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Monday, October 27, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 25 OCT 2008 (VIS) - The working sessions of the Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops concluded this morning with the approval of the 55 propositions which the Synod Fathers have presented to Benedict XVI.

  By order of the Pope, a provisional and unofficial Italian-language version of the propositions has been made public by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. This is the second time that Benedict XVI has allowed the publication of the closing propositions of a synodal assembly. Normally the propositions are given privately to the Pope for him to consider while preparing the Apostolic Exhortation, the official closing document of a Synod.

  The first part of the list, entitled: "The Word of God in the Faith of the Church" includes the propositions from 3 to 13. They focus on the duty of pastors to educate the faithful to gain a better experience of their relationship with Christ Jesus, through reading and meditation upon Scripture.

  After analysing the relationship between the Old and New Testaments, the propositions highlight how the poor, "in need not only of bread but also of the words of life", have a preferential right to know the Gospel.

  Referring to one of the "challenges of the modern world: the great progress of science in respect to its knowledge of the natural world, with the paradoxical result that it can end up obscuring the ethical message arising therefrom", the Synod asks pastors "to be sensitive to the rediscovery of natural law and its function in the formation of consciences".

  The second part (propositions 14 to 37) focuses on the theme: "The Word of God in the Faith of the Church". On the subject of the Word of God and the liturgy, it is suggested the Bible be placed in a visible position inside churches, and that the Word of God be clearly proclaimed by people who have "familiarity with the dynamics of communication".

  On the subject of the homily - one of the major themes of the synodal assembly - the propositions stress the need to prepare it well, bearing in mind the day's biblical readings, what those readings mean to the priest, and what he must then say to the community in the light of their real situation. The need to promote "lectio divina" (the prayerful reading of Scripture) is also emphasised.

  The Synod Fathers encourage the laity in their efforts to transmit the faith and, in this context, underline the indispensable role of women, especially within the family, in catechises and in the ministry of the lectorate. They also note that, although the liturgy of the Word is a privileged place for the encounter with Christ, it must not be confused with the liturgy of the Eucharist.

  Another of the propositions reflects a suggestion made by the Pope himself: that, in exegesis, it is important to bear in mind the two methodologies indicated by the Dogmatic Constitution "Dei Verbum": the historical and the theological. This is because, as Benedict XVI said in an address during the Synod, "if an hermeneutics of faith is lacking, there necessarily arises a positivist or secularist hermeneutic, according to which the divine does not enter into human history".

  The third and final part includes propositions 38 to 54 on: "The Word of God in the Mission of the Church". It deals with such issues as the Word of God and liturgical art, and the translation and distribution of the Bible. These propositions also highlight the importance of the communications media for evangelisation and warn against the danger of a fundamentalist reading of the Bible and the phenomenon of sects.

  Other themes considered in this section include inter-religious dialogue, the promotion of pilgrimages, the study of Holy Scripture in the Holy Land, dialogue with Jews and Muslims, and the relationship between the Word and the protection of the environment.

  The Synod Fathers call for a strengthening of inter-religious dialogue and insist "that all believers be effectively guaranteed the liberty to profess their religion in private and in public, and that freedom of conscience be recognised". The prelates suggest that episcopal conferences should promote meetings and dialogue with Jews. On the subject of Muslims, they stress the "importance of respect for life, and of the rights of men and of women, as well as the distinction between the socio-political and the religious spheres in promoting justice and peace in the world. An important part of this dialogue will be reciprocity and freedom of conscience and religion", they say.

  In the final proposition, dedicated to the Virgin Mary model of the Church's faith, it is suggested that the faithful be further encouraged to pray the Angelus and the Rosary.
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VATICAN CITY, 26 OCT 2008 (VIS) - In the Vatican Basilica at 9.30 a.m. today, the Holy Father presided at a Eucharistic concelebration with the Synod Fathers. The event marked the close of the Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which has been held in the Vatican from 5 to 26 October on the theme: "The Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church".

  In his homily, the Pope highlighted the importance of listening "to the Word and incarnating it in individual and community life.

  "In this Eucharistic celebration, which closes the work of the Synod", he added, "we are particularly aware of the bond that exists between loving reception of the Word of God and disinterested service towards our fellow man. How many times, in the past days, have we heard experiences and reflections which highlight the contemporary need to listen to God more intimately, to gain a truer knowledge of His Word of Salvation, a more sincere sharing of faith which is constantly nourished at the table of the Divine Word".

  After thanking all the participants, Benedict XVI made particular mention of the bishops of continental China, who were unable to attend the synodal assembly. "I would like", he said, "to thank God for their love for Christ, their communion with the universal Church and their faithfulness to the Successor of the Apostle Peter. They are present in our prayers, as are all the faithful entrusted to their pastoral care. We ask the 'Chief Shepherd' to give them apostolic joy, strength, and zeal to guide, with wisdom and far-sightedness, the Catholic community of China so dear to us all".

  The Pope went on: "All of us who have taken part in the work of the Synod will carry with us the renewed knowledge that the Church's principal task, at the start of this new millennium, is above all to nourish herself on the Word of God in order to make new evangelisation more effective. What is needed now is that this ecclesial experience be brought to every community. We have to understand the necessity of translating the Word we have heard into gestures of love, because this is the only way to make the announcement of the Gospel credible, despite the human weaknesses that mark individuals. What this requires first of all is a more intimate knowledge of Christ and meek acceptance of His Word.

  "In this Pauline year, making our own the words of the Apostle ('Woe to me if I do not proclaim the Gospel'), I hope with all my heart that in every community this yearning of Paul's will be felt with ever more conviction, as a vocation in the service of the Gospel for the world. ... So many people are searching, sometimes unwittingly, for the meeting with Christ and His Gospel; so many need to find a meaning to their lives in Him.

  After highlighting the fact that "often the encounter with Scriptures is in danger of not being a 'Church event', but remains exposed to subjectivity and arbitrariness", the Pope noted the importance of a "robust and credible pastoral promotion of the knowledge of Holy Scripture, in order to announce, celebrate and live the Word in Christian communities, establishing a dialogue with the cultures of our time, placing ourselves at the service of truth and not of current ideologies, and increasing the dialogue that God wishes to have with all mankind". To this end, "special care should be paid to the preparation of pastors", and "ongoing efforts to give life to the biblical movement among lay people should be encouraged, along with the formation of group animators. ... We must also support efforts to transmit the faith through the Word of God to those who are 'far away', especially to those who are sincerely looking to give meaning to their lives", he said.

  "The privileged place where the Word of God resounds, the Word that builds the Church, is undoubtedly the liturgy. It is clear from the liturgy that the Bible is a book of a people and for a people. ... There is, therefore, a mutual relationship, a living bond, between the people and the Book. The Bible remains alive with the people who read it. The people cannot exist without the Book, because it is in it that they find their reason for living, their vocation and their identity. This mutual bond between people and Holy Scripture is celebrated at every liturgical gathering".

  Benedict XVI ended his homily by entrusting to the protection of the Virgin Mary the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, due to be held in Rome in October of next year. He also announced his intention to travel to Cameroon in March 2009 to entrust the working document for that Synod to representatives of the episcopal conferences of Africa. "From there", he concluded, "God willing, I will go on to Angola to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the evangelisation of that country".
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VATICAN CITY, 26 OCT 2008 (VIS) - At midday today, Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

  In his remarks before the Marian prayer, the Pope dwelt upon today's closure of the Synod of Bishops. "Each synodal assembly", he said, "is a powerful experience of ecclesial communion, this one even more so because attention was focused on what illuminates and guides the Church: the Word of God, which is Christ in person. ... In accordance with the original meaning of the term 'church', we experienced the joy of being called by the Word and, especially in the liturgy, found ourselves on the path ... which gives us a foretaste of the Kingdom of Heaven".

  The Holy Father commented on a question that gave rise to much reflection during the Synod: "the relationship between the Word and words, that is to say between the Divine Word and the scriptures that express it". Thus "good Biblical exegesis requires both historical critical and theological methodologies, because Holy Scripture is the Word of God in human words. This means that every text must be read and interpreted bearing in mind the unity of all Scripture, the living tradition of the Church and the light of faith.

  "If it is true", he added, "that the Bible is also a literary work, indeed the great codex of universal culture, it is also true that it must not be divested of its divine element, but must always be read in the same Spirit as that in which it was written. Therefore, scientific exegesis and 'lectio divina' are equally necessary and complementary for finding, through the literary and spiritual meaning, what God wishes to communicate to us today".

  The Holy Father then went on: "At the end of this synodal assembly, the patriarchs of the Eastern Churches made an appeal, which I make mine, to call the attention of the international community, religious leaders and all men and women of good will to the ongoing tragedy in certain Eastern countries, where Christians are the victims of intolerance and cruel violence: killed, threatened and forced to abandon their homes and seek refuge elsewhere. At this time I am thinking above all about Iraq and India. I am certain that the ancient and noble populations of these nations have learnt, over the course of centuries of respectful coexistence, to appreciate the contribution the small but dutiful Christian minorities make to the development of the shared homeland. They do not ask for privileges, but only wish to be allowed to continue to live in their country together with their fellow citizens, as they have always done.

  "I ask civil and religious authorities to spare no efforts to ensure that legality and civil coexistence be soon restored, and that honest and loyal citizens may know that they can count on adequate protection from State institutions. I also hope that civil and religious leaders from all nations, aware of their role as guide and example to their peoples, take meaningful and explicit actions of friendship and consideration towards minorities, Christian or others, and make it a point of honour to come to the defence of their legitimate human rights".
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VATICAN CITY, 27 OCT 2008 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received the Letters of Credence of Cristina Castaner-Ponce Enrile, the new ambassador of the Philippines to the Holy See. In his English-language address to her he recalled how "the Filipino people are renowned for their warm generosity and the high value they place on friendship and family life". He also expressed his thanks for "the unique contribution they have made and continue to make to the life of the local and universal Church", encouraging them to continue "to devote themselves to forging bonds of peace and social harmony within your borders and across the globe.

  "For its part, and in a special way through its diplomatic activity, the Holy See seeks to engage the world in dialogue so as to promote universal values ... and advance mankind on the road to communion with God and one another. The Catholic Church is eager to share the richness of the Gospel's social message, for it enlivens hearts with a hope for the fulfilment of justice and a love that makes all men and women truly brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. She carries out this mission fully aware of the respective autonomy and competence of Church and State.

  "Indeed", he added, "we may say that the distinction between religion and politics is a specific achievement of Christianity and one of its fundamental historical and cultural contributions. The Church is equally convinced that State and religion are called to support each other as they together serve the personal and social wellbeing of all. ... By cultivating a spirit of honesty and impartiality, and by keeping justice their aim, civil and ecclesial leaders earn the trust of the people and enhance a sense of the shared responsibility of all citizens to promote a civilisation of love".

  The Holy Father then went on to refer to the Meeting of the Global Forum on Migration and Development, held recently in Manila. "Initiatives such as this", he said, "are fruitful when they recognise immigration as a resource for development rather than as an obstacle to it. ... Domestic and international policies aimed at regulating immigration must be based on criteria of equity and balance, and particular care is needed to facilitate the reunification of families. At the same time, conditions that foster increased work opportunities in peoples' places of origin are to be promoted".

  In this context, Pope Benedict recalled how political leaders in the Philippines "have passed legislation for comprehensive land reform with the aim of improving the living conditions of the poor". Such measures "can benefit a society by instilling a sense of common responsibility and stimulating individual initiative, making it possible for a nation both to feed its own and expand its participation in international markets. ... I pray that by implementing measures that foster the just distribution of wealth and the sustainable development of natural resources, Filipino farmers will be granted greater opportunities for increasing production and earning what they need to support themselves and their families".

  Finally, the Pope spoke of his happiness at seeing the Philippines "participate actively in international forums for the advancement of peace, human solidarity and inter-religious dialogue. ... In light of the Gospel, the Catholic Church has always been convinced that the transition from less humane to more humane conditions is not limited to merely economic or technological dimensions, but implies for each person the acquisition of culture, respect for the life and dignity of others, and acknowledgement of 'the highest good, ... God Himself, the author and end of these blessings'".


VATICAN CITY, 27 OCT 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

 - Cardinal Roger Michael Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, U.S.A.

 - Bishop Jesus Esteban Sadaba Perez O.F.M. Cap., apostolic vicar of Aguarico, Ecuador, on his "ad limina" visit.
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VATICAN CITY, 25 OCT 2008 (VIS) - During the Twenty-Third and final General Congregation, which took place this morning in the Synod Hall, a vote was held on the final list of propositions which will be delivered to the Holy Father to consider as he is preparing the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation.

  At 1 p.m., participants in the synodal assembly attended a lunch in their honour given by the Holy Father in the atrium of the Paul VI Hall.
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VATICAN CITY, 25 OCT 2008 (VIS) - Yesterday afternoon during the Twenty-Second General Congregation, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, announced the names of the 12 elected members of the Twelfth Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, and of the 3 members appointed by the Holy Father:

 - Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
 - Cardinal Francis Eugene George O.M.I., archbishop of Chicago and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
 - Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga S.D.B., archbishop of Tegucigalpa and president of the Episcopal Conference of Honduras.
 - Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, archbishop of Cape Coast, Ghana, and president of the Association of West African Episcopal Conferences.
 - Cardinal Marc Ouellet P.S.S., archbishop of Quebec, Canada.
 - Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun S.D.B., bishop of Hong Kong, China.
 - Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, archbishop of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
 - Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
 - Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, president of the Episcopal Conference of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
 - Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil S.D.B. of Guwahati, India.
 - Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Ireland.
 - Archbishop Mark Benedict Coleridge of Canberra-Goulburn, Australia.
 - Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
 - Bishop Florentin Crihalmeanu of Cluj-Gherla, Romania.
 - Bishop Luis Antonio G. Tagle of Imus, Philippines.

  The secretary general of the Synod of Bishops then announced that the Holy Father will present a facsimile of the Bodmer Papyrus XIV-XV to each of the participants in the Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the conclusion of their work.
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VATICAN CITY, 25 OCT 2008 (VIS) - Yesterday afternoon, patriarchs and archbishops from Eastern Catholic churches who are participating in the current meeting of the Synod of Bishops, delivered an appeal to the Holy Father "in favour of our brothers and sisters of the East", in which they ask for "the confirmation of all attempts being made to favour peace, freedom and truth in love".

  In the text of the appeal, which appeared on the pages of the "Osservatore Romano" newspaper, the prelates write: "Our hearts are moved by the suffering of so many of our sons and daughters of the East. Children and youth, people in extreme difficulty because of their age, health or essential spiritual and material needs; families perennially tempted to despair over the present and the future. We feel it our duty to voice their justifiable hopes that everyone may soon be guaranteed a dignified life, in fruitful social coexistence.

  "Peace is the work of justice! This is an imperative we cannot ignore. We ask, then, for peace in justice, of which real religious freedom is a guarantee, and especially for the Holy Land which was the birthplace of Christ the Redeemer, for Lebanon, Iraq and India.

  "We remain close to people suffering for their Christian faith and to all believers prevented from professing their religion. We pay homage to Christians who have recently lost their lives for faithfulness to the Lord".

  "Before the Pope and the Synod Fathers, encouraged by their fraternity, we present this urgent request: to Christians and all men and women of good will, demonstrate respect and acceptance of others in daily life, drawing close to all those in need, at home and far away; to pastors and religious leaders, preach and support such an attitude by sustaining and increasing initiatives of mutual understanding, dialogue and assistance; to the international community and politicians, guarantee true religious freedom at a legislative level, by overcoming all discrimination and helping those who are forced to leave their own land for religious reasons".
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