Foundation Built on the Word

Interview With Cardinal Marc Ouellet

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By Kris Dmytrenko

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 28, 2008 (Zenit.org).- In the midst of a financial crisis, people need to hear more about what is the real foundation of the world, which is the Word of God, says Cardinal Marc Ouellet.

"All reality is grounded in the Word of God," added the archbishop of Quebec, who served as the relator-general of this month's world Synod of Bishops on the Word of God.

The cardinal was among the most prominent voices at the three-week synod, which ended Sunday, as he was responsible for delivering four key synod texts, including the reports before and after the discussion and the final list of 55 propositions to be considered by Benedict XVI.

In this interview with ZENIT at the conclusion of the assembly, Cardinal Ouellet discusses the outcomes of this synod and what he believes would be a good theme for the next assembly.

Q: During the closing press conference on Saturday, you compared the synod to the biblical account of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Can you elaborate on this shared experience of the bishops?

Cardinal Ouellet: I remember the one from Latvia [Bishop Antons Justs of Jelgava] who told us how much in the history of his country, people have been forced to walk on the Bible -- to despise the Word of God -- and yet they had knelt down and kissed the Bible. Then they were sent to Siberia for ten years.

But when they came back, they proclaimed the Word and, lifting high the Bible, said, “This is the Word for which our fathers died.” These people have extraordinary conviction. And when we heard these witnesses we were touched and moved ourselves.

Among all these testimonies, we heard the Lord who was present, who was talking to us, who was warming our hearts and helping us to realize that the Church is there for the Word of God, to spread the Good News. So that’s why I said it was a way of Emmaus together.

Q: For laity in the pews, what changes can they expect in their parish life as a result of the synod? What changes might you bring to the Archdiocese of Quebec even before the Pope releases his post-synodal apostolic exhortation?

Cardinal Ouellet: We have heard many comments about how to improve the way the Word is proclaimed. We need to form our readers and really encourage them. I think there will also be long-term improvements in preaching -- it won’t be tomorrow -- because in the long term we will have a more spiritual interpretation of the Scriptures, also on the part of scholars and theologians.

There will be more meditation on the Word of God, with the Gospels and readings of the previous or coming Sunday. There will be more Bible-sharing groups where participants will share the Scriptures to find meaning in their lives. I hope that the youth will discover the Scriptures and learn to pray with the Scriptures. This is essential for the future.

Q: It was up to the Pope’s discretion whether to release the list of 55 propositions submitted to him by the synod fathers. Why did he agree to release them, albeit in an unofficial translation?

Cardinal Ouellet: Because the decision was made at the last synod in 2005. Nowadays it’s very difficult to keep secret the things that are discussed in a big assembly. And, at the same time, it was a way of coming closer to the media and allowing them to reflect on and spread what was discussed. And I think it’s preparing the way for the apostolic exhortation.

Q: This synod was notable for the unity that existed among the bishops. Were you surprised by the degree of consensus that was reached?

Cardinal Ouellet: I was not surprised, but I was deeply edified. I think that it was linked to the theme -- the Word of God -- and to the real sincere invocation of the Holy Spirit. Also, I think it was due to the Holy Father. You know, his pontificate is three years old. We sense his presence, his authority, his competence, and this had a strong impact on the consensus.

I would like to add something: In the Church, we have strong ecclesial movements that have developed over three or four decades. I think of Focolare, Communion and Liberation, the Neocatechumenate Way, [the] Sant’Egidio [Community], charismatic movements, and others. They have reached a degree of maturity and they bring an impetus for evangelization. All this has been a resource for the synod.

Q: While the Catholic media was following the daily synod developments in Paul VI Hall, much of the mainstream press was not. What might the world not understand about what has occurred here over the last three weeks?

Cardinal Ouellet: There were other events, like the financial chaos in parts of world. This distracted the world press, to some extent. But precisely because of this chaos, the world needs to hear about the real foundation of the world, which is the Word of God. The Pope said it at the beginning and I think it should be repeated many times: All reality is grounded in the Word of God. Everything was created in the Word. I think this has to be proclaimed and offered to the search of humanity.

Q: As a recently elected member of the post-synodal council, you will also have a role in preparing the next world Synod of Bishops. What issues do you hope will be addressed?

Cardinal Ouellet: The Word of God was a way for the Church to reflect on its own identity, because that's the foundation of the Church and the foundation of its mission. The next synod will be decided by the Holy Father, but there was a consultation on the last day and I personally insisted on mission and communication.

We’re in a new age of communication, so we have to reflect more deeply on this. This would help very much the mission of the Church. But at the same time, it has to be a theme that would be universal -- the world of communication is not at the same level in all countries. In developed countries it has a certain place, but in others, less so.

It could also be about interreligious dialogue, which is vital for the future, for the peace of humanity, for the struggle for justice in the world. This is another theme that is oriented "ad extra," so to speak -- toward the world.

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Kris Dmytrenko is an associate producer of the Toronto-based Salt and Light Television Network, and is currently on assignment in Rome.