present in prayers for Pope Benedict, for the synod and for all those praying and working, especially in Rome, to promote Christian unity.

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.

Inside the synod: We begin with words from the Holy Father

By Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas
One in a series

Monday, Oct. 8, 2012

VATICAN CITY — The U.S. delegation began the day at Mass in the small Marian chapel of the North American College, the U.S. seminary in Rome, where we are staying. The reading of today’s Gospel of the Good Samaritan reminded us that the service of the Good Samaritan is to be our mission as well. Who would not be moved by the sensitivity of the Samaritan to human need? He had, as Pope Benedict would say, “a heart that sees where love is needed and he responded.” Such a demonstration of compassionate care draws people to the church.

The synod day begins at 9 a.m. with a break at 12:30 p.m. and then resumes from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Roll is taken of all synod participants, indicating their presence by pressing an electronic pad that lights up the seat on a chart in front of the hall. There are no cuts or ditching a session. You would get caught.

The Holy Father entered the synod hall right at 9. He led us in the Liturgy of the Hours and offered a reflection after the reading. This elderly man spoke passionately and with vigor, without any notes, on confession and charity as roots of the new evangelization. The wise teacher obviously knew the message he was presenting. His strong gestures and clear thoughts were captivating. Alert and vehement in delivery, one could only feel in the presence of a master teacher for whom the new evangelization matters much.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, right, speaks with a bishops as they leave the opening meeting of the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization at the Vatican Oct. 8. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

He called Catholics to confess out loud and make public what is in their hearts. We need courage to utter the Word. He called us to sing out our faith.

Recently I was in Madagascar for Catholic Relief Services. I was moved by the profession of faith of the people as they sang and danced, possessed by a profound faith that they were not embarrassed by but were proud to profess. They celebrated their faith and professed that faith openly. Martyrs of course confess their faith with their very lives.

The Holy Father then spoke of charity in living the faith. Confession is nothing abstract. The Gospel is not mere words. Faith cannot be separated from love. For some time the Holy Father has been calling the church to awaken, to be set on fire with love of the Lord so that we can set others on fire with this love.

I could only feel that the Holy Father with his open, wide gestures during his reflection was trying to get the church moving, to give it new life, new energy, to wake us from our tiredness and shake us from our lack of confidence.

Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, reviewed for us in Latin the process that led to the gathering of the synod fathers. He described an extensive consultative process that led to the “instrumentum laboris” that will guide the work of the synod. He used the image of the icon of the Good Shepherd that was found in the Catacomb of Priscilla that shows Christ carrying back the lost sheep. We seek like Christ to bring back the stray.

As I listened to him I could only think of how many have drifted from the church. We feel their loss. We miss them. We long for their return. If only this synod might give us “new ardor, new expressions, new methods” to draw people back to Christ.

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington and Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, speak as they leave the opening meeting of the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization at the Vatican Oct. 8. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

I was very proud of our own Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, who is the “relator general” for this synod. He presented —  in exquisite Latin no less —  seven important points that underlie the new evangelization that gave a good grounding to our discussion.

He reminded us first that we can never forget the One we proclaim. Second, he reminded us of the rich documents about evangelization written by the popes since Pope Paul VI even up to the present Holy Father. He spoke of how challenging it is today to evangelize, especially in cultures that are immersed in secularism and materialism strongly influencing the young. He reminded us that “evangelization is not a program but a mode of thinking, seeing and acting.” He called us “to a new confidence of the truth of our message.” He laid out the theological foundations of the new evangelization and the qualities of the new evangelizers as boldness/courage, connectedness to the church, as well as a sense of urgency and joy. He concluded with an emphasis on social justice in evangelization.

In the afternoon we covered the continents of the world, hearing about the glimpses of light and shades of darkness that are present in each continent. Having just visited in Southeast Asia for Catholic Relief Services, I was interested in the report on Asia. Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai spoke of this young continent, central for the future of the world and the church. China and India are emerging. There is great inequality among the Asian nations. Asia is the cradle of many religions. He enumerated three areas for the work of the church in Asia: Dialogue with culture, with the poor, and with traditions. Youth are vulnerable.

He described five challenges for the church in Asia:

  1. Secularism — even though people are spiritual by nature we need to present faith as relevant, appealing to mind and heart.
  2. Family ties are being eroded and sanctity of married life, and there are some voices being raised in support of same-sex marriage.
  3. Anti-life movements are growing, including ethnic conflicts and threats against the helpless. For some a girl child is a divine curse.
  4. The Asian soul seeks community, but individualism is creeping in.
  5. There are attacks on religion and persecution of Christianity. Christians feel weak and vulnerable.

In Asia Christians are 3 percent, and only the Philippines and East Timor are very Catholic. For Asians, discipleship matters more than doctrine. Contemplative prayer is important.

After the continental reflections, some of the five-minute interventions started, beginning with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, who was given the right to speak first by the Holy Father. For the last hour of the day anyone can speak for three minutes in a free-floating conversation which will get more interesting as the synod continues.

At the end, Cardinal Wuerl expressed how encouraged he was to see so many media present for the press conference. The press wondered whether there would be continuity between the synod and the Second Vatican Council. Media members emphasized the importance of the work of the church in serving others as a way of bringing people to the faith. They asked how the church will provide spiritual resources for people hungering for deeper meaning.

It was a full and productive day.

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.