Synod Journal
Synod Journal
By Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk
Part 5 of 6

Sunday, December 7, 1997

This week most of our work was in the circuli minores. These "smaller groups" are gatherings of about 20 Synod participants each, put together by language. There are six Spanish groups, three English, one Spanish and Portuguese, one French and one Italian. Before we came to Rome our U.S. delegates decided that those of us who knew another language should sign up for that language group so that we wouldn't all be together. I signed up for the Italian group.

This group contains bishops from six different Latin American countries, the representatives of the Italian and European bishops' conferences, several officials of the Holy See, the superior general of the male Carmelites, an Italian sister who is the president of the international union of women superior generals, a theology professor from the Gregorian University in Rome and another bishop from the U.S. Our Italian varies from superb to very bad, but it's good enough for us to understand each other.

The purpose of these groups is to discuss the interventions that were made earlier in the general sessions and to produce "propositions" for submission to the entire body. Ultimately these will go to the Holy Father for his use in preparing the document that he will issue after the Synod is over. These propositions can be several paragraphs in length, and are supposed to reflect the consensus of what the group thought was important in its reflection together.

In our group we talked about Catholic schools, the Sacraments of Initiation, the role of lay persons in the Church, lay ministry, religious life, priestly vocations and training, Christian spirituality and the Bible, the centrality of the Eucharist in Christian life and, of course, the international debt.

Somebody remarked that, although we were supposed to be dealing with issues that were specific to the Church in America, here we were, discussing mostly matters that bishops anywhere in the world are concerned about. To me this was an indication of the common fabric of the Church's ministry. Of course there are specific issues in America, but when you get a group of bishops together, you discover that their deepest and most fundamental concerns are the same everywhere, just as the Church's mission is the same everywhere.

The distribution of priests comes up often. One bishop from Guatemala has 15 priests for a million Catholics. Another, from Mexico, told me that his diocese is very well supplied with priests since he has one priest for every 10,000 Catholics. In my diocese of Cincinnati we have one priest for every 1,100 or 1,200. It gives one lots to think about.

The extracurricular activities continue. The U.S. delegates have had several dinners at the North American College to host our colleagues from other countries. Last Saturday there was a reception for us at the Villa Stritch, the residence of American priests who work in the Vatican. This week there is another at the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See. I have given several interviews, one to a journalist for the French Catholic daily, La Croix, who recognized me from my picture on American Catholic Online. None of us is bored.

Yesterday morning during the coffee break I put on my raincoat over my bishop's cassock and sash and walked to the Vatican supermarket to get some things. The place was mobbed, as usual. I found the express checkout register and took my place at the end of a long line, hoping I would get back to the Synod session on time. Immediately an assistant manager appeared and asked me if all I wanted was the few things I was carrying in my hand. When I said, "Yes," he took me right up to the head of the line and I was out in a matter of seconds. Sometimes there are fringe benefits to being a bishop, at least in the Vatican!

Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk signature

Most Rev. Daniel E. Pilarczyk,
Archbishop of Cincinnati

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