Synod Journal
Synod Journal
By Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk
Part 3 of 6

Sunday, November 23, 1997

This has been a week of listening. Since Monday morning we have heard 138 speeches. The introductory ones which gave an overview of the Synod process and of the general questions that we are supposed to treat were quite long. The rest were considerably shorter. Each participant in the Synod has the right, which almost all participants exercise, to make one intervention in the general sessions, not to exceed eight minutes.

There is a screen in the front of the room that tells the speaker when he has three minutes to go, then two, then one. If the speaker continues after his last minute is expired, the sound is gradually turned down until the speaker is speaking without amplification. It's an effective system of time control. (Sometimes when the speaker is going too fast for the simultaneous translators, the screen flashes Rallentare, ”Slow down!“)

The speakers are supposed to address themselves to subjects suggested by the working paper that we received ahead of time, but the only order in the presentations is the order in which the prepared texts were handed in to the Synod secretariat. You learn when you are going to speak from the list that is read out at the beginning of each session.

Several themes were addressed with some frequency during the past week: the role and influence of communications media in the modern world and in spreading the gospel; economic and cultural ”globalization“; the effect of well-financed religious sects on the Church in Latin America; the need to do something about the international debt; the need for personal spirituality and prayerful contact with Christ; the role of the family in the Church's mission; the parish as a basic vehicle for evangelization.

I chose to speak about lay ministry: the debt of gratitude we owe to lay ministers and the need for clarity about the nature of lay ministry. Three or four other members also addressed this theme.

One bishop spoke about the blessings that come to a local Church from generosity to other Churches in greater need. Another spoke about the heartbreak of ministering to native peoples whose human and political rights are systematically violated.

There is no discussion of these subjects as they are presented in the general sessions. That comes later when the Synod participants meet in smaller language groups. It's not particularly easy to sit there hour after hour listening to one presentation after another, but it does give one an idea of the extent of the challenges that face the Church, and the breadth of the material that is connected with evangelization, conversion, communion and solidarity in America.

The Holy Father has been present for every general session. He sits in the front of the room and listens just like the rest of us. He seems older than when I saw him last and obviously has some health problems, but he seems to grow more and more energetic as the days go by. He obviously enjoys contact with his brother bishops.

It's not all work of course. Last night there was a concert (which included a Bach chorale) to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Pope Paul VI. On Wednesday all the U.S. participants in the Synod (including, in addition to bishops, ecumenical observers, priests, men and women religious, and lay women and men) had an elegant dinner at the North American College. Earlier in the week a dozen or so of us bishops staying at the St. Martha House walked across the yard to concelebrate Mass at St. Peter's for the liturgical feast of the dedication of the basilicas of Sts. Peter and Paul.

Please keep us in your prayers. There is plenty of hard work still ahead.

Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk signature

Most Rev. Daniel E. Pilarczyk,
Archbishop of Cincinnati

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