Additional Reports of 18th General Congregation

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 20, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here are summaries of the working group reports given Friday morning at the 18th general congregation of the world Synod of Bishops, which is under way in the Vatican through Oct. 26. The theme of the assembly is on "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church."



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-- RELATION OF THE WORKING GROUP GERMANICUS: H.E. Most. Rev. Friedhelm HOFMANN, Bishop of Würzburg

In the German language group, where Bishops from Eastern Europe and extra-European countries took part, four main themes were discussed:

1) The relationship between Biblical exegesis and Theology. In some of the interventions presented in the Synod hall, there seemed to be a certain fear in the historical-critical method, a fear that endangers the merits and fruits of scientific exegesis. Spiritual exegesis, which is founded on the lectio divina, requires on one hand as its premise scientific exegesis. Also, fundamentalism must be separated from the modern currents in reading the Bible, currents that could create an ideological demystification. Both these attitudes contradict the sensum ecclesiae.

We also dealt with the order of the Readings during the Holy Mass. In this context, we found a problem in correlating readings of the Old Testament with the Gospel.

2) As for the relationship between Christians and Jews, a reassessment of Judaism was highlighted, with a return to what was stated in Nostra Aetate. Despite all the differences, the Jewish reading of the Bible has always taught something. Looking at the Jews as “elder brothers in faith” is a pastoral challenge.

Some Episcopal Conferences have had positive experiences with Commissions for Christian-Jewish dialogue, experiences that could be extended.

Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta vom Kreuz), Patron Saint of Europe, - due to her experiences in life - could be a bridge in Christian-Jewish dialogue.

3) As for the thematic area of Biblical Pastoral Ministry, various points of view came out, among others, the large number of small Christian communities that are considered ideal but at the same time their ability to transform must be treated objectively.

As for spread of Pentecostals and other sects, we must ask what is the reason behind their success. This is a challenge for the Church’s pastoral ministry, considering the so-called “baptized catechumens”.

The Bible as the Word of God is the line of separation between the missionary pastoral work and catechetical commitment. To this end, the laity must be formed in a suitable and authoritative way for their important task in proclaiming the Word. The role of the family is very important for the initiation to the reading of the Scripture and at the same time its common reading. The family efforts find their continuation in the religious teaching and witness that cannot be separated from an in depth introduction to the Holy Scripture.

We also asked ourselves if, in a secularized world where men are nostalgic for the truth, the Church shouldn’t be more decisive in her approach to agnostics. Here we must try to make more practical proposals to be able to reach those that are marginalized. In this sense, positive examples were found in Communist territories, of what was once the GDR. Among other things, we should ask ourselves which must be the role of the Bible in pre-liturgical celebrations, as regards art and culture and in view of the spiritual dimension.

A performative proclamation of the Word of God occurs in Sacraments, which is finalized in the celebration of the Eucharist. When it is impossible to celebrate the Eucharist, and in its place the Word of God is celebrated, this last should not be considered in a secondary substitution, rather, it needs to be considered in its intrinsic worth as the encounter with the Lord, manifested in it.

4) Also the theme of the Bible and Ecumenism found ample space for consideration. The Holy Scripture represents not only the starting point for ecumenism, but also an important place for encounter with other Christian confessions. On one hand, this means underlining one’s point of view, but on the other hand avoiding confrontational situations. In conclusion, exegesis, inasmuch as science, draws advantages from ecumenical dialogue.

In all our reflections, the following words by the Apostle Paul are present: “It is not ourselves that we are proclaiming, but Christ Jesus as the Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake” (2 Co 4:5).

[Original text: German]

-- RELATION OF THE WORKING GROUP ANGLICUS C: H.E. Most. Rev. Patrick Altham KELLY, Archbishop of Liverpool

1. The Word of God received, understood, lived within the church. In particular the Word finds its privileged place in the Eucharistic liturgy. The ecclesial quality of our fidelity to the Word is a specific blessing not only for us, but a gift that, as they follow with prayerful interest this Synod, the other Churches and Ecclesial communities expect us to show forth.

2. Formation: there has to be appropriate for all those who are called to be ministers of the Word of God according to the specific task entrusted to them. We also recognised how fidelity to the Bible, in its full ecclesial setting, affects all priestly formation.

3.Translation and transmission of the Bible. Many still have no access to the Bible in their own language.. The work of translation and interpreting the Bible was set out by the Bible Societies and the Catholic Biblical Federation. We were made aware of problems where discrete linguistic or cultural areas use different versions, especially for the Liturgy. Wider access to the whole of the Scriptures raises questions about the present lectionary and effective proclamation may not ignore the setting and manner of proclamation. We were all aware of the importance of the homily at every Eucharistic celebration.

4.God speaks in the heart and conscience, in creation, in events, in disaster and the in presence of many not ready for all we would share, but needing a way to begin to taste the word of God as described.

5.The Riches of the Word. The Word finds a welcome expression in many ways, as in contemplative life, in the agents of the kingdom among those in greatest need. There is the service to the Word of exegetes, and in so many places, where a priest is not with the people every Lord's Day, those who ensure the word is received, interpreted and made a source of communion with one another and the whole church affirmed. The word is received in many contexts, pilgrimages, feasts. It forms the missa1, the breviary and the Rosary. And there are many rich ways from Art to MP3 to communicate and introduce the word.

6. Dialogue, especially with Muslims and on the issue of the Koran, the book which cannot be acknowledged, it would seem, without acknowledging the prophet.

[Original text: English]

-- RELATION OF THE WORKING GROUP HISPANICUS A: Rev. Julián CARRÓN, President of Communion and Liberation

The Spanish group began by expressing the expectation of the participants relative to this Synod dedicated to the Word of God in the life of the Church. Everyone hopes that this represents an impulse on the evangelizing mission of the Church so that the Word of God reaches everybody, in the various situations that the Church must face, so that men may encounter the living Christ.

We propose the following:

It is noted that among Catholics who are unfamiliar with the Old Testament and because of some embarrassment and resistance faced by passages understood with difficulty, these being the controversial questions of divine and human violence, the amorality of certain Biblical figures and a theology which is insufficient concerning the afterworld. Therefore, an adequate Biblical formation should be offered to the faithful, which would help understanding the Old Testament texts in their historical and literary context, but also and especially can facilitate Christian reading as the main hermeneutic key, since these texts acquire and show their full meaning in the New Testament.(cf. DV 16)

We propose to move from a “Biblical pastoral” to a Biblical animation of all pastoral actions, that is to say, to place the Word of God as the “rock” that is the foundation, as the living source and as the inspiring breath of all of the life and of all the mission of the Church.(cf. DV 21.24)
Between the diverse forms of announcing and transmitting the Word of God particular importance must be given to kerygma.

The task to announce Christ is the responsibility of each baptized person. In addition to the homily, to the actual preaching of the liturgical celebrations, it is necessary to recall the value of the preaching by all Christians in light of Baptism and of Confirmation.

Regarding the celebrations of the Word, many ecclesial communities, particularly those in the urban outskirts and in the rural areas, without Sunday Eucharistic celebrations, find the nourishment for their faith and to give a Christian witness, in the celebration of the Word of God.

In the formation of candidates to priesthood, the Word of God is essential to form the heart of a good pastor, future minister of the Word.

As pertains to the consecrated life, the academic Institutions of Sacred Scriptures, especially those in Rome and in Jerusalem, should be thanked for the great contribution they have made to the formation of exegetes and Biblicists, also the institutions of consecrated life should continue contributing to the study of the Holy Scripture, through these and other institutions, committed to spreading the knowledge of the Bible. Giving worth and careful attention in a particular way to the contemplative life is also indispensable.(cf. Benedict XVI, Angelus 18 November 2007). In contemplative life, the Word is welcomed, prayed and celebrated.

We feel a deep concern because of the influence of sects and new religious groups on the Catholic faithful, which sometimes bring them to even abandon the Church. This phenomenon harms our way of living the faith inside the Church and must be perceived as a call to witness it, so that the new life that Christ has brought us may shine on the face of our communities. Greater studies on the sects and the new examples of this phenomenon would be of great help, to face them suitably.

Islam. In relationships with Islam and in dialogue with its representatives, its concept of the socio-political and judicial order -- not always duly differentiated from religious order -- should be kept in mind and its concept of marriage and the family where the role and the rights of the women are not dealt with as is foreseen in the doctrine of fundamental human rights and of the family institution and as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

[Original text: Spanish]

-- RELATION OF THE WORKING GROUP ITALICUS A: H.E. Most. Rev. Salvatore FISICHELLA, Titular Bishop of Voghenza, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life; Rector of the Pontifical Lateran University

We have reflected, in a special way on the first four questions raised by the Relatio post disceptationem and arrived at formulating indications for a number of Propositiones which I will sum up as follows.

It is necessary to clarify the sense of the dialogic dimension of Revelation, since the term refers to different dimensions such as “interreligious dialogue”, “ecumenical dialogue”, “dialogue with cultures”... When it is referring to Revelation, it takes on a meaning all of its own: this involves the primacy of the action of God who in freedom comes towards man; this implies that there can never be a parity between the two subjects.

It is vital for the expression Word of God be made unambiguous. This is not easy, but it is necessary. One of the most important considerations of the Synod shows that the Word of God cannot only be identified with the Bible. The Word of God is Christ, the Word of the Father. His preaching, like his acts, have been given to the Church which remains the primary subject that under the action of the Holy Spirit transmits Christ uninterruptedly as the announcement of salvation (DV).

The announcement of the Word of God is the first duty of the Church. An explicit announcement, always and everywhere, that is accompanied by a coherent testimony of living that renders evident the content and reinforces it. What Dei Verbum affirms for the revelation that takes place gestis verbisque intrinsice inter se connexis (DV 2), by analogy is applied to the Church that carries out its evangelizing mission with the announcement of Christ and the testimony of a coherent lifestyle.

It was felt necessary to observe that in a generalized context of secularization -- that goes way beyond the Western countries -- particular attention be paid, above all, to creating forms of listening so that whoever places themselves in front of the Sacred Scripture knows they are in front of God who is speaking. This demands, furthermore, a formation that allows the discovery of how the reading of the Word converts the heart, opens up to penance and sets out on a path of new life. In this context, the importance of a permanent education is underlined, above all of catechists, that allows the overcoming of the major obstacle of a lack of knowledge of the basic contents of faith, which should cause great alarm to our pastoral action.

The liturgy remains as the privileged place in which the Word of God expresses itself fully. It is necessary to overcome the gap between Bible and Liturgy, Word and Sacrament. This happens to the extent to which it reinforces the idea that the Word of God is Christ Himself in His differentiated presence in the life of His Church; above all in the real presence of the Eucharistic sacrifice; also when the sacraments are celebrated; therefore, when “the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks present in his own word” (SC 7). What has to grow, therefore, is the knowledge of a profound unity that reaches its high point in the Holy Eucharist.

The different ways in which Lectio Divinis is celebrated pose the question of whether we shouldn’t clarify, above all, what is really meant by this action, so as not to leave the wealth of the tradition of the Church Fathers and Medieval teachers in the dark. The growing value that is placed on the Lectio forces us to remember that this is not the only way to meet the Word of God.

[Original text: Italian]

-- RELATION OF THE WORKING GROUP HISPANICUS C: H.E. Most. Rev. Víctor Hugo PALMA PAÚL, Bishop of Escuintla

Besides the auxiliaries, auditors and corresponding assistants, working group C is made up of 18 Bishops. The Moderator is H.E. Msgr.Ricardo Básquez Pérez, Bishop of Bilbao, Spain.

If, in our first meeting there was an exchange of experiences on the present Synod and on the Relatio ante disceptationem, yesterday during the day, dedicated to elaborating the Propositiones we proceeded as follows:

a. We again took up the 19 questiones proposed at the end of the Relatio Post discptationem and we proceeded to note those other questiones libere allowed at the end of the same questionnaire.

b. In this way some other proposals were added by the Synodal Fathers to the 19 questions of the questionnaire, including some raised in this very Hall at the end of the Relatio post disceptationem.

c. We proceeded to work together on five thematic points

1) The reading of the Bible in Church (Question 1)

2) Sects and fundamentalism (freely adapted theme)

3) Biblical formation at the service of the Word of God, in particular formation of future priests (this was also a freely adapted theme).

4)Biblical truth (in part corresponding to question 15)

5)The Word of God and Liturgy (corresponding to questions 5, 6 and 7)

6)The Word of God and the Liturgy of the Hours (dealt with as a free proposal)

[Original text: Spanish]

-- RELATION OF THE WORKING GROUP ANGLICUS B: H.E. Most. Rev. Gerald Frederick KICANAS, Bishop of Tucson, Assistant President of Episcopal Conference

The group suggested that the tone of the exhortation should be hope filled, needs to energize the Church around the Word of God and should be pastoral and missionary.

The group identified critical areas about which propositions should be developed. A wide range of areas surfaced. First the need to give greater recognition to lay catechists, Catholic School teachers, youth ministers, and lay biblical animators. They need to be better formed and prepared.

Second the need to understand what is attracting people to the Sects and learn from them. Third how preaching might be improved and made more vibrant. Fourth the need to emphasize and highlight the contemplative dimension. Fifth, finding structures to bring together exegetes, liturgists, theologians, and bishops. Sixth, the need to give greater emphasis to consecrated life, pneumatology, healing and the Sacrament of Penance, and the use of media.

The dialogic nature of the Word of God needs greater emphasis. There are few opportunities in parishes to teach the necessary theology. Even more important than teaching is modeling a dialogic manner.

The group discussed the need to enhance the way we read the Word.

There is a need to better form people in the Word through Lectio Divina, dramatization, working with parents who are the primary educators of their children.

There was a mixed reaction to a compendium on preaching. We need to do something but group did not agree that this would be helpful. Suggestion was made for a compendium on helping people read the Word of God.

There was not a strong feeling that there needs to be a revision of the Lectionary. While some Old Testament texts are difficult, they should not be dropped. Perhaps alternatives could be available.

There was concern that the question about the relation between exegetes and theologians implies a rift between them. Rather we should encourage cooperation. Scholars should have an opportunity to work in pastoral settings.

Finally the group explored relations with other Christians and with Jews. Concern was raised that Jews sometimes feel that Catholics downplay their positions for dialogue. They do not want that. Bringing the experience of the Synod to other Christian churches might foster communion.

[Original text: English]

-- RELATION OF THE WORKING GROUPHISPANICUS B: H.E. Most. Rev. Freddy Antonio de Jesús BRETÓN MARTÍNEZ, Bishop of Baní

Among the themes dealt with, of the approved Propositiones, the Word and the merciful love of God:.. We have to highlight the Word of God and the realization of His mercy and His pardon. To read the Word in dialogue with the world: there are many signs in our world by which God speaks to us. Numerous people and organizations dedicate themselves with generous effort to the promotion of human rights, they express concretely their solidarity with those groups of humans who have experienced natural catastrophes or who are living in scandalous situations of poverty and exclusion, or who are looking, on the basis of different religious choices or humanistic philosophies, to try to construct a more fraternal and united world.

It is important to recognize these realities and enter into dialogue with them. We have to be willing to offer these people and movements that light of the Word that will open up to them new horizons and confer on them a human dimension of greater consistency and depth. And we also have to be willing to accept the light that they offer to us and that allows us to discover new resonances in the Scriptural texts and to hear with greater urgency the call of Jesus to live in service to His Kingdom.

The consecrated feel called, in communion with the whole Church, to continue opening personal and community spaces to the Word, to make of the Word of God the daily nourishment of their life and mission, in particular through the practice of the prayerful reading of the Word (Lectio divina) and to promote schools of Biblical prayer that are open to the laity. The Synod thanks the contemplative life for its contribution to the Lectio divina, or prayerful reading of the Word, and asks that this practice be made more openly available to believers.

Two others refer respectively to Sunday Lectionary and the promotion of the Bible.

Among those awaiting approval some also deal with the theme of spreading the Bible. Another refers to the Liturgy of the Hours, especially the Office of the Reading. Several others refer to the formation of priests, catechesis, means of social communication; another calls for the recognition and enhanced use of various forms of proclamation of the Word.

Others refer, in different ways, to the Lectio divina and different forms of prayerful reading of the Holy Scripture. Others focus on the systematic study of the Holy Scripture and of how to make the Word of God enter like yeast in the midst of a pluralist and secularized world. Others of Biblical translations, as well.

[Original text: Spanish]

-- RELATION OF THE WORKING GROUPGALLICUS B: H.E. Most. Rev. Joseph Luc André BOUCHARD, Bishop of Saint Paul in Alberta

A word on the Relatio

If we can hope in a post-synodal exhortation, that it have as its common trait a text from the Holy Scriptures (for example: Jn 6). This text would allow the underlining of the deep unity between the Word of God and the Eucharist.

We must renew the relevance of Dei Verbum but in today’s context, evoking some problems that have yet to be resolved (for example, the debate on the “Book”, fundamentalism, personal interpretation, interpretation cum Ecclesia).

As pertains to the institutional propositions

Congresses. One should not think about a congress specifically for the Word of God, but insist on the value of the scriptural aspect in already existing congresses.

The World Catholic Bible Federation should have fuller value.

Liturgical proclamation of the Word of God

a) Readers

Could we think about a renewal in the ministry of the lectorate, or a mandate for readers that is a bit more adapted to the extraordinary ministers of communion?

Establishing diocesan school for readers would be a good idea.

B) The homily

Young priests should be prepared in the art of the homily. This is not a public speech, or a conference, and there are time limitations. Perhaps a Directory on the homily could be used, or where to find common points on the homily.

The community one addresses should be known , knowing full well that the homily is a call to conversion, for the preacher, and for the assembly.

C) Catechesis

We would like to underline the work of the catechists - and the majority of catechists are women who play an important role in the transmission of the Word of God.

Lectio Divina

As for the Lectio Divina, the word needs to be studied; the Lectio divina is not a technique: the finality of this Lectio is to make a prayerful reading of the Scripture and thereby to read it, meditate on it, contemplate it to live better and share.

As to the formation of priests

First of all, all formation in the seminary must be based on the Word of God; we must be enthusiastic about the Word of God, since we will be consecrating our lives to it. It was stated in a positive way that the vocation of the exegete is to help the Church’s judgment grow more mature. The pedagogical method should be reviewed.

[Original text: French]

-- RELATION OF THE WORKING GROUPITALICUS B: H.E. Most. Rev. Vincenzo PAGLIA, Bishop of Terni-Narni-Amelia, President of the Catholic Biblical Federation

In the insecurity and emptiness of words in the lives of many, the Synod appears as an event of grace which proposes anew an encounter with Jesus, Word made flesh. This assembly must give rise to a season of greater love for Scripture, so as to welcome and listen to the Word of the Lord.

Every Christian should therefore be exhorted, whatever his condition, to have his personal Bible to read every day, on the knees of the Church, as Saint Augustine said, to nourish oneself daily on the “bread of life”.

The practice of the Lectio Divina was remembered and strongly recommended, so that it may be as widely practiced as possible. And many times, the inseparable bond between the Bible and prayer was recalled.

The concordance between this Synod and that on the Eucharist is even clearer evidence of the vital tie between the Word of God and the Eucharist, as Dei Verbum teaches.

And it is in the Eucharistic celebration that one recognizes with clarity that Jesus Himself speaks in the Holy Scriptures.

It is necessary to decisively encourage a new pastoral practice in the proclamation of the Word. Bishops and priests are thus called to nourish themselves assiduously on the Word of God. And this nourishment is at the foundation of a more effective preaching of the Gospel, clarifying that the first duty of the homily is: to communicate the Word so that it might “cut to the heart” of the listeners (Ac 2:37).

Many have asked for particular attention in the formation of priests, that they become “in love with” the Word of God. Following the instructions of Dei Verbum (24) which urges making Scripture the soul of theology, and referring to the Holy Father’s intervention, various Fathers emphasized the indispensable circularity between exegesis, theology, and spirituality, so that the Bible is not reduced to a book of the past and merely human.

The Word of God bears charity, the gift of the Spirit, which expresses itself in the Church and today in a special way in ecumenical dialogue and between religions.

[Original text: Italian]

-- RELATION OF THE WORKING GROUP GALLICUS A: H.E. Most. Rev. Fidèle AGBATCHI, Archbishop of Parakou

The main points of the interventions speak about deepening the dialogal dimension by underlining (without neglecting the evidence of the communication of God to men that characterizes the Bible) the logic in the Psalms in which God teaches His people how to speak to Him.

The Bible therefore stops being a monologue, or worse yet the book through which God imposes His will on men. God speaks to His people and listens that they answer Him. This has allowed seeing the meaning of direct contact between men of our times and the Word of God, which takes nothing away from man’s freedom and his blossoming; on the contrary, it shows him the path to follow to fully live his humanity.

Emphasizing this practical sense, it is important to not speak with God as to any god. But rather, we should speak to Him as to the God who was made flesh in the person of Christ and who commits Himself in the history of salvation in calling upon man (no longer considered only His creature but also has the interlocutor) to commit in the history of his own salvation. Therefore, based on the scriptural texts, how God is incarnate and manifests Himself in the daily life of men of our times needs to be underlined.

This imperative of approaching goes through the need to place the Bible in the hands of the faithful, in the first place. This is what some have called direct contact. In any case, a well-prepared and progressive contact. Then, to work as pastors, to intensify a pastoral explanation of the sacred texts. This passes through the constant presence of the Word of God to the heart of all the strong moments of the pastoral: recollections, confessions, accompaniment, preparation to the sacraments, etc...

With a certain insistence, some thoughts go towards adapting what we proclaim and what we live. This is the dimension of witness. How to efficaciously proclaim a word that we ourselves do not know too well. This means, for us, to become every day more familiar with the Word of God and to avoid delivering our teaching on the Word of God like lessons on God.

Also, this means, for those who have the task of proclaiming the Word of God to dialogue more with the faithful and to bear in mind their concerns. The credibility of our teaching on the Word of God goes through there. How to proclaim the love of God to men who suffer and die of hunger?

[Original text: French]