By Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk
Part 1 of 6
An historic meeting
of bishops, convened by the Holy Father, will begin in Rome on November
16: the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for America. This
will be a gathering of bishops from the 24 bishops' conferences of
the western hemisphere (North, South, Central America and the Caribbean).
Also attending are the heads of the administrative offices of the
Holy See and specially invited non-bishop observers.
It is one of a series
of "continental synodal assemblies" called by Pope John Paul II
in preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. (An assembly
for Africa was held in 1994, and other assemblies for Asia, Oceania,
and Europe will take place before the Jubilee Year begins.)
The purpose of the
Synod for America is to discuss how best to preach the gospel of
the living Jesus and the ways in which that gospel is heard. That
encounter with Jesus is the basic mission of the Church. It is the
fundamental theme of the Jubilee Year 2000.
the participants in the synod will give their attention to 1) fostering
a new evangelization, a new presentation of the good news of redemption
throughout the hemisphere; 2) increasing solidarity (unity and collaboration)
in pastoral activity among the various particular churches; and
3) studying the problems of justice and economic relations among
the nations of America. These are wide ranging subjects that, in
one way or another, address almost every aspect of the Church's
life and work.
In other synodal
assemblies, there has been a more tightly focused theme (e.g., priesthood,
family, reconciliation) that provided unity and direction to the
assembly's work. The Synod for America will find its unifying point
in what has been called "the common Christian identity" of the countries
of the hemisphere and their common historical experience.
All the countries
represented in the synod have historical Christian roots in some
way or other and they are all "young countries," at least in the
context of a 2,000-year-old Church. Moreover, they all express,
to some degree, at least, a plurality of cultural expressions resulting
from the mix of native peoples and immigrants, some of whom came
freely and some of whom were brought to the New World against their
wills. All of us Americans have a lot in common. That common ground
will provide the framework for the assembly's work.
I will be attending
the Synod for America as an elected delegate of the bishops' conference
of the United States. It won't be a new experience for me, since
I was at the general synod of 1990 (which discussed priestly formation),
a special assembly for Europe in 1991 (convened to discuss the implications
of the fall of Communism), and a general conference of Latin American
bishops that was held in Santo Domingo in 1992.
I know that meetings
of this kind can be demandingand sometimes tedious, but I
also know that each one brings its own particular blessings to the
participants. I look forward to seeing old friends, learning about
the gifts and challenges of the faith in other countries, deepening
my knowledge of evangelization and pastoral solidarity and social
justiceand maybe even contributing something to the discussion.
Most of all, I expect
that being a participant in this assembly will be a precious new
experience of the breadth and diversity of the universal Church.
I look forward to
sharing the experience with you via this exciting new medium of
Most Rev. Daniel
Archbishop of Cincinnati
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