Synod Interventions of 7th General Congregation
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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 10, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here are summaries of the interventions given Thursday afternoon at the seventh general congregation of the world Synod of Bishops, which is underway in the Vatican through Oct. 26. The theme of the assembly is "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church."
-- H. Em. Card. Crescenzio SEPE, Archbishop of Naples (ITALY)
Incarnating the Word of God in the time and history we find ourselves living in since this the only way to render it efficient and the creator of conversion and charity.
Observing the Word means above all, as we were taught by the teaching of Jesus, bearing witness to it with our lives and translating it into works of charity. All the many exegetic studies, the multiple catechetical initiatives and all the efforts towards a greater knowledge, risk not bearing fruit if the Word is not lived coherently in daily life.
To overcome the drama of the gap between faith and daily life and to ensure that the Word unleashes gestures and works of charity, we have to return to the source, that is, to charity: only that, if lived and practiced, can solidify the ecclesial fabric and open the road to the reality of love. The numerous sick in body and spirit, the poor who crowd our city streets, the sites of suffering such as hospitals and prisons, represent more concrete evidence of fidelity to the Word and of our ability to mold our lives on that of the "living Gospel", that is more eloquent than so many words because it has become "flesh and blood".
"Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses," wrote Paul VI in Evagelii Nuntiandi (no. 41).
This basic truth, frequently ignored, has to be proclaimed until the bishops, but also the priests, deacons and catechists increasingly feel the urgency of seriously confronting the Word whose servants they are.
The perfect image of Incarnation is the Virgin Mary, the woman who said "yes" and conceived the Word in her heart, even before she did so in her womb.
The Mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God has to continue to form itself in the Church today through the "yes" of its children who make flesh, in their lives, the saving Word of God.
[Original text: Italian]
-- H. Em. Card. Ennio ANTONELLI, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family (VATICAN CITY)
To recommend and promote, with appropriate support, community listening to the Word of God within the family and the sharing of lived experiences. To be able to more easily connect the written words with Jesus Christ, the living Word, to follow the liturgical year by means of the daily Gospel, or at least the Sunday Gospel, highlighting a phrase to remember or to live during the day or throughout the week. It does not take much time: just a few minutes are sufficient for praying and listening together, for making a shared commitment to enact in daily activities and relationships and to recall at the right moment in spontaneous family dialogue. If one hears the Word only once a week, it can be more lengthy and may constitute a preparation or a continuation and application of the Sunday parish Mass.
The Instrumentum laboris states that the mysteries of the Rosary are "the simple, universally applicable form to prayerfully hearing the Word." (Part I, Chapter 3, n.26). To emphasize and increase the awareness of this listening it would be ideal to officially add to the annunciation of each mystery a brief and appropriate Biblical quotation: for example, to the first Glorious mystery (The Annunciation) we might add "You see before you the Lord's servant" (Lk 1:38).
[Original text: Italian]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Juan Bautista GAVILÁN VELÁSQUEZ, Bishop of Coronel Oviedo (PARAGUAY)
Men and woman of our people today are oppressed and scattered; it has become difficult for them to develop their capacity to listen in daily life. And, if we place this scenario on the religious ecclesiastic level, the necessity and the urgency are greater still. Because of all this, we believe that the practice of listening among men and women of our time is of great importance. Listening, starting from needs and sufferings, like the Master, Jesus did. As servants of the People of God our great responsibility is to develop the capacity to listen and, above all, listen to the Word Incarnate , that is, Jesus Christ himself. Our people need encouragement and hope because they have "hunger...for hearing Yahweh's word" (Am 8:11) And since the faith of the Church is born of the attentive and faithful hearing of the Word, we propose redoubling the efforts in the offering of the listening to the Word. We are aware of the need to make supporting materials and pastoral agents more flexible. And, if circumstances require, to "abandon the old structures which by now no longer help the transmission of faith"(Documento de Aparecida, 365).
We propose to give back to the People of God the Word of hope, of justice, of peace and of love. We want to reaffirm the importance of the small groups of people who mutually strengthen each other with the listening to the Word of God and therefore build more communities and families which are more alive and bear witness. These initiatives will require each and every member of the Church to make a greater commitment in two directions: in the first place, in the formation of the agents for all levels and in particular for the care in the formation of seminarians, and equally for the permanent formation of presbyters, laity, and Bishops, and in the spirit of the pastoral of the Word, emphasizing the witness; in the second place, in the supporting materials in such a way that the participation follows the principle: "a little, but with everyone".
We do not rely on our human strength to attain our objectives, but only on the Lord: "if you say so, I will pay out the nets." (cf Lk 5:5).
[Original text: Spanish]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. David Louis WALKER, Bishop of Broken Bay (AUSTRALIA)
After twelve years of Episcopal ministry, two issues preoccupy me in a special way: Firstly that our Catholic faithful have not been given the opportunity to enter more deeply into the mystery of Our Risen Lord; and secondly the formation of priests who will enable them to do so.
Holiness lies at the heart of our faith; the holiness of each believer should be of a high standard; bringing this about is an urgent pastoral task (John Pau II). Deep holiness and an intimacy with Scriptures go hand in hand. This intimacy is only acquired over time by regular meditative, prayerful reflection on the Scriptures.
We let the faithful down by not proclaiming the Gospel in a deep and radical way. We have domesticated it, tamed it, so that it does not draw them to a radical response.
Our priests today are probably better educated about the Scriptures than ever before. However, this has not resulted in a presbyterate whose heart is "a library of the Word" (Origen) or "dyed the colour of the Scriptures" (Cassian). Such an approach alone can lead to a head filled with the Scriptures but a heart bereft of them.
We need to move the experience of the Scriptures from the head to the heart. This is the real basis of a ordained ministry. Faithfulness to the regular practice of a meditative, prayerful reading of the Scriptures, and the sharing of it, is a way to achieve this.
[Original text: English]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Louis PELÂTRE, A.A., Titular Bishop of Sasima, Apostolic Vicar of Istanbul, Apostolic Administrator for the Apostolic Exarcate of Istanbul (TURKEY)
I come from Asia Minor, today's Turkey.
A large part of the writings of the New Testament were written in this region.
The ministry of the Apostles throughout these regions poses the problem of the transmission of the message in the local languages. The Greek text that we received was preceded by oral tradition and already constitutes an effort of translation. The Constitution "Dei Verbum", from Vatican II, recalls that the bishops are the first ones responsible for the interpretation of the Holy Scripture and points their attention to number 25 on translations (versiones) of the holy texts and the necessary explanations that must accompany them.
Throughout the world there are excellent commissions for translations of the Bible in the different international languages, but what about translations in the local languages that are only spoken by a small number of persons? This is a real problem in Turkey. We must thank our brothers from the Protestant Biblical societies who have done excellent work for a long time in this domain, but we must also deplore the fact that the Catholic Church is not sufficiently present and is lacking competent persons to take part in this effort for translations of suitable quality both in the Biblical languages and the local languages to establish the texts in a quality worthy of the Word of God that we would like to proclaim. Unfortunately, we can easily find the money to print beautiful books, but not enough to ensure the quality of content, which presupposes finding volunteers for this obscure and lengthy task, which is the first step in the evangelizing action of the Church.
[Original text: French]
-- H. Em. Card. Cláudio HUMMES, O.F.M., Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy (VATICAN CITY)
Once, years ago, a colleague of mine, a doctor of theology and a professor, was shaken by what he had read about the Resurrection of Christ in some theological and exegetic books. They questioned this fundamental dogma of our faith in many aspects and emptied it, for the most part, of its true content, in a worrying way. He told me about his loss. It was the day before Easter. He asked me: "Tomorrow is Easter. What will I say to the people about Resurrection?" I immediately answered him: "You will have to proclaim that Jesus Christ is risen and lives! Period." And his response: "This is true! That is it!" And he left, happy once again.
This episode makes one think about the urgent need to give our presbyters and deacons good theology and a true exegetical method. As to the exegetical method, Pope Benedict XVI indicates the direction to follow in the Premise of his book "Jesus of Nazareth".
As for the presbyters and deacons, the Word of God should be the nourishment of a personal discipleship. Presupposing that the Word of God is first of all the same person as Jesus Christ, listening to the same Word in the Holy Scriptures must lead to a strong and personal encounter with Him. In this encounter, the listener must give himself totally over to Christ, allow himself to be transformed and adhere to Him, unconditionally, in faith, thus developing a faithful sequela of Jesus, wherever He may lead. To achieve this, the "lectio divina" is the recommended way, bearing in mind that God is love and the Bible is the story of how God loved His people.The encounter with Christ will give the necessary force to the witness of the proclamation of the Word. Therefore, Kerygma, that is to say the content of the first announcement of the person of Jesus Christ, died and risen for our salvation, and for His Kingdom, should be rediscovered. Also, with this new missionary impulse, we must go and look for those so-called "far away ones", those we have baptized, but who do not participate in the life of our communities.
[Original text: Italian]
-- H. Em. Card. Paul Josef CORDES, President of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" (VATICAN CITY)
In the civilized world, care for one's neighbour in need is, at the same time, a cultural matter. The majority of world religions - such as Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism - have learnt from Christianity and made it their own to foster love of neighbour. Hence, for number 39 of the Instrumentum laboris to demand love of neighbour for the Church's members, does not seem to be the most urgent task today.
In the present cultural context, it would be much more important to reflect back to the tree that produces the fruit. We need to become more conscious of the biblical roots of humanitarian action and strengthen these. For Divine Revelation binds the commandment to love one's neighbour to that of love of God from which it stems. In the preaching of Jesus, the duty to love appears as a double commandment. Precisely to show the love of the Heavenly Father (cf. Jn 10:32) Jesus Himself, the definitive model of love of neighbour, "went about doing good and healing all" (Acts 10:38).
The Pastors of the Church will thus be careful not to simply abandon ecclesial aid institutions to the general climate of philanthropy. Rather they will recognise in the sensitivity of people today the KAIROS to reveal God as the one who enables every "Good Samaritan" deed: it is the announcement of the love of God that grants the capacity to love our neighbour. For this very reason, Cor Unum organized this past June Spiritual Exercises for leaders of Catholic aid agencies in America. The substantial positive feedback is proof that our collaborators are begging for the personal encounter with God. The theocentric emphasis does not water down the commitment to work for justice in society, which the Instrumentum laboris erroneously describes as the "first form of charity" (no. 39); indeed, love surpasses justice many times over (cf. I Co 13). When, for those who are questioning and seeking, the service of the Church's aid agencies and the individual Christian does not show God clearly, we forsake a function of the Church that is decisive for these times of ours. For the man of today needs this connection to God more than anything else.
The first Encyclical of the Holy Father, Deus caritas est, unmistakably affirms the theological truth that, in their dioceses, Bishops are ultimately responsible for the Church's charitable mission (no. 32). They cannot delegate this task to collaborators or renounce it into the hands of some powerful administration or organism Equally true for charity is what is already explicit for the preaching of the Word - the martyria - and celebration of the sacraments - the leitourgia: in the diocese, the final responsibility for the diakonia lies with the Bishop. It is most unfortunate that Canon Law does not expressly mention this duty of the Pastors, an omission that Pope Benedict points to in his Encyclical (no. 32). The time is ripe to fill this gap.
[Original text: English]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Ignatius Ayau KAIGAMA, Archbishop of Jos (NIGERIA)
1. The Synod on the Word of God offers the over one billion Catholics an opportunity to develop a keener devotion to Sacred Scripture; to be a "living gospel" for others.
2. The sign of the cross on the forehead, lips and heart at Gospel means the word is to be absorbed by the mind, take root in the heart and be proclaimed. The Ephphetha at baptism signifying listening and proclamation need to become an integral part of baptism.
3. In Africa we say God gave us two ears and one mouth to listen more. Technological progress makes listening very difficult. Distraction by poverty and worries for the basic things of life and even too much wealth make listening very difficult at mass. Pastors should engage the faithful and their multi-dimensional challenges of life in the homily.
4. The word of God should provide the ingredients for genuine Christian living. It is sad however that when ethnic or political issues arise, even those who share the same Word of God and the Eucharist violently take up arms against each other; either the Word has no relevance in their life or it is superficial, hence syncretistic practices or cult membership.
5. SUGGESTIONS: Pastors to teach personal scripture reading so that Christians meet Jesus in it as dialogue with God. In Nigeria, we encourage ownership of the Bible , even by those who cannot read. In some cases it is a precondition for baptism, marriage and confirmation. Catholics with means to donate Bibles. Parents to present Bible at child's baptism which will be kept for the child till he or she can read it. We encourage the enthronement and sharing Bible at home and among family members. Catholic editions of the Bible are expensive, they should be available and affordable with more translations into native languages. There is a need to train Bible instructors, catechists and translators. There should be weekly Bible catechesis as the Holy Father does. Church movements should begin meetings by sharing from the Bible. Neighbourhood Gospel sharing should be encouraged. Personal readings of Bible passages daily can root the Christian in Gospel values and bring about economic, political and social transformation at home and at work.
[Original text: English]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Héctor Miguel CABREJOS VIDARTE, O.F.M., Archbishop of Trujillo, President of the Episcopal Conference (PERU)
In this era we often mention, and with good reason, the importance of the means of communication in bringing the Word of God to our contemporaries. Nevertheless, each week we have the opportunity to announce the Gospel in the privileged moment of the Eucharistic celebration, a proclamation that is often lacking. This is a topic that has to be considered in all its seriousness and urgency.
Sometimes the roots of this situation are to be found in the lack of serious and systematic Biblical education. A good knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures is a guarantee of good preaching. This formation ought to be imparted during theological training, a theology that, in line with Council teaching, has as its "spirit" Sacred Scripture (DV 24) and acts as the "living breath" of priestly formation. Every three years the ministers of the Word find themselves faced with the same texts: the lack of a solid and permanent Biblical formation that would allow them to draw from these "new things as well as old", as it says in the Gospel of Matthew (13:51), means they quickly pass over these Biblical passages, when not actually falling back on anecdote and the non-transcendent at times.
A knowledge of the text renders the presentation of the Gospel more efficient. We have to exhort the ministers of the Word to elaborate carefully in their homilies, bearing in mind the congregation they are addressing. This has to be clear in the expression that should be faithful and near to the precise aspects of the message found in the read texts. It should be borne in mind that the homily is the communication of the Living Word of God, a communication that, as the word itself implies, is aimed at producing communion with the God of our faith, the foundation of the communion of believers. Communication, communion and community form a single unity.And although the homily has to respond to a solid Biblical foundation and be attentive to the reality and changes of the world where its listeners live, the personal testimony of the preacher, the coherence of the Gospel with his life, should confirm what he proclaims. This will add credibility to what he says. Such a condition demands a profound spirituality in the ministers of the Word, on which we will have to keep watch pastorally.
[Original text: Spanish]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Antoni DZIEMIANKO, Titular Bishop of Lesvi, Auxiliary Bishop of Minsk-Mohilev (BELARUS)
I would like to offer a brief reflection about the life of the Church in Byelorussia, with reference to the theme of this Synod.
It could be said that, in the time of the persecutions, Sacred Scripture, read by priests, put itself forward as the only religious literature that was at the base of preaching and the devout reflection for the faithful. The dramatic situation of the Eastern Bloc, the Iron Curtain, became an even stronger stimulus for the reading of Sacred Scripture on the part of the clergy and for the practice of the Lectio Divina. Lately, at an interdiocesan level, there has been participation in Bible awareness. Albeit slowly, groups are appearing in parishes, who, under the guidance of a priest, study the Bible. On the web page of the Belarus Episcopal Conference Lectio Divina are regularly proposed. The intellectual formation of students observes scrupulously the transmission of Biblical science to future priests, in line with the respective number of hours indicated by the Congregation for Catholic Education. The lessons are held by suitably prepared Biblical scholars.
To ensure "the faithful have greater access to Sacred Scripture" (DV 22) what is required is an appropriate, correct and complete translation of the Bible into Belarusian, in such a way as to inspire love for Sacred Scripture, underlining the unity that exists between the bread of the Word and the Body of Christ. In this way, Christians will be able to ensure for themselves all the nourishment they need to live.
Let us hope that the final contribution of the Synod is not limited to the informative dimension, but that it has an essential influence, involving a concrete and living action, so that the very Word of God can manifest itself for what it is: living, efficacious and penetrating, as well as comprehensible and available in every human language.
[Original text: Italian]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Francesco COCCOPALMERIO, Titular Archbishop of Celiana, President of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Text (VATICAN CITY)
1) In the exposition of the "doctrinal reasons" - as it says in the text quoted above - we should avoid reexamining the complexity of such doctrinal reasons, but limit ourselves to the essential and to the simple discourse. Let us try to place before the faithful in our parishes, faithful who in general possess an average theological education, and let's try to explain to them some of the doctrinal reasons, so that they may understand what Sacred Scripture is and so be inspired by the desire to know it. There are decisive phrases such as that of Saint Cipriano, conveniently quoted at the end of no. 25: "when you read, it is God who is speaking to you". If our faithful were to truly believe this, there would be a revolution in their lives with regard the reading of the Bible.
2) In the choice of the results to be obtained, we should point out a number of very important steps that have also to be very simple. Allow me to list some of these. All the dioceses, parishes and communities must be fully committed to achieving these aims.But now I would like to propose something more specific, in other words, more relevant to my particular work in the Roman Curia and in the service of the Pope. As President of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts and so responsible for ensuring the Church's legislation is always up to date, I ask myself if such an important Assize and on such an determining theme for the life of the Holy Church cannot and should not make a significant contribution to the Law of the Church itself, in a particular way in the Code of canon law.
To clarify this thought I will provide an absolutely elementary example. Canon 276 on the spiritual life of the clergy states: "[The Clergy] are to nourish their spiritual life at the twofold table of the Sacred Scripture and the Eucharist..." (§ 2, no. 2). The text is valuable, but it refers only to the celebration of the Eucharist. When it then goes on to speak of personal prayer, it affirms merely: "they are exhorted to engage regularly in mental prayer" (§ 2, no. 5). The expression "mental prayer" is absolutely clear, but dated.
It might be, instead, that this is the place in which to "exhort the clergy to practice daily the lectio divina".
To sum up my proposition it is that the conclusion of the Synod, with the consent of the Holy Father, should also become a task of reflection entrusted to the Dicasteries of the Curia, with the special service of stimulating and coordinating entrusted to the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, so that they may propose to the Supreme Legislator the necessary changes to the rules of the Church as regards the particular field of the Word of God.
[Original text: Italian]
-- H.E. Most. Rev. Guillermo LORÍA GARITA, Bishop of San Isidro de El General (COSTA RICA)
IL 3 To place, forcefully, the Bible in the hands of the faithful, an existential, personal and community encounter, to bring forth a solid, continuous and systematic formation with materials for the correct understanding of the text, illumination and application in its own life (cf DV 25)
IL 22c Studies of expert specialists provide a response to the question of evangelization , better Biblical formation in the seminary and of the faithful. Popular version of DV,OT, IBI, The Jewish people and their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible, has to be emphasized in the seminaries.
The Church exposes its teaching beginning with the living and joyous message of the Word; all of theology must be nourished by Scripture first, rather than by philosophy. (cf. DV24) Theologians, with a solid Biblical knowledge, reformulate the faith.
IL 40. Distribution of material of Biblical support: do they achieve the mission ? Are they used? Do the faithful know them? Are they readily accessible? The pastoral should be permeated, nourished, and guided by the Word, without being a "Biblicism". Eucharistic and Biblical communities, Christ-centered.
IL 43. Funding for the production of reliable and engaging material on the books of the Bible that incite the desire and the wish to know more about the Word. To create continental commissions to develop supporting material in communion with the Pontifical Biblical Commission.
[Original text: Spanish]
-- H. Em. Card. Francis ARINZE, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (VATICAN CITY)
1. The richness of the Liturgy of the Hours
The Liturgy of the Word characterizes the whole sacramental economy, at whose center shines the Most Holy Eucharist. Without a doubt, the Sunday Eucharistic celebration is, for the majority of Catholics, the main way to listen and respond to God speaking to his people today. But we must not forget that the daily prayer of the Church is the Liturgy of the Hours, made up largely of the texts of Holy Scripture, starting with the Psalms.
I suggest the Synod in the end should have a lot to say about the Liturgy of the Hours, especially for priests, deacons, the religious and certainly for those living the monastic life. Unfortunately there are priests who skip some hours of the Divine Office. And yet it is really is Matins, complementing what is heard in the Biblical readings of Holy Mass, that should provide an important aide for them (cf. Instr. Lab., 34).
2. The importance of Praenotanda
Instrumentum Laboris rightly highlights the importance of the Liturgy of the Word, the characteristic of every sacramental action, and in a particular way the Eucharist. Regarding this, we should make the most of the knowledge of the Praenotanda of various rituals, especially of the Ordo Lectionum Missae, with renewed interest and in different ways. Referring to these authoritative and normative texts, which bring together theological, celebratory, disciplinary and pastoral aspects, permits us to grasp the sense of the Liturgy of the Word and the way to celebrate it concretely without indulging in arbitrary subjectivity.
I suggest the Synod insist on the importance of the translation of Sacred Scripture, appropriately approved by the Episcopal Conference, and more specifically of the translation of Sacred Scripture for liturgical use with the necessary recognitio of the Holy See.
3. The Bible and other elements in the liturgy
Sacrosanctum Concilium, 24, reminds us again that prayers, invocations, hymns, chant, antiphonies, gestures and signs are inspired by the Sacred Scriptures and draw their meaning from these. I suggest the Synod should also speak of liturgical song: the entrance, offertory and communion hymns are drawn from Sacred Scriptures, as are the antiphonies and responses f the Divine Office. It is not without importance, therefore, that the songs performed in the liturgy are not just any old composition, often improvised, without the approval of the Bishop or the Conference of Bishops.
[Original text: Italian]