Synod Journal
Synod Journal
By Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk
Part 4 of 6

Sunday, November 30, 1997

This was another week of mostly listening: 77 eight-minute speeches from the official (bishop) members of the Synod plus a dozen or so six-minute ones from the auditors (Latin for "listeners").

Several bishop members talked about the essential missionary dimension of the Church, that sharing the word of God's care for us is not an afterthought to the Church's work, but is part of its very nature. It is something that everyone in the Church is called to engage in.

There were several interventions about the "first peoples" of America, i.e., native Americans, and about their struggle to maintain their culture, their identity and the Christian faith that many of them have professed for centuries. Several bishops spoke about the challenge to the Church's mission that is offered by the drug trade.

The international debt received further attention. The question here seems to hinge on the idea that, because of political corruption and mismanagement in their leadership, ordinary people gained no benefit from huge loans made to their countries. Why must these ordinary people now be held responsible for repaying the loans and interest at the cost of high taxes and severely reduced health, education and welfare services?

The auditors are laypersons and religious sisters and brothers who have special areas of expertise connected with the subject matter of the synod. This week we heard brief addresses from some of them about the role of women in the Church in our countries; about care for the sick, the poor and the elderly; about the help our U.S. National Conference of Catholic Bishops has been offering to dioceses in Latin America. The participation of these auditors is a reminder that it's not only bishops who have something to offer. Everyone is involved in encountering Christ. Everyone has a role in conversion, communion and solidarity in America.

We were also addressed by the "fraternal delegates," i.e., ecumenical representatives, who gently pointed out to us the importance of relationships with other Christian bodies. In the United States we take ecumenism for granted, but its meaning is less clear in many Latin American countries where nearly everybody is Catholic.

At the end of the formal presentations in the general sessions we had a 25-page summary read to us of all the major points that had been made so far. Of course every participant expects to find that his (or her) intervention has a prominent place in the summary. I was content to see that my little presentation on ecclesial lay ministry was adequately noticed.

Food for thought doesn't come just from the formal sessions, of course. There is lots of opportunity for informal contact before the official sessions begin and during the morning and afternoon coffee breaks. One of the bishops seated near me is from a city of seven million people (almost all of them Catholic) which is growing at the rate of 250,000 a year. He has 250 parishes and 650 priests (including religious whose work is mostly in the classroom). His problems are certainly different from ours.

I also learned that, although all the local churches in America are "young churches," some are less young than others. The present archbishop of Panama, for example, is the 51st bishop of his diocese. Our Archdiocese of Cincinnati is rather venerable by U.S. standards, but I am only its ninth bishop.

On Thanksgiving Day a group of us from the United States concelebrated Mass in St. Peter's Basilica. As a recessional we sang "America the Beautiful"—not a piece of music that one hears frequently in St. Peter's, but it sounded good nonetheless.

Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk signature

Most Rev. Daniel E. Pilarczyk,
Archbishop of Cincinnati

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