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Tuesday, October 7, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 7 OCT 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, as president of the Commission for Advocates.
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VATICAN CITY, 7 OCT 2008 (VIS) - The Third General Congregation of the Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops began this morning in the presence of the Holy Father. The session, which marked the beginning of the general discussions, was attended by 242 Synod Fathers, and the president delegate on duty was Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, Australia.

  Following are excerpts from the speeches given:

CARDINAL FRANC RODE C.M., PREFECT OF THE CONGREGATION FOR INSTITUTES OF CONSECRATED LIFE AND SOCIETIES OF APOSTOLIC LIFE. "Consecrated life is 'profoundly rooted in the example and teachings of Christ the Lord'. It has continued 'to find inspiration [in the Gospel] over the centuries, and to the Gospel it is constantly called to return to remain fresh and fertile, bringing fruits for the salvation of souls. ... A religious family' as Benedict XVI said, 'by its very existence becomes a living exegesis of the Word of God'".

  "The renewal to which consecrated people are constantly called is most appropriately enacted by returning to the evangelical roots of a charism, there to find new inspiration. If each charism constitutes an 'evangelical word' of the One Word, a specific aspect of the totality of the Gospel, then by living the Gospel to the full consecrated people will find a light with which to understand the particular evangelical dimension upon which their own institute is founded. This is a path that consecrated people will have to follow in communion with all the other vocations of the Church".

ARCHBISHOP MARK COLERIDGE OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN, AUSTRALIA. "The Second Vatican Council called for a renewal of preaching which involved a shift from the sermon understood primarily as an exposition of Catholic doctrine, devotion and discipline to the homily understood primarily as an exposition and application of Scripture. Such a shift has been accomplished only in part. One reason for this is that preaching too often takes the 'kerygma' for granted, and this at a moment in Western cultures when the 'kerygma' cannot be taken for granted. If it is, there is the risk of a moralistic reduction of preaching which may evoke interest or admiration but not the faith that saves".

  "A new evangelisation requires a new formulation and proclamation of the 'kerygma' in the interests of a more powerful missionary preaching. To promote such a preaching a General Homiletic Directory could be prepared along the lines of the General Catechetical Directory and the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. Such a Directory would draw upon the experience of the universal Church in providing a framework without stifling the genius of particular Churches or individual preachers".

CARDINAL FRANCIS EUGENE GEORGE O.M.I., ARCHBISHOP OF CHICAGO, U.S.A. "To speak of the Word of God in the Church is to speak of the Word of God in the lives of believers. Pastors should attend to conversion of the imagination, the intellect and the will of those to whom they proclaim the Word of God and for whom they interpret Scripture. Too often, the contemporary imagination has lost the image of God as actor in history. The contemporary intellect finds little consistency in the books of the Bible and is not informed by the 'regula fidei'. The contemporary heart has not been shaped by worship and the submission to God's word in the liturgical year. If the power of God's word in Holy Scripture is to be felt in the life and mission of the Church, pastors must attend to personal context as well as to inspired text".

CARDINAL ANDRE VINGT-TROIS, ARCHBISHOP OF PARIS AND PRESIDENT OF THE CONFERENCE OF BISHOPS OF FRANCE. "In seeking the meaning of a biblical text, the interpreter must pay attention, as Vatican Council II says, to the literary genre and to the historical circumstances in which it was written. In other words, the Bible is human literature. The Council adds that the faithful interpreter must also remain attentive to the harmony between the Scriptures of the Old Alliance and those of the New, to the unity of Scripture and Tradition, and to the analogy of the faith. ... The exegete and the theologian, when not one and the same person, are called to examine the text together. The meaning of Scripture is theological and theology is a search for the meaning of Scripture".

CARDINAL PETER ERDO, ARCHBISHOP OF BUDAPEST, HUNGARY, AND PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPEAN EPISCOPAL CONFERENCES. "The vital necessity of the Church's correct interpretation becomes apparent from the first moment of encounter with the Word of God. The risks of arbitrary interpretation are particularly great in a cultural environment such as our own where the elemental categories for researching historical truth seem to fail. Various publications - more sensational than scientific - create considerable confusion even in the minds of the faithful, and sometimes even of priests. The greatest risk is not that some people will not know how much reliance they can place on an apocryphal text (such as for example the Gospel of Judas), but that many have no idea how to distinguish credible sources on the history of Jesus Christ from untrustworthy ones. Indeed, it seems that no small number of people do not believe it important to discover what the true history is, because they reason subjectively even about historical matters".
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VATICAN CITY, 6 OCT 2008 (VIS) - The Second General Congregation of the Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops began at 4.30 p.m. today in the Synod Hall, in the presence of the Holy Father. The session was dedicated to four reports on how the theme of the Synod is perceived on the continents of Africa, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

  The president delegate on duty was Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and there were 245 Synod Fathers present.

  Following are excerpts from the speeches given:

AFRICA. ARCHBISHOP JOHN OLORUNFEMI ONAIYEKAN OF ABUJA, NIGERIA. "It is no wonder that some of the earliest centres of Christianity both in terms of theology and theologians as well as of martyrs and confessors are in Northern Africa: Alexandria, Carthage and Hippo to mention a few. ... Our continent can boast of being a 'biblical land' in a way that many great Christian nations of today dare not".

  However, the "text of Scripture itself can be quite a problem in many places. The cost of a Bible may be minimal in many parts of the world. In Africa, it can be as high as a month's wages in many places. The result is that many people do not have enough money to own a Bible".

 "Apart from the text, there is also the question of language. Many languages still do not have an adequate translation of the Bible text. ... But even after hearing the Word of God read in our languages, there is still the task of interpreting this word so as to imbibe the true meaning of the message that the Holy Spirit intends for those to whom the Word is addressed. Here comes the task of interpretation, of exegesis both at the scientific level and at the popular level".

  "The missionaries who brought the Catholic faith to Africa at the end of the 19th and during most of the 20th century were men and women of their own times and of their own places of origin. It is obvious that the Bible as a scriptural text was not very much a priority in the life of the Church in those days. ... But this does not mean that they were ignorant of Sacred Scripture. The Catechism itself was based in an indirect way on the Scriptures. More important still was the liturgy. At Mass, regular passages were read and homilies delivered upon them".

  "Africa is still a continent of first evangelisation. ... The task of primary evangelisation obviously demands that the Word of God is announced and proclaimed in all its power and vigour. This requires that the scripture be properly presented to those whom we are inviting to accept the Christian message".

  "With other Christians that are not of our Church ... there are of course difficulties, especially with groups that are not only of the fundamentalist type but clearly anti Catholic. ... Many of our members are often embarrassed by the attacks and harassment of such groups, especially when they themselves are not properly prepared to defend their Catholic stand. Many of our members however have been challenged to take the Scriptures more seriously, precisely to be able to stand their ground when others attack them and their Church".

  "From this Synod, we are hoping that the enthusiasm for the Word of God which we experience now in our continent will be strengthened and sustained. We are hoping too that having told our story about the challenges we face and the limits of our resources, we can look forward to more support from those who have been helping us in the areas of need already mentioned".

ASIA. ARCHBISHOP TOMAS MENAMPARAMPIL S.D.B., OF GUWAHATI, INDIA. "From Christianity's earliest beginnings Christian evangelisers had a persuasive power because their 'Word' was translated into action. Mother Teresa is a recent example. Missionaries have remained creative and kept entering into new areas of work. Their services in the fields of education and health are greatly esteemed. ... They are active in the struggle for justice for oppressed groups; in the work for social change, cultural promotion, protection of environment, defence of life and family; in advocacy on behalf of the weak, downtrodden and the marginalized, and giving voice to the voiceless. ... Even where the Gospel is resisted most, the evangelical witness of socially relevant works find welcome".

  "Significant Church growth is recorded, where our apostolic personnel (priests, sisters and catechists) are actively engaged in missionary work among 'responsive communities'. ... Among such groups we may mention many ethnic minorities (tribal people) in different parts of China, Indonesian islands, North Myanmar, Thailand, and Northeast India".

  "Religious life is understood in Asia, its relevance recognised, its contribution appreciated, and its representatives respected. For, there are native models of religious life belonging to other Asian religions. Religious values like renunciation, austerity, silence, prayer, contemplation, and celibacy are highly regarded. ... Religious persons are considered the guardians of religious and human wisdom in Asia. With adequate formation, young religious can grow up as effective announcers of the Christian message".

  "Strengthening of theological formation implies also the deepening of reflection on God's Word in the Asian context of poverty and injustice; and also of a plurality of religions, civilisations, and cultures. It implies the use of categories of thought, symbolism, spiritual traditions that have meaning for Asians. Here is a challenging task before the teacher of the 'Word'".

  "When a civilisation is closely related to a major religion (e.g., Islamic, Hindu, Confucian, Shinto), the borrowing of elements suited for faith and worship from those religions will need to be handled with care. If the teacher of the 'Word' begins to use expressions that adherents to these great religions consider as their own, they may take it as violation of what is sacred to them, and the Christian community as an imposition of something alien. ... On the contrary, traditional Christian expressions may make no appeal to the collective psyche of a society to which a message is addressed".

  "Much of Jesus' teaching that has come down to us was given on the occasion of ordinary human encounters. ... This is what is happening in Asia in a quiet but effective way through the effort of Christian believers: bringing a message of peace to situations of conflict, of justice to oppressed communities, of probity to corruption ridden societies, of equality to unfair situations (related to caste, class, gender, race, ethnicity), of assistance to the hungry and the poor. These efforts are different from a textbook presentation of Christ based on truth claims, debates and arguments. But they explain the teachings of the Gospel most eloquently. They translate the Christian message into life.

  "In many countries in Asia, Christians are under heavy pressure. Freedom is restricted, new converts are harassed, and the believing community is persecuted as happened in Orissa, India, recently. However, the patience manifested by the community, the restraint shown, the moderation in response, the spirit of forgiveness ¼ all these have an evangelising power".

EUROPE. CARDINAL JOSIP BOZANIC, ARCHBISHOP OF ZAGREB, CROATIA. "There is an indissoluble bond between the Bible and Europe. All that has made European culture and civilisation great ... found its origins in the Bible. Themes such as human dignity, the recognition of human rights, the separation of Church and State - just to mention a few - find their source in the Bible. Social justice, law, criticism towards any type of idolatry, the rejection of false images of God, have their foundation in the Bible. The Bible unites the East and the West, the North and the South of the continent as well as the different Churches and Christian communities".

  "Today in Europe, there are signs of a renewed interest in the Bible. Therefore, it is necessary to start from God and the event of His Revelation, and at the same time, with the courage of a new and more mature proposal of 'lectio divina'".

  "Europe without God risks becoming a nest of anguish and builds a civilisation of fear. The Word of God restores hope and joy. Also, Europe goes into crisis when it does not accept the interpreting force of the Word of God, which finds in faith and inspiration its main foundation. This is an arduous task in all the scientific disciplines and especially for theology. Europe rightfully boasts its own development of theological thought, but there is a need for further efforts for a more productive confrontation with the new interpretations and scientific research, which often may divide from the hermeneutical paradigms of Christian truth".

  "In fact, a culture that breaks away from Christian celebration, that is to say the celebration of the Mystery of the goodness of God and salvation achieved in Christ, endangers its own joy and pushes Europe towards a civilisation of affliction and misery, which feels the burden of old age and death. Where there is a celebration of the Christian mysteries, the Church is youthful, and this guarantees the youthfulness of Europe as well".

  "Filled by the Holy Spirit of Christ described in the Holy Scripture, many European Catholics and Christians in the 20th century were able to distinguish between good and evil, to resist totalitarianism, revealing its perverse and satanic deviation. Holy Scripture allowed them to discover not only the weaknesses of others and of themselves, but above all the hope that springs from that same Word of God".

OCEANIA. BISHOP MICHAEL ERNEST PUTNEY OF TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA. "The incredibly dedicated and at times heroic work of missionaries who shared the Word of God through the preaching of the Gospel, the Sacraments, and the teaching of the Church's Tradition to so many people throughout the Pacific has borne enormous fruit. This fruit was not without its ambiguities because as was pointed out in 'Ecclesia in Oceania', the missionaries also at times introduced elements which were culturally alien to the people. It is also true that sometimes elements of the welcoming culture inconsistent with the Word of God continue to influence the lives of people. Faced with these challenges, there is always a need for competent staff to teach in seminaries and higher institutes of learning in the many countries of Oceania.

  "The new Churches of the Pacific now face the challenges of cultural transition as they move in some places from village communities to urban life, and to participation in a global economy. Because of this transition there can be stress on family life and a breakdown of the social fabric. As well, at times they can struggle to deal with the Western political process which most of them have inherited from their European colonisers, and increasing environmental threats because of climate change. Moreover, in the many countries of Oceania there are an incredible number of languages in which the Word of God would ideally be communicated. ... Overall there are as many as twelve hundred quite different languages in Oceania".

  "Australia is one of the most secular countries in the world. New Zealand has many more Pacific Islander people who tend to be much more religious, but the predominant European culture is as secular as it is in Australia".

  "After World Youth Day, some Australians and New Zealanders have a sense that the promise of a new evangelisation may finally be underway despite the apparent impermeability of the secular culture".

  "The challenge confronting Australia and much of Oceania is to find new ways to enable this gift of the Gospel to be heard".

  "'Ecclesia in Oceania' also asked that the scriptures be translated into as many as possible of the vernacular languages. The number of languages in the many islands of Oceania presents a unique challenge to the Church in this regard".

  "With ever-increasing intensity, the Church in Australia and New Zealand and the other countries of Oceania are turning their attention to the need to engage in a new evangelisation of our part of the world, especially in the secular culture of Australia and New Zealand. However, at the present time no one method or even a shared understanding of what is required in practical terms, has emerged".

  "At the same time, ecumenical relations with the major Christian Churches and relationships with the Jewish community and the Islamic community and those of other world religions is a very positive experience for the Church in most parts of Oceania. We seek to stand together in our secular culture to affirm the fundamental value of belief in God and the right of religious people to make their contribution to our secular culture".

  Following the reports from the continents, the gathering was addressed by Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen of Haifa, Israel, special guest to the Synod. After him, the day's session was brought to and end with a talk by Cardinal Albert Vanhoye S.J.

CHIEF RABBI SHEAR YASHUV COHEN OF HAIFA, ISRAEL: "I deeply feel that my standing here before you is very meaningful. It brings with it a signal of hope and a message of love, co-existence and peace for our generation, and for generations to come".

  "We pray to God using His own words, as related to us in the Scriptures", he said. "Likewise we praise Him, also using His own words from the Bible. We ask for His mercy, mentioning what He has promised to our ancestors and to us. Our entire service is based upon an ancient rule, as related to us by our Rabbis and teachers: 'Give Him of what is His, because you and yours are His'.

  "We believe that prayer is the language of the soul in its communion with God. We believe sincerely that our soul is His, given to us by Him", Rabbi Cohen added.

  "Rabbis", he went on, "when we address issues of concern in our sermons, such as the sanctity of life, fighting promiscuity, fighting secularism, promoting the values of brotherhood and fraternity, love and peace, equality and respect for the other and the different, we always try to build our address around biblical quotations, as interpreted by our holy sages, through the generations.

  "Our point of departure stems from the treasures of our religious traditions, even while we endeavour to speak in a modern and contemporary language and address present issues. It is amazing to observe how the Holy Scriptures never lose their vitality and relevance to present issues of our time and age, This is the miracle of the everlasting and perpetual 'Word of God'".

CARDINAL ALBERT VANHOYE S.J., focusing on a document of the Pontifical Biblical Commission entitled "The Jewish People and their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible", affirmed that "the document is made up of three large chapters. The first is entitled 'The Sacred Scriptures of the Jewish People, fundamental part of the Christian Bible'. ... The Old Testament is not simply a piece among others in the Christian Bible. It is the base, the fundamental part. If the New Testament was established on another basis, it would have no real value. Without its conformity to the Sacred Scriptures of the Jewish people, it could not be presented as the accomplishment of God's project".

  "The first chapter presents a long demonstration of the affirmation contained in its title. First, it shows that 'The New Testament recognises the authority of the Sacred Scriptures of the Jewish people'", then "that 'the New Testament asserts itself in conformity with the Jewish People's Scriptures'".

  "The document delves deeply into the theme of the accomplishment of Scripture, because it is a very important theme in the relationship between Christians and Jews, and very complex. ... The accomplishment of the Scriptures necessarily includes three aspects: a fundamental aspect of continuity with the revelation of the Old Testament, but at the same time an aspect of difference on certain points, and a surpassing aspect. A simple repetition of what existed in the Old Testament is not enough to allow us to speak about accomplishment. Decisive progress is essential".

  "In paragraph 21, the document returns to the notion of accomplishment and declares that it is 'an extremely complex notion, that can be easily falsified, if one insists unilaterally on continuity and on discontinuity'. Therefore, pastoral care must ensure it does not falsify the notion of the accomplishment of the Scriptures. The document continues by saying that 'Christian faith recognises the accomplishment in Christ, in the Scriptures and in Israel's attempts, but does not understand this accomplishment as the simple realisation of what was written. Such a concept would be a reduction. In truth, in the mystery of the crucified and risen Christ, accomplishment is achieved in an unforeseen way. ... The Messianism of Jesus has a new and unprecedented meaning [...] It is better, then, not to put excessive emphasis, as a certain kind of apologetic does, on the value of the proof attributed to the accomplishment of the prophecies. This insistence contributed to making Christians' judgement of Jews and of their reading of the Old Testament more severe'".

  "The document then reaches a conclusion concerning the Jews who do not believe in Christ: 'It cannot be said, therefore, that Jews do not see what has been proclaimed in the text, but that the Christian, in the light of Christ and in the Spirit, discovers in the text an additional meaning that was hidden there'".

  "According to the document, it follows that 'Christians can and ought to admit that the Jewish reading of the Bible is a possible one'. ... But the document clearly states that while it is possible for Jews who do not believe in Christ, this reading is not possible for Christians, because it implies accepting all the presuppositions of Judaism, in particular those that 'exclude faith in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God'. 'Both readings are bound up in the vision of their respective faiths, of which the readings are the result and expression. Consequently, both are irreducible'".

  "Therefore the document can declare that 'on the practical level of exegesis, Christians can, nonetheless, learn much from Jewish exegesis practised for more than two thousand years, and, in fact, they have learned much in the course of history'".

  "The Jewish people's Scriptures are received in the Christian Bible under the name Old Testament. The document immediately points out that 'By 'Old Testament' the Christian Church has no wish to suggest that the Jewish Scriptures are outdated or surpassed. On the contrary, it has always affirmed that the Old Testament and the New Testament are inseparable".

  "The document states that 'the New Testament fully appropriates the great themes of the theology of Israel', but does not cease repeating what has already been written on this subject. It delves into them, and this requires surpassing with a view to making progress. 'The person and work of Christ together with the existence of the Church prolong this history'".

  "Therefore, the New Testament is situated in a line of deep faithfulness in relationship to the Sacred Scriptures of the Jewish people, however a faithfulness that is at the same time creative, conforming to the prophetic oracles that announced 'the new covenant' and the gift of a 'new heart' and a 'new spirit'.

  "The third chapter of the document is called 'The Jews in the New Testament'. ... It would be an error to conceive Judaism at that time as a monolithic reality. On the contrary, we must note the existence of different currents of thought and behaviour, which often opposed each other".

  "The document states that 'Jesus did not belong to any of the sects existing within Judaism at the time. He was simply on the side of the common people. ... As for the group of disciples, 'they could very well reflect the pluralism that existed in Palestine at that time'".

  "After this necessary prologue, the document studies the way the Jews are presented in the Gospels and in the Acts of the Apostles. ... It declares that 'the Gospels and Acts have a basic outlook on Jews that is extremely positive because they recognise that the Jews are a people chosen by God for the fulfilment of His plan of salvation'".

  "Another aspect of this situation is expressed in the following terms: 'The Good News, accepted wholeheartedly in the beginning by many Jews, met with opposition from the leaders, who were eventually followed by the greater part of the people. The result was that between Jewish and Christian communities a conflict situation arose that clearly left its mark on the redaction of the Gospels and Acts'".

  "However, the document states: 'In the New Testament, the reproaches addressed to Jews are not as frequent or as virulent as the accusations against Jews in the Law and the Prophets. Therefore, they no longer serve as a basis for anti Jewish sentiment. To use them for this purpose is contrary to the whole tenor of the New Testament. Real anti Jewish feeling, that is, an attitude of contempt, hostility and persecution of the Jews as Jews, is not found in any New Testament text and is incompatible with its teaching. ... Reproach never corresponds to hatred".

  "In concluding, the document states that the New Testament is 'in serious disagreement with the vast majority of the Jewish people', because 'it is essentially a proclamation of the fulfilment of God's plan in Jesus Christ (announced in the Old Testament)', and the vast majority of the Jewish people 'does not accept this fulfilment. ... Although profound, such disagreement in no way implies reciprocal hostility'".

  "'Dialogue is possible, since Jews and Christians share a rich common patrimony that unites them. It is greatly to be desired that prejudice and misunderstanding be gradually eliminated on both sides, in favour of a better understanding of the patrimony they share and to strengthen the links that bind them'. In this direction, complete docility to the Word of God urges the Church to progress".
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