Bishops Synod propositions in Pope's hands

By  Kris Dmytrenko, Catholic Register Special
  • October 23, 2008
{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - As the Synod of Bishops on Scripture nears its conclusion, three French Canadians are waiting to learn whether their recommendations will advance to the Holy Father.

Bishop Luc Bouchard of St. Paul, Alta., is one of four delegates from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. During his five-minute intervention in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, he recommended that the Catholic Church launch an International Congress on the Word of God.
“We know that, for instance, the Eucharistic Congress stirs up a lot of interest in the Eucharist and World Youth Day stirs up a lot of interest in catechesis,” Bouchard explained in an interview. “And this has a universal impact. We do not have something similar on Scripture for the faithful in the pews - or not in the pews.”

Another CCCB delegate, Bishop Raymond St-Gelais of Nicolet, Que., focused on how some Catholics regard biblical inspiration as an ancient occurrence, trapped in history.

“Christianity is not a religion of the book,” said St-Gelais, taking up one of the Synod’s oft-repeated refrains. “It’s a religion of the Word. God continues to speak today.

“The Pope called (the Word of God) a love letter that God continues to address to humanity. It calls for a loving response.”

Pope Benedict XVI invited a record number of women to the meeting on “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church,” the second synod of this pontificate, held Oct. 5-26. As one of 37 auditors (members of religious orders, ecclesial movements and other organizations), Sr. Jocelyn Huot, S.F.A., represents the Quebec-based Les Brebis de Jésus (The Sheep of Jesus).

Fittingly, her intervention drew attention to how the Word of God is presented biblically as “the loving nourishment prepared by the Shepherd for His flock.”

“Each evangelical experience is comparable to a banquet,” Huot declared, “where the nourishment is offered to each child personally, shared and eaten in an atmosphere of joy and communion.”

The French Canadian presentations were but three of 290 interventions in total — one for every synod father (bishop or superior general of a religious congregation), fraternal delegate (member of another Christian denomination) and auditor. Other Canadian bishops at the Synod were Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J., London Bishop Ronald Fabbro, C.S.B., and Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Lawrence Huculak, O.S.B.M, of Winnipeg.

As the synod’s Relator General, Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec City synthesized the interventions into a “Report after the Discussion.” The report included 19 discussion questions for participants, who were then divided into 12 language-based small groups. On Oct. 17, the “working groups” replied in the form of propositions to the Pope.

The synod’s lengthy summarization process concluded Oct. 21 as Ouellet, assisted by representatives of each working group, summarized the 254 propositions into a more manageable list of 59.

It remains up to the Holy Father’s discretion whether this confidential “Unified List of Propositions” will ever be released. Another French Canadian at the synod, though, was willing to hint at the contents.

“I think that all the themes were represented,” said Fr. Marc Girard, the representative of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. “However, there are those which are more important than others.”

As one of the Synod’s invited experts, Girard assists Ouellet in the preparation of documents. Girard said he perceived four “movements” of the Synod: linking the Word of God with the Eucharist, pastoral issues in Africa and Asia, exhorting the prayerful reading of Scripture, and the relationship between God’s Word and the poor.

“The Synod Fathers insisted on the poor — their importance not only as objects of the church’s mission, but as active subjects in the mission,” Girard said. “This appears to me a main theme we have to deal with. And this will be important in the direction that the Pope will give to the entire church in the following years.”

Girard’s familiarity with Pope Benedict traces back to their nine years of working together at the Pontifical Biblical Commission. As the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was the commission’s ex officio president.

The bishops’ propositions, once finalized, are left to the consideration of the Pope as writes his post-synodal apostolic exhortation.

Describing the mood in Paul VI Hall following the Oct. 21 morning presentation, Huot said that she and the bishops she spoke with were confident of the results.

“We are amazed and profoundly moved by the action of the Spirit that penetrates these propositions,” enthused the Sister of St. Francis of Assisi. “Difficult points were approached, but within them was love — the love of the presence of Christ among us.”

(Dmytrenko is a producer at Toronto-based Salt+Light TV currently on assignment in Rome.)

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