By Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk
Part 4 of 6
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Most Rev. Daniel
Archbishop of Cincinnati
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