General Secretariat for the Synod NEWS RELEASE – 12.05.2023 – ESP – FRA – ITA (Original) – POR
Draft Working Document for the Synod on Synodality approved
On 10-11 May, the 15th Ordinary Council* of the General Secretariat of the Synod met in Rome to discuss the Instrumentum laboris: the working document for participants in the first session of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (4-29 October 2023).
In plenary session and in language working groups, the Council members accompanied by some consultants reviewed, amended and approved the Instrumentum laboris, which is scheduled to be published in early June.
The participants also approved the assembly’s methodology. Furthermore, the work included a reflection on the preparation of the participants and some information on the Ecumenical Prayer Vigil on 30 September next as part of the Together2023 initiative (for more information: www.together2023.net) and the spiritual retreat for participants of the assembly (1-3 October 2023).
The meeting took place in an atmosphere of great fraternity and was marked by several moments of prayer and time for personal reflection.
*************************** *Members of the Ordinary Council take office at the end of the Ordinary General Assembly that elected them. They are members of the following Ordinary General Assembly and cease their mandate when the latter is dissolved.
Finding miracles and inspiration in unexpected places
The new book from our friend and contributor, Eddie Gilmore,
Darton, Longman and Todd, ISBN 978 1 915412 48 5 Paperback 192 pp
Cardinal Vincent Nichols got to see this book before we did! He writes:
‘From a faith-filled perspective, and drawing on his own personal, musical and professional experience, Eddie shows us how important it is to have hope in our lives and to be connected with each other and the world in which we live. In this way, we can glimpse the miracles and opportunities that are in our midst and use them for the benefit of all – the universe does indeed provide!’
Eddie’s first book was titled ‘Looking Ahead with Hope’, so there is a theme evident here. Hope is tougher than optimism, it means being with someone when the optimism has run into the sand, when income has gone, the home is in jeopardy, the prison sentence never seems to get any shorter, loneliness is a daily companion, health and vigour are ebbing away. Through his upbringing in an Irish family in Coventry, his education, his work with L’Arche and the Irish Chaplaincy, Eddie knows these realities, made worse by the pandemic.
Now he feels it’s time to encourage us all to recognise the daily miracles of hope and healing that pass before our eyes, the people whose lived hope is rebuilding communities across the world. Eddie takes us through some events of his post-covid year, introducing some of the characters he meets in that time. He reminds us that the Irish are a nation of singers, a gift that holds people together at home or in exile, a Gift from the Universe that he himself exercises for friends, prisoners, elderly people — and delegates to meetings!
It is important for each one of us to recognise the signs of these post-pandemic times and to bring hope to those we meet day by day or just the once, in passing.
Eddie Gilmore may not be your typical Chief Executive Officer, but he has been CEO of the Irish Chaplaincy since 2017, after belonging to L’Arche for 28 years. He writes regularly for a number of publications including Catholic Times, Intercom (the journal of the Irish Catholic Bishops), and Independent Catholic News. Eddie also contributes to BBC Radio’s ‘Pause For Thought’.
Does Alfred Lord Tennyson look like a gardener in that velvet jacket and brilliantly laundered shirt? I did wonder. William Allingham went to visit him at his home on the Isle of Wight on this day in 1867 and committed these reflections to his diary.
Farringford. Tennyson and I busied ourselves in the shrubberies, transplanting primroses with spade, knife and wheelbarrow. After dinner T. concocts an experimental punch with whisky and claret — not successful. Talks of Publishers, anon of higher things. He said, ‘I feel myself to be a centre — can’t believe I shall die. Sometimes I have doubts, of a morning. Time and Space appear thus by reason of our boundedness.’
We spoke of Swedenborg, animals, etc., all with the friendliest sympathy and mutual understanding. T. is the most delightful man in the world to converse with, even when he disagrees.
To my inn, where I woke in the dark, bitten, and improvised two lines —
Who in a country inn lies ill at ease
On fozy feathers filled with furious fleas.
On 1 February Allingham had noted:
To step outside the human limitations is not granted even to [a poet]. The secret is kept from one and all of us... A poet's doubts and anxieties are more comforting than a scientist's certainties and equanimities.
At the end of this week a certain garden will feature in our reflections. Let's see if we can't tidy our own patches between now and Easter, or buy in a few pots of bulbs, primroses or pansies to celebrate the new life promised through Easter.
Day 2 of the Asian Continental Assembly on Synodality began with the prayer of the Synod “Adsumus Sancte Spiritus”, invoking the grace of the Holy Spirit to guide and inspire all the delegates on this Synodal journey to truly reflect the voice of Asia. The Synod Prayer which has a rich historical background, the first word in Latin, meaning, “We stand before You, Holy Spirit,” has been used at various Councils, Synods and other Church gatherings for hundreds of years.
Sr. Nathalie Becquart XMCJ, Under-Secretary to the General Secretariat of the Synod, gave the orientation for the day where she pointed out that Synodality is a fruit of the Synod on Youth. She elaborated, “if we believe that ‘synodality is the way of being the Church today according to the will of God, in a dynamic of discerning and listening together to the voice of the Holy Spirit,’ as stated by Pope Francis, we can be confident that we will receive the grace to answer this call of God to become a Synodal Church.” Sr. Nathalie stressed that Synodality is a gift and discernment is the heart of synodality. She evoked the imagery of the scriptural passage of the Road to Emmaus, which could be considered a Paradigm of a Synodal journey; a Synodal style of Jesus is what we are all called to emulate.
Over the past two days, the delegates were invited to journey through the Synodal process using a 3-step method called, ‘Spiritual Conversation’. The first step, “Taking the floor” is a time when each participant of the group speaks for two minutes about their experience of the Synodal process; with no discussion or intervention, followed by two minutes of silence to consume the sharing. The second step, “Making room for others” is a time when each member of the group speaks for two minutes on what most resonated from what the other has said; with no discussion or intervention and followed by two minutes of silence to internalise the sharing. The third step, “Building together” is a time of interaction to identify the fruit of the conversation, recognizing convergences, common questions, disagreements, and prophetic voices. This method allows space for moments of grace which helps the group ask the one fundamental question: where is the Holy Spirit leading us?
The groups reflected and prayed on the following questions: Are there any concerns or issues that have not been sufficiently discussed in the section on “Gaps” in the draft paper? Are there any Asian realities, experiences or concerns that can be included or improved in “Gaps”?
In the second session of the morning, the groups reflected and deliberated on five most urgent priorities for the continent of Asia, and which urgently need to be brought to the Synodal Assembly in October.
The moderators and facilitators for the day were Archbishop Anil Joseph Thomas Couto, Archbishop of Delhi, India, Ms Christina Kheng, Commission on Methodology for the Synod and Ms Momoko Nishimura, Member of the FABC Synodal Task Force. The facilitators reminded the delegates to assume their responsibility to speak as the voice of Asia and not their personal capacity.
Both morning sessions ended with time before the Blessed Sacrament; for prayer is the driving force of this synodal journey.
The third session of the day invited the groups to extensively examine the Draft Framework of the Working Document. The day concluded with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, themed as a Mass for Asia, presided by Cardinal Joseph Coutts, Archbishop Emeritus of Karachi, Pakistan, Member of the Council for the Synod.
The Journey is ongoing and like the disciple on the road to Emmaus, the delegates came to echo the words of scripture “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?”- Lk 24:32The Tent has been enlarged. This morning’s Holy Spirit mass was presided over by Archbishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi SVD, Archbishop of Tokyo and Secretary General of the FABC.
A reminder that ‘Catholic’ means more than Roman Catholic. The ancient Churches of the East are working ever more closely and may have something to teach the rest of us abour synodality.
In the East, either we are Christians together or we are not
The work of the Continental Synodal Assembly of the Catholic Churches of the Middle East began this morning (Monday 13.02) in Bethany – Harissa (Lebanon).After a prayer for the victims of the earthquake that struck Syria and Turkey, Father Khalil Alwan, secretary general of the Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the East and general coordinator of the Synodal Assembly, opened the proceedings by recalling the Pastoral Message that in 1992 the Catholic Patriarchs of the East had sent to their faithful in the Middle East and to those scattered around the world, entitled: “The Christian presence in the East, witness and message”. …
After a prayer for the victims of the earthquake that struck Syria and Turkey, Father Khalil Alwan, secretary general of the Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the East and general coordinator of the Synodal Assembly, opened the proceedings by recalling the Pastoral Message that in 1992 the Catholic Patriarchs of the East had sent to their faithful in the Middle East and to those scattered around the world, entitled: “The Christian presence in the East, witness and message”. For Father Alwan, “this letter traced the path of the Catholic Churches in the East and summarised their identity and future with the word ‘presence’. This ‘presence’ is embodied, effectively and authentically, following the example of Christ and His Church, in the Arabic language and heritage of which we are builders and in the Arab civilisation that we have helped to establish. Our presence is also a presence at the service of man without distinction or discrimination. It is an ecumenical presence for common cooperation; it is a presence of dialogue with people of goodwill, Muslims and Jews; and, finally, it is a presence with a global character, thanks to our children scattered throughout the world, because it is a communion of faith, love and civic belonging wherever we are”. He continued: “Thirty years after this ‘road map’, seven Catholic Churches are meeting today: Copts, Syriacs, Maronites, Melkites, Chaldeans, Armenians and Latins. We have come from the Holy Land, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Armenia, to listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Churches and to pray and reflect together on our common concerns and share our future aspirations with a hope that does not disappoint. Many things unite us, we are united by the conditions in our countries, where we all often lack freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom for women and freedom for children. We all try, according to our energies, to fight corruption in politics and the economy. We all seek to practise transparency in our religious and social institutions, and wish to practise responsible citizenship and fight poverty and ignorance. We all suffer from the emigration of our children, who have seen their horizons for a dignified life shrink, leading to the diminishment of our communities and our witness in the land the Lord has chosen as his dwelling place. However, we, the children of the Church, are not only united by the concerns and difficulties of life, but we are also united by one baptism, one faith, one love and one hope. On the basis of this, which unites us, we convene our Synod Assembly this week to conclude the second phase of our ‘Walking Together’, the continental stage. We have ensured that our assembly will be as His Holiness Pope Francis wanted it to be”
Bishops will carry shared mission home from Oceania assembly
The Catholic bishops of Oceania have concluded their week-long gathering in Fiji with a missioning Mass, being encouraged to respond to the hopes and challenges they shared with hearts of mission and service. Dozens of bishops attended the quadrennial assembly of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania, which concluded on Friday evening. The gathering drew bishops from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and many Pacific nations…..To the full text in English, Italian and French
CONCLUDING STATEMENT FROM THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS OF OCEANIA It has been a great joy for the Bishops of Oceania to gather in Fiji this week to pray for and consider our shared mission as the Chief Shepherds of our region. As we have prayed for our people, we have also been aware of the prayers they have been offering for our assembly and our ministry. Our assembly has provided the opportunity for us to pray together,…To the full text in English, Italian and FrenchAs the FCBCO assembly in Suva, Fiji comes to an end, the Bishops have taken time to reflect on the work they have done this week and determine priorities for the organisation moving forward. Among them, you will listen to Msgr Julio Augkel, Bishop of Caroline Islands, Mgrs Francis Meli, Bishop of Vanimo, Msgr Stephen Lowe, Bishop of Auckland, and fr. Pedro Walpole SJ, FCBCO Secretariat. Our Special Envoy, Sr Bernadette M. Reis, fsp from Vatican News returns on the Suva Continental Assembly for Oceania as she has experiences and presents us a few reflection from Archbishop of Suva Loy Chong, President of the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific (CEPAC) and Sister Nathalie Becquart who has represented the General Secretariat of the Synod along the assembly. Have a look also to her report: http://bit.ly/3RPNPW6 Through the portal https://synod2023.org you can access the sites of the individual continental meetings.Copyright 2023 General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops, All rights reserved.
Our mailing address is: General Secretariat for the Synod of BishopsVia della Conciliazione, 34Vatican City 00120Vatican City State (Holy See)
We have not all sailed through the pandemic without hurt, illness and loss. These words from Fr Brian D’Arcy offer a chance to reflect on our recent experience and on what comes next in our lives, the decisions we are making day by day.
Time is a non-renewable resource; so, we should spend it wisely by keeping life in a proper perspective. It means making choices about what is essential and what is not.
Covid gave many of us a renewed sense of our own mortality. It made the possibility of death undeniable. It is one of the contradictions of our culture that we do everything in our power to deny our own mortality; yet by denying death we actually give it increased power over us.
As we continue to integrate the lessons Covid taught us, we’ll acknowledge our mortality in wise and healthy ways. We need to give death its rightful place – and there’s nothing morbid about that. It helps us to be aware of how fleeting life is. It makes us more grateful every day for the precious time we have and it makes me humbler about the things I might have achieved. Since I now know my life is brief I ought to reflect long and hard on what I do with it. How I spend my hours determines how I spend my days and how I spend my days is how I spend my life.
So let us reflect together in prayer:
Lord, help me to use the gift of time wisely. “What is life?” St James asks, “For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:15). Guide me to spend less time on social media and more time seeking your truth; less time chasing success and more time seeking your peace.
May I see each day as a special gift from you. I do not know what tomorrow will bring but with your help and guidance, I will become humbler, gentler and more compassionate. Hear and answer this prayer Lord, in your own time. AMEN
We have come to the final element in the encounter between the rich young man and Jesus (Mark 10:17-22). It is significant that Jesus, despite – or because of – his love for the young man, does not make an exception for him, does not say, ‘Okay. I like you. I’ll make you a deal. You can keep all your wealth in reserve somewhere. Follow me anyway.’ No. Following Jesus and hoarding wealth are diametrically opposed. The poor have a claim on our material prosperity, according to Jesus (Mk 10: 21). A complete life-change must be undertaken by the wealthy that accommodates itself to others’ needs before a life lived with Jesus can be undertaken.
So: it looks pretty bad for the rich young man, whom I, too, have now begun to love. In losing Jesus he loses everything worth having, and his previously easy life suddenly becomes drenched in sorrow. Mark tells us that his face falls and he ‘goes away sad.’ I am certain that this is true.
But I still wonder: is it as bad as it looks for the rich young man? Is everything really over for him? I think of him reflecting on what he experienced with Jesus. He will not forget this encounter. He will remember it to the end of his life. And this may be his salvation.
Some final thoughts begin to take shape in my mind as I mentally say good-bye to a much-loved young man. I reflect that, ordinarily, the gospels show that some profound sorrow or disease – or both – is actually what opens people up to receive Jesus’ life, his love, his healing, his teaching about the Kingdom. For them, their woundedness, whether physical or moral or spiritual, is an unexpected blessing that enables them to gain the true treasure, which is Jesus.
But for others, the whole thing works in reverse–or it can. In the case of the rich young man, he comes to Jesus ‘nearly perfect,’ not conscious of woundedness or moral failings. When he leaves Jesus he feels much worse than he did when he arrived. He has been afflicted with a profound wound of sorrow. There are many, many untold stories in the gospels. We do not know exactly what happens to the rich young man after he ‘goes away sad.’ We know only that Jesus gives him the gift of a deep sorrow, the likes of which the young man had probably never known before in his life of wealth, comfort and cheer.
But wait. We know something else, too. Jesus gives him another gift to take away–and just as important: a moment of the most perfect human fulfilment. Jesus had been filled with love for him, and had looked at him with love. We are back to the idea with which we began our reflection: Mark’s insistence on Jesus’ look of love. This is of vital importance to Mark and it is even easier now to see why. We are talking about God-made-man looking at the rich young man with love. This look will be deeper and more profoundly moving than anything else he will ever experience. This combination of sorrow and love, it seems to me, is a combination that, given time, cannot fail to have affected the young man, to have opened him up, to have made him rethink his priorities, reconsider his actions. True, there is nothing in Jesus’ loving look to force the young man into acquiescence: he was free to refuse Jesus and he did. But, let’s note that he refused Jesus’ invitation right then. A door remains open to him; Jesus doesn’t stop loving people. There was still a chance to become a Christian later and to be healed of his sorrow and receive the joy of life in Christ. His life after this experience need not be a complete tragedy.
For those of us who may recognise ourselves in this story, who fear we may have lost the love of Christ forever along with our chance to be his follower, I think we can assume that Mark would hold that it doesn’t work like that. Jesus’ look of love lasts forever. The rich young man was eager, open and willing, but unprepared for the cost involved in following Jesus. He needed to grow up, to grow into Jesus’ love. The gift–the ‘package’–of sorrow and of love is powerful. The young man arrived at Jesus’ feet unprepared, he went away both loved and sorrowing. Through this gift, and over time, preparation for life with Christ was possible to him, as it is for anyone. Let’s hope he made that preparation and returned later, maybe after Jesus’ death, to join the growing community of Christians. Shall we join, too?
Yesterday we looked at the beginning of the sketch of the rich young man drawn by Mark (10:17-22). We noted that, even before the young man says a word, his behaviour shows him to be a person of courage, humility and independence. We saw that there is much to learn from him, much to admire and love already. Today, we will listen to him speak. His first words are: Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life? (Mark 10:18)
I stop reading and let that question stand in my mind. Slowly I am filled with awe. He has asked the most important question he could have asked. It is more important than almost any other question imaginable, because almost any other question is a question about this world, and therefore is a question about what we must one day give up when we die. The young man, on the other hand, has the maturity to ask the famous double-barrelled question: given that I am alive, how do I live in this world in such a way as to attain eternal life in the next? The young man has already seen that our stay in this world is short and goals pertaining only to this short life are shallow. Death is the one certainty–he has acknowledged this, even though youth does not usually grasp this nettle with its soft hands. He knows he cannot do as most people do–deny that he is going to die. Jesus hears all these shades of meaning in the young man’s question and must have rejoiced. The very question, in fact, is the question that Jesus is about. Its answer is to found in the Incarnation itself. It becomes clear to me now as I turn these thoughts over and over in my mind that the young man’s question is not an idle one but is coming from a deep place. What an exceptional human being, I think to myself.
But what does Jesus do? For the first time in the story, Jesus speaks. And he is surprisingly challenging. As often happens, his actions are directly opposite to what I think I’d have done. I would have perhaps fallen all over myself to affirm the young man. “What a great question!” I’d probably have enthused with a big smile. But Jesus doesn’t seem to be smiling here. Something seems to be eating him. Rather than affirm the young man, Jesus seems testy. He asks the young man why he calls him good, when goodness is the attribute of God alone (Mk.10:19).
This has always been a difficult remark for me to understand. It sounds as though Jesus doesn’t want to be called ‘good,’ which would be sort of crazy. But suddenly I think that maybe this is not so at all, maybe Jesus has no objection to being called ‘good.’ Maybe what he means is that he wants the young man to explain why he is attributing to Jesus a goodness that is usually attributed to God alone. He wants to know what the young man means by it. We will say more about this in tomorrow’s post.
In fact, the rich young man does not rise to Jesus’ challenge and explain why he used the word ‘good’ in his address of Jesus. And Jesus has other things on his mind, more important to him, and doesn’t linger over the issue. Instead, he seems to see that that question is too much for the young man and so he quickly moves on to his main point. He is still challenging. He remarks that in giving the Ten Commandments to humanity, God has already given us everything needed to inherit eternal life. The question “what should I do to inherit eternal life” doesn’t really need to be asked, Jesus implies; the answer is obvious. Keep the Commandments. You know them.
Then the young man says something very unusual. He claims that he has kept the Commandments from his earliest days (Mark 10:24). I am astonished: the young man is not conscious of any wrong-doing in relation to the Commandments.
As I mull this, I recall that others whom Jesus met and healed during his public ministry are conscious of personal, moral weakness and sinfulness, conscious of wrongdoing, and some have even experienced demonic possession. These intensely painful wounds of body, soul or character, however, actually function in a positive way in relation to those who suffer them; they draw Jesus’ mercy and compassion, they enable the suffering individual to encounter Jesus on the deepest possible level. Our young man in Mark, on the other hand, confidently declares “I have kept all the commandments from my youth.” He is, seemingly, perfect.
How does this strike you? And what does it make you think when you reflect on your own experience of woundedness and moral weakness? Let’s give this some time and return tomorrow for more.
We are continuing Sister Johanna’s reflection on Jesus and the rich young man. She advises: ‘If you’ve just joined us, I hope you will scroll back to yesterday’s post to see where we’ve come from and where we are going.’
Today, I return to the beginning of the story of the rich young man in Mark 10:17-22 in order to read it again more slowly, to see if I can answer the questions with which we ended yesterday’s reflection. And maybe, with the Spirit’s help, I can. I take my time, allowing my imagination gently to engage with the words of the text. I notice that, first, Mark tells us that Jesus is about to start on a journey. I slowly picture it. It’s always difficult to get started on a journey, no matter what century you happen to live in. Somehow organising yourself and others for the trip and thanking hosts and saying good-bye to dear friends and family always takes much longer than planned. When you’re finally ready to leave, you’re loath to be delayed again. If something happens to interfere with the departure it is usually dealt with as quickly as possible and with more than a hint of exasperation.
Enter: the rich young man. The fact that Jesus’ journey is about to begin places the young man at some disadvantage; nevertheless, he bursts onto the scene and ‘runs up’ to Jesus (Mk. 10:17). Some people, afraid of causing inconvenience, would have given up before they began and gone home without meeting Jesus, and ordinarily, this might be the wise thing to do. But not in the judgement of the young man of our story. He seems to realise that meeting Jesus is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that must not be thrown away. Perhaps because he is a rich man (and people are usually rather in awe of the rich), no one there tries to circumvent this encounter with Jesus in order to spare Jesus the inconvenience. Nor does Jesus indicate that the delay is a problem to him. Indeed, we see again and again in the gospels that Jesus is always ready to talk to someone who is sincerely seeking him. And the young man is nothing if not sincere.
So, the young man ‘runs up’ to Jesus. This is another detail that is in Mark and not the other gospels. I try to enter fully into Mark’s experience of this event. I see the young man. He looks an intelligent person, he’s attractive–as the rich often seem to be because they can afford the best clothes and the best, most skilled people to groom their hair and skin; he is, therefore, well dressed, but at this moment he’s actually rather a mess. He is hot and breathless from running–he has, for now, forgotten his usual rich-boy persona and slick appearance. He has, in fact, forgotten himself entirely in his desire to see Jesus.
And Jesus? He is silent at first, according to the text. He lets the young man state his business. But Jesus cannot miss the earnestness in him. Moreover, the young man immediately kneels before Jesus. Mark’s touch again. The kneeling impressed Mark, and I can see why. The rich young man could have presumed upon the status conferred by his wealth. He could have stood before Jesus, eye to eye, man to man. But he does not. The rich man puts aside all privilege and kneels down. He has grasped something essential about Jesus: he has grasped Jesus’ greatness.
I’m looking, as I said yesterday, for what the rich young man can teach me. Jesus will look at him with love in a few minutes. Why? Many reasons have already been given here. The young man’s urgency and his determination to see Jesus, his self-forgetfulness, his sincerity, his awareness of Jesus’ greatness and his own comparative littleness, his spontaneous decision to kneel down.
I want to give this opening scene time to become fruitful in me and allow these reasons for Jesus’ love the space they need to locate themselves within my heart and prayer. I want to be that young man for a little while–a full day. Tomorrow, we will continue.