October 6, 2008

Vatican Information Service Bulletin

The following, in it's entirety, is a copyrighted transcript of the Vatican Information Service.

SUMMARY OF SYNOD OF BISHOPS: 5-6 OCTOBER

OTHER NEWS: 4-6 OCTOBER


ONLY THE WORD OF GOD CHANGES THE HUMAN HEART

VATICAN CITY, 5 OCT 2008 (VIS) - At 9.30 a.m. today in the Roman basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, the Pope presided at a Eucharistic concelebration with the Synod Fathers, for the opening of the Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which will be meeting to consider the theme: "The Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church".

  In his homily, the Holy Father commented upon today's Gospel reading of the image of the vineyard, indicating that it "calls upon our way of thinking and acting; in a special way, it calls upon the people who have received the proclamation of the Gospel. If we look at history", he said, "we are forced to notice the frequent coldness and rebellion of incoherent Christians".

  "Today, nations once rich in faith and vocations are losing their own identity, under the harmful and destructive influence of a certain modern culture. There are those that, having decided that 'God is dead', declare themselves 'god', believing themselves to be the only creator of their own fate, the absolute owners of the world. ... But when man eliminates God from his horizon, when he declares God to be 'dead', is he truly happier? Does he truly become more free? ... Is it not more likely - as demonstrated by news headlines every day - that the arbitrary rule of power, selfish interests, injustice and exploitation, and violence in all its forms, will extend their grip? Man's final destination, in the end, is to find himself more alone and society more divided and confused".

  After highlighting how "there is a promise in the words of Jesus: the vineyard will not be destroyed", Pope Benedict went on: "The consolatory message we gather from these biblical texts is the certainty that evil and death will not have the last word, but it will be Christ who wins in the end. Always! The Church will never tire of proclaiming this Good News, as is happening today in this basilica dedicated to the Apostle of the Gentiles who was the first to spread the Gospel in vast tracts of Asia Minor and Europe".

  "Only the Word of God can change the depths of man's heart, and so it is important that with it both individual believers and the community enter into an ever-growing intimacy. The Synodal Assembly will direct its attention to this truth which is fundamental to the life and the mission of the Church. Nourishing herself with the Word of God is for her the first and fundamental responsibility".

  The Holy Father continued: "in this Year dedicated to St. Paul, we will hear the urgent cry of the Apostle of the Gentiles: "Woe to me if I do not proclaim the Gospel"; a cry which becomes for every Christian an insistent invitation to place oneself at the service of Christ".

  "'The harvest is rich' the Divine Teacher repeats even today", he added. "Many have not met Him yet and are waiting for the first proclamation of His Gospel; others, though having received Christian formation, their enthusiasm has weakened and they maintain only a superficial contact with the Word of God; still others have fallen away from the practice of their faith and are in need of a new evangelisation. Nor is there a lack of righteous persons asking essential questions on the meaning of life and death, questions to which only Christ can supply a fulfilling response. It becomes therefore indispensable for Christians on every continent to be ready to respond to whomever asks the reason for the hope that is within them, announcing the Word of God with joy and living the Gospel without compromise".

  The Pope concluded by saying: "The Lord will help us to interrogate ourselves, during these next weeks of the Synod, on how to render ever more effective the proclamation of the Gospel in this our time. We all sense how necessary it is to place the Word of God at the centre of our life, to welcome Christ as our only Redeemer, as the Kingdom of God in person, to allow His light to enlighten every sphere of humanity: from the family to school, to culture, to work, to free time and to other sectors of society and of our life".

 

ANGELUS: THE SYNOD IS A CONSTITUENT PART OF THE CHURCH

VATICAN CITY, 5 OCT 2008 (VIS) - Returning to the Vatican following this morning's celebration of the Eucharist in the Roman basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls where he inaugurated the Synod of Bishops, the Holy Father appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

  The Pope remarked upon "the importance and function of this assembly of bishops, who have been chosen in such a way as to represent the entire episcopate and called to give more effective assistance to Peter's Successor, both expressing and consolidating ecclesial communion".

  The Synod, he went on, "is an important body, established in September 1965 by my venerated predecessor, Servant of God Paul VI. ... The aims of the Synod of Bishops are these: to promote close ties and collaboration between the Pope and bishops of the whole world, to provide direct and precise information on the situation and problems of the Church, to favour agreement on doctrine and pastoral activity, and to consider questions of great current importance".

  "The synodal aspect is a constituent element of the Church. It consists in coming together from all peoples and cultures to become one in Christ and to walk together behind Him. ... Indeed the word 'synodos' ... suggests the idea of 'journeying together', which has always been the experience of the People of God in the history of salvation. ... I invite you all to support the work of the Synod with your prayers, particularly invoking the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, the perfect disciple of the divine Word".

  After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father recalled how beginning this evening the Italian State broadcaster, RAI, will begin the "Bible day and night" initiative, which consists in the complete and uninterrupted reading of the Bible over seven days and nights in the Roman basilica of Sant Croce in Gerusalemme. Around 1,200 readers from 50 countries will participate in the event. Benedict XVI himself will inaugurate the event by reading the first chapter of Genesis, to be transmitted at 7 p.m. on RAI's main television channel.

  "The Word of God", said the Pope, "will thus enter peoples homes to accompany the lives of families and individuals; a seed that, if welcomed, will not fail to bring abundant fruit".

 

FIRST GENERAL CONGREGATION

VATICAN CITY, 6 OCT 2008 (VIS) - The first General Congregation of the Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops was held This morning in the Synod Hall. The meeting was presided by the Pope, and 244 Synod Fathers were present.

  In some brief opening remarks, Benedict XVI pointed out how "at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord speaks of two ways of building the house of one's life: on sand or on rock. Those who build on sand do so only on visible and tangible things: on success, career and money", he said.

  "These seem to true reality, but one day they will pass away", he added. "We see this now with the fall of the great banks. Money disappears, it becomes nothing. And thus all these things which seem to be real and upon which we can rely, are in fact of secondary importance. ... Only the Word of God is the foundation of all reality, stable like heaven. Therefore we must change our concept of reality. A realist is one who recognises that the Word of God - this reality that appears so weak - is in fact the foundation of everything".

  Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and president delegate on duty, also pronounced some brief words at the beginning of this morning's session.

  Cardinal Marc Ouellet P.S.S., archbishop of Quebec, Canada, relator general of the Synod, then read out the "Relatio ante disceptationem," (report before the discussion) of which some extracts are given below:

  "We are united in the Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to listen to what the Spirit says to today's Churches concerning 'the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church'", he said. "The goal of the Synod is primarily a pastoral and missionary one. It consists in, together, listening to the Word of God to discern how the Spirit and the Church aspire to respond to the gift of the Word made flesh through the love of the Holy Scriptures and the proclamation of the Kingdom of God to all humanity".

  "The Synod will propose pastoral orientations to 'reinforce the practice of the encounter with the Word of God as the source of life', in focusing on the reception of Vatican Council II as concerns the Word of God in its relationship with renewed ecclesiology, ecumenism and dialogue with nations and religions".

  "Thanks to the Trinitarian and Christocentric vision of Vatican Council II, the Church renewed consciousness in its own mystery and mission. ... In fact, the dogmatic Constitution 'Dei Verbum' marked a real turning point in the manner of dealing with Divine Revelation. Instead of privileging, as before, the noetic dimension of truths to be believed, the Council Fathers emphasised the dynamic and dialogic accent of Revelation as personal self-communication of God. Thus they laid the bases for a more vivid encounter and dialogue between God Who calls and His people who respond.

  "This turning point was vastly welcomed as a decisive fact by theologians, exegetes and pastors. However, one generally recognises the fact that the Constitution 'Dei Verbum' was not sufficiently received and that the turning point still has not achieved all the fruits desired and expected in the life and mission of the Church. Taking into account the progress to date, the question should be: why has the model of personal communication not penetrated the Church's conscience, prayer, and pastoral practices as well as the theological and exegetical method? The Synod should propose concrete solutions to bridge the lacunae and find a remedy to the ignorance of the Scriptures which adds to today's difficulties in evangelisation.

  "We must recognise, in fact, that the life of faith and the missionary impulse of Christians are deeply affected by socio-cultural phenomena such as secularisation, religious pluralism, globalisation and the enormous expansion in the communication media, with consequences such as: the growing gap between rich and poor, the blossoming of esoteric sects, the threats to peace, without forgetting the current assaults against human life and family.

  "To these phenomena, we must add the Church's internal difficulties dealing with the transmission of faith in the family, the weaknesses in catechetical formation, the tensions between the ecclesial Magisterium and university-level theology, the internal crisis of exegesis and its relationship with theology, while in a more general way 'a similar separation sometimes exists between biblical scholars and the pastors and everyday people of the Christian community'.

  "The Synod must face this great challenge of the transmission of faith in the Word of God today. In a pluralistic world, marked by relativism and esoterism, even the notion of Revelation poses questions and calls for clarification.

  "'Convocatio, communio, missio'. Around these three keywords that translate the triple dimension (dynamic, personal and dialogic) of Christian Revelation, we will show the thematic structure of the 'Instrumentum laboris'. The Word of God convokes, it activates communion with God's plan through obedience to faith and sends the chosen people towards nations. This Word of Covenant culminates in Mary, who embraces the Word made flesh in faith, the Desired One of the nations. We will return to the three dimensions of the Word of Covenant as the Holy Spirit incarnated them in the history of salvation, the Holy Scriptures and ecclesial Tradition".

  "To begin, we must start from the Mystery of a God that speaks", Cardinal Ouellet explained, "a God Who is Himself the Word and gives Himself to be known by humanity in many ways. Thanks to the Bible, humanity knows it has been called upon by God ; the Spirit helps it to listen and welcome the Word of God, thus becoming the 'Ecclesia', the community assembled by the Word. This community of faithful receives its identity and its mission from the Word of God that founds it, nourishes it and engages it to the service of the Kingdom of God".

  "The Word of God, witnessed by Scripture, hence has different forms and harbours different levels of meaning. It shows God Himself Who speaks, His Divine Word, His creative and saving Word, and finally His Word made flesh in Jesus Christ, 'the mediator and the fullness of all revelation'".

  "The written or transmitted Word of God is a word of dialogue and also a Trinitarian word, offered to man in Jesus Christ to introduce him to Trinitarian communion and to find his full identity. ... God speaks and, because of this, man appears as one-who-has-been-called. ... It is important to maintain this anthropological dimension of Revelation, because it plays an important role today in the hermeneutics of Biblical texts. Vatican Council II redefined the dialogic identity of man, starting from the Word of God in Christ".

  "On the pastoral level", he asked, "should we not verify that this dialogic and filial anthropology founded on Christ occupies its proper place in the liturgy, in catechesis and in theological teaching?"

  Going on to refer to the figure of the Virgin, he said: "Mary, perfectly accomplishes the divine vocation of humanity by her 'yes' to the Word of Covenant and her mission. Through her divine motherhood and her spiritual motherhood, Mary appears as the permanent model and form for the Church, like the first Church. Let us look briefly at the flesh-and-blood dimension of Mary, between the old and the new Covenant, who accomplishes the passage from Israel's faith to the Church's faith. Let us contemplate the Annunciation, which is the unsurpassable origin and model for self-communication with God and the experience of faith in the Church. This will be used as a paradigm to understand the dialogic identity of the Word of God in the Church".

  In the section of his address dedicated to "Tradition, Scripture and Magisterium", the cardinal indicated that "in the living tradition of the Church, the Word of God takes first place: it is the living Christ. The written Word testifies to this. In effect, Scripture is a historical assertion and a canonical reference that are necessary for prayer, the life and the doctrine of the Church. However, Scripture is not all the Word, it is not totally identified with her, from which stems the importance of the distinction between the Word and the Book, like between the letter and the Spirit".

  "Despite the complexities of the relationship between Scriptures, Tradition and Magisterium, the Holy Spirit assures a unity to the whole, especially if we maintain the responsorial and even nuptial dynamic of the relationship of the Covenant. In placing the ecclesial functions of Scriptures, Tradition and Magisterium within a Marian ecclesiology, we invite a change of the paradigm where the emphasis passes from the noetic dimension to the personal dimension of Revelation. The archetypical figure of Mary allows emphasising the dynamic dimension of the Word and the personal nature of faith as a gift of oneself, all while inviting the Church to live under the Word and open to all actions by the Holy Spirit".

  The second part of Cardinal Ouellet's report, entitled "Communio" and dedicated to the Word of God in the life of the Church, began with a section on the sacred liturgy.

  "The liturgy", he said, "is considered as an exercise of the priestly function of Jesus Christ, exercise in which the integral public worship is practised by the mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is to say the Head and His members. ... The primary subject of the holy liturgy is Christ Himself, addressing His People and offering Himself to His Father as sacrifice of love for the salvation of the world. Even if in the achievement of liturgical rites the Church seems to have a primary role, in truth, she only plays a subordinate role, at the service of the Word and He who speaks. Church-centricism is alien to the Council reforms".

  "How to cultivate in the faithful the conscience that the Liturgy is the practice of the priestly function of Jesus Christ to whom the Church is associated as the beloved Spouse? What consequences should arise from the rediscovery of this original place of the Word on Biblical hermeneutics, on the celebration of the Eucharist and in particular on the place and function of the Liturgy of the Word, including the homily?"

  On the subject of the ecclesial interpretation of the Word of God, the cardinal archbishop of Quebec posed the question whether "after several decades of concentration upon human meditations on the Scriptures, should we not find again the divine depth of the inspired text, without losing the precious acquisitions from new methodologies?

  "We cannot overemphasise this point because the crisis of exegesis and theological hermeneutics has a profound effect on the spiritual life of the People of God and their trust in the Scriptures. It also affects ecclesial communion, because of the climate of often unhealthy tension between university theology and ecclesial Magisterium. Faced with this delicate situation, and without getting into the debates on schools, the Synod must give a direction, to heal relationships and favour integration of acquired knowledge from biblical and hermeneutical sciences into the ecclesial interpretation of Holy Scriptures".

  "Missio: The Word of God in the Mission of the Church" was the title of the third part of the cardinal's remarks. "The heart of the mission of the Church is to evangelise", he said. "For the Church, evangelising means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new. ... When the Spirit speaks to the Church today, recalling the Scriptures, He calls her to a new testimony of love and unity to raise credibility in the Gospel faced with a world more attuned towards witnesses than doctors. ... Consequently, the witness of the Word of God demands that the missionary disciples be authentic witnesses of the primacy of love over science".

  On the subject of ecumenism, the cardinal pointed out that since "the official entry of the Catholic Church in the ecumenical movement, Popes made a priority of the cause for Christian unity. ... Although the ecumenical encounters and dialogue have produced fruits of brotherhood, reconciliation and mutual aid, the situation today is characterised by a certain degree of discomfort that calls for a deeper conversion to 'spiritual ecumenism'".

  Finally, turning to consider the question of dialogue between nations and religions, the cardinal observed that "the missionary activity of the Church is rooted, as we have said, in the mission of Christ and the Spirit that reveals and spreads the Trinitarian communion to all cultures in the world. ... The missionary activity of the Church testifies Her love for the whole Christ which includes all cultures. In Her efforts for evangelisation of cultures, this activity aims towards the unity of humanity in Jesus Christ, but all in respect and integration of all human values".

  "Among the partners of the different dialogues of the Church with nations, the Jewish people occupy a unique place as the heir of the first Covenant, whose Holy Scriptures we share. This common heritage invites us to hope".

  "Then come the faithful to the Muslim faith, they too rooted in the Biblical tradition, believers in the one God. Faced with secularisation and liberalism, they are allies in the defence of human life and in the assertion of the social importance of religion. ... Then finally come the humans 'from every race, language, people and nation', that are under the heavens, because the immolated Lamb shed His blood for all. The Word of God is especially destined to those who have never heard Him, because, in God's heart and in the missionary conscience of the Church, the last have the grace of being the first".

  In his conclusion the cardinal remarked:

  "Jesus always comes to the Church 'to bear witness to the Truth' and to communicate knowledge of God, which He possesses in full, to all those who believe in His name. ... Conscious of the ecclesiological renewal tied to the dynamic and dialogic concept of Revelation, we have suggested some paths to study the Word of God, beginning from Mary's faith as it extends through the life of the Church, the Liturgy, preaching, 'lectio divina', exegesis and theology.

  "The application of this Marian paradigm presupposes a pneumatological study of the ecclesial tradition and the scriptural exegesis that account for the performative virtue of the Word of God, while distinguishing it carefully from the Eucharistic presence. More than a library for the erudite, the Bible is a temple where the Spouse of the Canticle listens to the promises of the Beloved and celebrates his kisses. ... This more dynamic rather than noetic perspective calls for a more contemplative theology, rooted in the liturgy, the Fathers and the lives of the saints, exegesis practised in a faith conforming to its object, and a philosophy of being and of love.

  "It opens to a more fruitful spiritual reading of the Bible, to an ecclesial interpretation of the Scriptures and to a revitalisation of the missionary dialogue of the Church and Her love for man, imperfect image of God".

 

OFFICIAL VISIT OF THE HOLY FATHER TO THE ITALIAN PRESIDENT

VATICAN CITY, 4 OCT 2008 (VIS) - Pope Benedict XVI, returning the visit to the Vatican made by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on 20 November 2006, today travelled to the Quirinal Palace, Italy's official presidential residence.

  The Pope left the Vatican by car at 10.30 a.m. Just outside Vatican City, in Pius XII Square, he was greeted by a delegation from the Italian government led by Foreign Minister Franco Frattini. The Holy Father's motor cavalcade stopped a second time in Piazza Venezia near Rome's City Hall, where he was greeted by Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno. Arriving at the Quirinal, President Napolitano came out to meet and welcome Benedict XVI.

  Before his private meeting with the president, the Pope greeted former presidents of the Republic. After the meeting, he briefly visited the chapel of the Quirinal Palace. The Holy Father and President Napolitano then each pronounced their discourses.

  Responding to the president's greeting, the Pope recalled how "at a certain moment in history, this palace became almost a sign of contradiction as, on the one hand, Italy longed to become a unified State and, on the other, the Holy See was concerned with maintaining its own independence as a guarantee of its universal mission. ... I am referring", he said, "to the 'Roman question' which came to an end with the signing of the Lateran Pacts on 11 February 1929".

  Benedict XVI indicated that his visit "serves to confirm the fact that the Quirinal and the Vatican are not two hills that ignore one another or face one another acrimoniously; rather that they are places symbolising mutual respect for the sovereignty of the State and of the Church, ready to co-operate to promote and serve the integral good of human beings and the peaceful continuance of social coexistence. This - I would like to reiterate - is a positive state of affairs that may be observed almost daily at various levels, one to which other States may also look and draw useful lessons".

  After highlighting the fact that today marks the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, "the special protector" of Italy, the Pope explained how "in this saint, who attracts believers and non-believers alike, we may see an image of the perennial mission of the Church, also in her relationship with civil society. The Church in this modern age of profound and sometimes difficult changes, continues to present everyone with the Gospel's message of salvation and undertakes to contribute to building a society founded on truth and freedom, on respect for life and human dignity, on justice and social solidarity.

  "Hence", he added, "the Church does not aim to acquire power nor does she seek privileges or positions of economic and social advantage. Her only aim is to serve mankind, drawing inspiration, as the supreme norm, from the words and example of Jesus Christ Who 'went about doing good and healing all'".

  He went on: "In order to carry out this her mission, the Church must, everywhere and always, be able to enjoy the right of religious freedom in its broadest sense. ... The full guarantee of religious liberty cannot be limited to the free exercise of worship, but has to give due consideration to the public dimension of religion, and hence to the possibility of believers playing their part in building the social order", he said quoting his own 18 April address before the United Nations.

  This contribution to building society takes on many forms, observed the Holy Father, because the Church "is at one and the same time a spiritual and a visible reality in which members have diverse vocations, tasks and roles. She feels a particular responsibility towards the new generations. One particularly urgent problem today is education, the indispensable key that gives access to a future inspired by the perennial values of Christian humanism".

  Benedict XVI expressed the hope that "Italian Christian communities ... may educate people, and especially the young, to be responsible citizens committed to civil life", and that "pastors and faithful will continue to make an important contribution to building, the common good of the country, even in these moments of economic and social uncertainty, ...with a particular concern for the poor, the marginalised, the young in search of work and those without work, families and the elderly".

  "I also hope", he went on, "that the contribution of the Catholic community will be welcomed by everyone with the same ready spirit as that in which it is offered. There is no reason to fear prevarication by the Church and her members detrimental to freedom, indeed they hope that their own freedom not to betray their consciences illuminated by the Gospel will also be recognised.

  "This will be easier", Benedict XVI concluded, "if is never forgotten that all elements of society must, with mutual respect, undertake to create ... the true good of mankind, something that the hearts and minds of Italians, nourished by 20 centuries of culture impregnated with Christianity, well understand".

 

OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS

VATICAN CITY, 6 OCT 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Fr. Jose Manuel Imbamba of the clergy of Lwena, Angola, secretary general of the Catholic University of Luanda, Angola, and professor of philosophy at the major seminary of Luanda, as bishop of Dundo (area 106,000, population 1,000,000, Catholics 40,000, priests 6, religious 16), Angola. The bishop-elect was born in Boma, Angola in 1965 and ordained a priest in 1991.

  On Saturday 4 October it was made public that he appointed:

 - Msgr. Jan Baxant, vicar general of the diocese of Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic, as bishop of Litomerice (area 9,380, population 1,335,154, Catholics 159,986, priests 116, permanent deacons 14, religious 72), Czech Republic. The bishop-elect was born in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic in 1948 and ordained a priest in 1973.

 - Msgr. Damian Santiago Bitar, vicar general of the diocese of Villa Maria, Argentina, as auxiliary of San Justo (area 130, population 1,000,000, Catholics 900,000, priests 75, permanent deacons 18, religious 127), Argentina. The bishop-elect was born in Arroyo Cabral, Argentina in 1963 and ordained a priest in 1987

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