MANILA, Philippines - Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila said the Synod of Bishops on the family was more than a series of discussions on divorce and gay unions and that the impact of poverty on families, especially in Asia, was a major concern of participants.

Published in International
October 23, 2014

Risky business

Pope Francis sought a “sincere and open” discussion among Church leaders attending the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family. Well, he got it. And then some.

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More than 190 bishops and 60 experts have begun a worldwide conversation about how we live our lives, how we love, how all we are and hope to be continues from generation to generation, from hope to glory, from heart to heart. Now, the bishops say, it’s over to you. 

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VATICAN CITY - U.S. Archbishop Joseph Kurtz said he hoped the final report of the Synod of Bishops on the family would improve on the assembly's midterm report in celebrating exemplary families, encouraging missionary outreach and emphasizing that the Church's pastoral efforts must be grounded in Scripture and Catholic teaching.

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VATICAN CITY - The Greek root of the word "synod" means "to walk together," which is exactly what bishops and other members of the Synod of Bishops are called to do as they seek to apply the Gospel and church teaching to the challenges facing family life today, said the gathering's general secretary.

Published in Faith
BEIRUT - Maronite Catholic bishops expressed their concern about the war in Syria and Iraq and warned that Lebanon's presidential vacuum poses a dangerous risk to the country, particularly amid the escalating regional turmoil that they said threatens to change the map of the Middle East.
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NAIROBI, Kenya - The Kenyan bishops' justice and peace commission criticized the five-hour-long massacre in the coastal town of Mpeketoni and asked: "Where was the security? Where was the intelligence? Where were the police? What happened to the various roadblocks?"

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JERUSALEM - Bishops who traveled to the Holy Land to assess the local church's needs noted the "profound anxiety" that the "dark and dramatic events" of the past year have caused in the region.

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VATICAN CITY - In their task of leading people to the light of Christ, bishops must have the courage to face opposition and peacefully stand firm in the truth, Pope Benedict XVI said.

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OTTAWA - Four Canadian bishops are among the 262 prelates gathered at the Vatican for the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangeliza- tion for the Transmission of the Christian faith Oct. 7-28.

Quebec Archbishop Gérald Cyprien Lacroix, Saint-Hyacinthe Bishop François Lapierre, Nelson Bishop John Corriveau and Antigonish Bishop Brian Dunn will each be making five-minute presentations at the synod. They were elected earlier this year by their fellow bishops to be delegates.

During the annual plenary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) in Ste-Adele, Que., Sept. 24-28 the delegates shared draft versions of their texts. The final texts will be published on the CCCB web site (www.cccb.ca) after they are delivered, the CCCB announced .

Corriveau was the first to speak, focussing on communion during his presentation Oct. 9. He told the synod that building community and promoting a sense of communion, particularly in the face of increasing individualism, is an important part of the new evangelization. The "spirituality of communion" is modeled on the relationship of love found among the members of the Trinity, a creative love revealed to humanity with the incarnation of Christ.

"The call to communion is more than a slogan. It is a conversion of heart," he said.

Lacroix told the bishops he would be speaking on sharing one's personal encounter with Jesus Christ and the willingness to welcome God's saving grace anew each day. He also stressed the role of lay men and women in sharing the Gospel.

Lapierre was to speak of new evangelization in the context of a Church that is increasingly impoverished, with aging priests and fewer interested young people. He said there are new opportunities hidden in these challenge.

Dunn was to examine what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church in light of the sexual abuse crisis and proposes a deeper sense of listening and reconciliation to reach out to those who have been hurt.

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The Second Vatican Council was the biggest stage in the history of the Church. There were more bishops present than at any the 20 previous councils stretching from the First Council of Nicaea in 325 to the First Vatican Council of 1870. And the bishops present came from more countries, more cultures, more languages than the Church had ever experienced.

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Ste. Adele, Que. - In the midst of the worst economic crisis in decades, "there is no miracle cure," a Montreal-based economist told the Canadian bishops Sept. 25.

Governments do not have much leeway to help those affected, though economies that are more flexible will suffer less, Pierre Piché, an expert in international investment and advisor to the Power Corporation of Canada, told the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops annual plenary.

“There is not much choice,” Piché told the gathering of more than 90 Canadian bishops. “Either we suffer or we need to adjust. We’re going to suffer even if we adjust.”

The crisis affects the whole world economy, especially its key engines: North America, Europe and Japan.

“It goes really bad when you’re on a plane and you have three of the four engines not working,” he said.

He gave a macro view of the problem through key indicators: unemployment that is more and more structural and composed of people who have been looking for work for a longer time than previously or have abandoned looking for work altogether; sluggish rates of growth; and rising government debt.

Piché said fears of inflation have been replaced by fear of deflation where prices go down in a generalized manner. This explains the behaviour of central banks in trying to pump money into the economy.

“Deflation is horrible,” he said. “It’s very serious because it changes the behaviour of people. When they know prices are going down, they won’t spend. It creates a vicious circle.”

Now there is a cycle where governments and individual households are rejecting a pattern of heavy indebtedness that preceded 2007, he said.

We’re facing what economist John Maynard Keynes called the “paradox of thrift,” he said, noting while it is good and ethically right for households and corporations to be thrifty, “if nobody consumes, then nobody sells anything and everyone goes broke.”

Fr. Bill Ryan of the Jesuit Forum for Social Faith and Justice in Toronto offered a theological reflection on the crisis, pointing out Pope Benedict XVI calls for the logic of profit to be replaced by the logic of gift “that is the opposite of putting a price on everything.”

At the basis is the right relationship we must develop between God and human, among humans and with creation, including a preferential option for the poor, Ryan said, stressing the “essential relationship between faith and justice and justice and evangelization.”

“The whole planet is our neighbourhood and in need of evangelization,” he said, noting the Pope’s social justice encyclical Caritas in Veritate also concerned itself with evangelizing and civilizing the global economy.

Faith and justice cannot be separated, nor can evangelization and justice, he stressed.

Ryan call a “new and global humanism” a “sign of the times,” saying the secular world is coming to a “growing consensus we need a new mindset.”

“Our models and tools are proving inadequate; we seem to be walking with no clear purpose,” he said.

Montreal Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Dowd said the “logic of the gift ties in with our preoccupation with the family.”

“The family is an economic unit, but its internal relations are supposed to be based on the logic of the gift,” he said. “You don’t have kids just because you want someone to look after you in your retirement.”

Families’ internal relationships are becoming “atomized,” he said, and less and less based on the logic of the gift, Dowd said.

“That’s the canary in the coal mine, a sign the whole thing is disordered.”

Ryan said it is important to not always look at big economic structures but at the problems of the small ones. One problem attacking families is the level of family debt which is higher in Canada than elsewhere. 

“If we don’t have strength at the bottom,” needed values “won’t come into institutions,” he said.

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WINNIPEG - Ukrainian Catholic bishops from around the world gathered in Winnipeg to discuss how to make their parishes more vibrant — especially through the involvement of laypeople.How they do that requires solutions as varied as the parishes that represent more than four million Ukrainian Catholics on four continents.

"We have parishes that are growing" and need pastoral, financial and structural support, said Bishop Ken Nowakowski of New Westminster, B.C., who heads the Ukrainian Catholic Church's implementation team for its strategic plan, "Vision 2020."

Some urban parishes have an aging population and declining numbers, and synod members must decide how to support the parish priest who spends so much time visiting the sick and officiating at funerals, said Nowakowski. At the other end of the spectrum, the bishops must consider how to help keep priests in busy, large parishes from burning out.

The vibrant parish initiative was approved by the synod in 2011 when the bishops met in Brazil. Their first steps have included making sure that clergy understand the plan and representatives of each of the Ukrainian Catholic eparchies, or dioceses, designated a priest-representative to help introduce the plan within the diocese.

Nowakowski said that about 70 per cent of the world's 4,500 Ukrainian Catholic priests have given feedback and are involved with the plan. This year Church leaders hope to involve religious communities and monastics, he said. He told Catholic News Service he would present synod members with a report on what has been accomplished and would include feedback. Synod members will either ask the committee to continue with its current plan or make changes, he added.

The Synod of Bishops, the Ukrainian Catholic Church's governing body, normally meets in Ukraine, but it is meeting in Canada Sept. 9-16 in honour of the centenary of the arrival of Canada's first Ukrainian Catholic bishop, Blessed Nykyta Budka.

Winnipeg's Ukrainian Archbishop Lawrence Huculak said as bishops from other countries arrived for the synod, they were impressed with the involvement of Canada's laity. Even the synod's organizational committee has laypeople on it, he said.

"It's not just the bishops ... the people are taking part and helping to organize it," he said.

Ukrainian Catholics in Canada have women's, men's and youth groups. Lay groups have national conventions, elect leaders and participate in the life of the Church.

"Although we (Canadians) may take it for granted, our laity have not been able to organize themselves in the same way" in some other countries, he said.

Last December, the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine, outlined his vision in a pastoral letter to Ukrainian Catholics worldwide. In the letter, "The Vibrant Parish — A Place to Encounter the Living Christ," he spoke of the elements needed to "grow in holiness and unity in Christ Jesus."

Shevchuk said people of all ages must continue to learn about the faith — not only from the Bible, but also from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Priests must teach and laity have a responsibility to learn because "permanent and continuous formation for various age groups ... is an essential component of the vibrant parish."

Parishioners must participate regularly in the sacraments, and families must once again become "a school of prayer," he said.
"Our parishes can become places where care is given to the orphan, protection for the widow, help for the poor, and where the suffering of the sick is shared," he said.

Parishes must have active pastoral and parish councils as well as "well-formed and mature co-workers who assist the priest in leading catechetical schools, church brotherhoods, charitable works, youth organizations and prayer groups," he said. "One of the most important responsibilities of leadership in the parish community is discerning God's will and searching for the best ways of implementing it in the life of the parish."

Everyone in the parish must have a missionary spirit, he said.

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CAPE TOWN, South Africa - South Africa's bishops condemned the killings at a platinum mine in Marikana and called for a judicial inquiry into the circumstances that led to the violence.

Thirty-four people died and 78 were injured Aug. 16 when police opened fire on striking miners who, armed with machetes and homemade spears, were gathered on a rocky outcrop at the mine, 100 km northwest of Johannesburg. Another 10 people, including two policemen, had already been killed in violence at the mine since the start of an illegal strike Aug. 10.

"The senseless loss of life, especially through wanton violence, is always a tragedy and needs to be condemned in the strongest terms," the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference said in a statement.

"There are a lot of questions and not many answers," Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg said in a telephone interview. The mine is located in his diocese.

He and other Church leaders were aware of the standoff between two trade unions over recognition agreements at the mine and "hoped that it would be resolved in the negotiations during the week," Dowling said. The miners were also demanding higher wages.

The actions of the trade unions, the London-based Lonmin mining company and the police "need to be investigated" by an inquiry that also looks at "the living and working conditions at this mining operation," the bishops said.

"We offer to assist in the trauma counselling and community healing that will be necessary for this community and the broader South African community," the bishops said.

"We cannot allow this violence to escalate and become a normal part of our society.

"There are effective mechanisms available for facilitating and brokering amicable settlements to disputes of whatever nature, and we encourage all the parties concerned in this tragic situation to commit to acquiring these skills to ensure that similar unfortunate incidences do not occur again," they said.

Dowling said that often South Africa's industrial disputes turn violent, which "indicates deep frustration and anger."

"Terrible poverty and high levels of unemployment" in his diocese "are the cause of much tension," he said.

The secretary-general of the South African Council of Churches, the Rev. Mautji Pataki, said that he and the organization's president, Anglican Bishop Johannes Seoka of Pretoria, found workers and management at the mine "willing to engage one another, provided the level of hostility is reduced to allow peaceful interaction and resolution."

A delegation from the council, of which the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference is a member, visited the mine Aug. 17 and said in a statement afterward that the council would "seek to help to create an atmosphere conducive to negotiation."

The council called on the police "to exercise restraint in the use of force as they seek to maintain law and order." It said it is "only through meaningful and peaceful dialogue that all parties affected by this conflict can find a solution."

South African President Jacob Zuma cut short a visit to a regional summit in neighbouring Mozambique to visit the mine.

In a front-page editorial Aug. 17, the Sowetan newspaper said that in South Africa, 18 years after the end of apartheid, "the value of human life, especially that of the African, continues to be meaningless." Africans "are pitted against each other over who is the rightful representative of workers. They are also fighting for a bigger slice of the mineral wealth of their own country. In the end the war claims the very poor African — again," the newspaper said.

South Africa is home to 80 per cent of the world's known reserves of platinum. Rising power and labour costs and a steep decline this year in platinum prices have left many mines struggling to stay afloat, according to Reuters, the British news agency.

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OTTAWA - The Holy Father may have moved to his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, but that has not stopped announcements of new episcopal appointments as the Catholic Church in Canada enjoys the dog days of summer.

On July 16, the Pope also accepted the resignation of Keewatin-Le Pas Archbishop Sylvain Lavoie and appointed Fr. William Stang as apostolic administrator. Stang has been serving as vicar general and chancellor of Keewatin-Le Pas and confirmed that health reasons are the reason behind Lavoie's resignation.

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