Synod Journal
Synod Journal
By Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk
Last of 6 parts

Sunday, December 13, 1997

The Synod is over. Its closing acts were a Mass in St. Peter's concelebrated with the pope (which included prayers in Cree and Guarani) and a banquet for all the Synod's members at the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

These last days have been busy, in a way. We put the finishing touches on the message that the Synod fathers issued to the people of God in America and throughout the world. I found it a moving document, filled with hope. It gives a good idea of the tone and focus of the Synod.

We also finished drafting the propositions that we left behind for the pope’s consideration and use in drafting an apostolic exhortation. This involved preliminary work in the language groups, the preparation of a master list in Latin, the amending of the master list and final voting on the amended propositions. We ended up with a 67-page document that contains 76 propositions, ranging in subject matter from the centrality of Christ in the life of the Church to foreign debt and the arms race.

Both the message and the propositions were read aloud in their entirety (a total of 80 pages) to the full assembly of the bishops. This kept the Synod fathers occupied, but certainly not intently focused at every moment.

Some of us suggested to the Synod's general secretariat that we might have been able to read these documents for ourselves and then come back together to discuss them, but we were told that, in some cultural contexts, a document doesn't have any standing if it hasn't actually been spoken. Later one of the Argentinean bishops told me that every word that is issued by their conference has to be read aloud in full assembly. It would be interesting to see how that would play out in our U.S. bishops' conference!

So what did the Synod finally accomplish? We are leaving behind for the pope not just a collection of propositions and the amendments that were proposed, but also the early working documents, the text of the formal intervention of each Synod participant, the summaries of these interventions and of our small group discussions and the message. My guess is that this will make a pile of documentation about four-and-a-half feet high which the pope will use in preparing his final word on the Synod. If there is a "product" of the Synod, it's this stack of documentation.

But as the weeks passed, it became clearer to me that the real heart of the Synod was not the product but the process. As the pope put it in his closing remarks at the last general gathering, these days were a real grace from the Lord to us. We lived a special encounter with the living Christ, we walked a path of growth and conversion, of communion and solidarity. The purposes for which the Synod was called have already been fulfilled, at least in a preliminary way, in our interaction during these four weeks.

For me the Synod was a profound experience of the presence and action of Christ in his Church. To be sure there are lots of problems to be dealt with: exploitation, violence, corruption, drug dependency, as well as extremes of wealth and poverty. But beyond all that, we learned from each other that Christ is alive in our midst for the salvation of the world: in Chile and Brazil, in the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and the Netherlands Antilles, in Panama, in Quebec and Prince George, British Columbia, as well as in San Francisco, Newark, and Cincinnati. It's a living Church because it's the extension of the living Christ.

I'm on by way home now. In a few hours I'll be back in Cincinnati, and tonight I will sleep in my own bed again.

Thanks be to God for everything.

Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk signature

Most Rev. Daniel E. Pilarczyk,
Archbishop of Cincinnati

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