May 22, 2001
volume 12, no. 128


Extraordinary Consistory Opens

155 Cardinals Reported to Be a Record

    VATICAN CITY, MAY 21, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The extraordinary consistory of cardinals opened today with a marathon of addresses on the challenges facing the Church.

    CNN said the 155 cardinals in attendance made it the largest-ever gathering of its kind. Other cardinals could not attend because of age or illness.

    John Paul II attended the morning and afternoon sessions, and addressed the consistory briefly at the beginning.

    Nigerian Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, former prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, moderated the first session and went to the heart of the issue at this sixth consistory of John Paul II's pontificate.

    He spoke about the "most suitable ways" to implement the topics discussed in the apostolic letter "Novo Millennio Ineunte," with which the Pope closed the Jubilee year in January.

    The Holy Father spoke next. He said the purpose of the consistory is to focus "on the priority missionary objectives" of the Church and the means to reach them.

    The morning addresses began with an evaluation of the Holy Year by its two principal organizers, Basque-French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray and Italian Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, who were on the Vatican Jubilee Committee.

    Cardinal Etchegaray noted a number of successes but said the great disappointment of the year was that the Holy Father's wish for a "pan-Christian" meeting went unfulfilled. The meeting of various Christian churches and confessions never materialized because of the opposition of some churches. The cardinal acknowledged that the quest for Christian unity "puts our hope to a hard test."

    Yet, Cardinal Sepe said, "The Jubilee in Rome, the Holy Land, and the local churches has shown the face of a living and youthful Church. ... [S]he is more prepared than ever to face the new challenges of the third millennium."

    The afternoon sessions were opened by Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger. More addresses are planned for Tuesday. On Wednesday the cardinals will divide into working groups, to address the proposals made in the general assembly. ZE01052105

Consistory Opens: Focus on Evangelization

    VATICAN, May 21, 01 (CWNews.com) -- A special consistory of the College of Cardinals opened in Rome on Monday morning.

    Summoned by Pope John Paul II for a special session of discussions on evangelization in the 21st century, the cardinals held their first meetings on May 21. They immediately launched into topics that are expected to dominate the meeting, with comments on papal primacy, inter-religious dialogue, and the need for personal sanctity.

    Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, the dean of the College of Cardinals, opened the proceedings with a message of welcome. Then Pope John Paul II addressed the cardinals, emphasizing the "universality and missionary spirit of the Church," which should be given concrete manifestation in "new apostolic objectives." Cardinals Roger Etchegaray and Crescenzio Sepe then provided reports on the results of last year's Jubilee celebration.

    Following a short break, the consistory then began hearing short (6-9 minute) presentations from the members of the College of Cardinals. Each cardinal had the opportunity to expand on the themes he considered most important to the future mission of the Church.

    All members of the College of Cardinals, regardless of age, have been invited to participate in the consistory. There are 155 prelates attending the sessions; 28 others have announced that they cannot attend because of advanced age and/or ill health.

    In his brief remarks to the group, the Pope emphasized the importance-- for every Christian individual and every ecclesial community-- of promoting personal sanctity. He also encouraged the cardinals to be bold in making plans for evangelization.

    Cardinal Etchegaray, the chairman of the committee that coordinated the Jubilee celebration, reported that the Jubilee had been fruitful especially in the domain of ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue. He expressed only a few regrets on that subject, including the absence of a "pan-Christian" meeting in Jerusalem at the time of the Pope's visit there, and the lack of "echoes" from an inter-religious meeting held in Rome in October 1999. The French-born cardinal also mentioned what he considered the "most provocative question" to be considered: the need for the Church to become poor in spirit. "Only a poor Church can become a missionary Church," he said; "and only a missionary Church can make a poor Church necessary."

    Cardinal Sepe, who had been secretary to the Jubilee committee, is now the prefect of the Congregation for Evangelization. From that perspective, he remarked upon several positive elements of the celebration: the "great rediscovery of the Sacrament of Confession," the active involvement of the Eastern European churches; and in general the strength of faith displayed by the thousands of faithful Catholics who made pilgrimages during the year.

    As the consistory approached, several leading prelates had spoken with various media outlets about their expectations for the consistory. Cardinal Etchegaray told a French radio audience that the emphasis would be on making the administrative bodies of the Church more responsive to the needs of the day. "The structures of the Church are constantly called to reform themselves-- including the Roman Curia," he said. Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, the former prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, spoke to the Italian daily La Repubblica about the "unavoidable necessity" of addressing the relationship between hierarchical structures and collegial governance of the Church.

    During the first day's presentations, the cardinals who spoke addressed a wide variety of themes. Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore spoke on the need to make effective use of the mass media. Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir of Beirut centered his remarks on the particular situation of his people in Lebanon, and the challenges of inter-religious dialogue there.

    Brazilian Cardinal Eugenio de Araujo Sales spoke of "unity and fidelity with the Pope." The Portuguese prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, reinforced the Pope's stress on promoting the drive toward personal sanctity among all believers. Cardinal Francisco Alvarez Martinez of Toledo, Spain made the observation that at the beginning of the 20th century, the key questions of social justice were the dignity of labor and the rights of workers; today, the Spanish prelate continued, the key questions involve the dignity of marriage and the integrity of the family.

    As he briefed reporters after the close of the first morning's discussions, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls observed that "nearly all" the cardinals who had addressed the assembly had picked up the Pope's theme of personal sanctity. He also saw the issue of globalization as an emerging theme of the discussions. And he summarized the tenor of the meeting by citing the words of Cardinal Jozef Tomko: "We do not need a 'maintenance' Church today. We need to mobilize for missionary work."


Church's Big Challenges Are Outlined

Unity, and Evangelization of Globalized World

    VATICAN CITY, MAY 21, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Church unity, and the evangelization of a globalized world, particularly through the media, were among the topics broached during the first sessions of the extraordinary consistory of cardinals.

    The 155 cardinals in attendance are meeting behind closed doors in the Vatican's Synod Auditorium. Texts are read or improvised by the speakers, but not handed out. Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls gave reporters a summary of the first 16 addresses.

    Cardinal Eugênio de Araújo Sales, archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, spoke of the need for Church unity. "Fidelity and unity with the Pope are an integral part of the Catholic faith," he said.

    Lebanese Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, spoke of the difficulty of interreligious dialogue. But he said he believes that there are areas where one can live "normally," for example, in the promotion of charitable works.

    Cardinal William Keeler, archbishop of Baltimore, spoke about the critical importance of the media for evangelization. He quoted the encyclical "Redemptoris Missio" in which John Paul II clarifies that it is not about "using" the mass media but "participating" in the media culture.

    Another cardinal, not identified by Navarro-Valls, proposed that the Vatican publish a dictionary to support the new evangelization, along similar lines to the catechetical directory that all dioceses have received.

    Globalization was the key issue addressed by two cardinals, and was the background of virtually all the addresses. The cardinals said that, intrinsically, globalization is neither good nor evil, but stressed that it must reflect social solidarity.

    Cardinal Francisco Alvarez Martínez, archbishop of Toledo, Spain, said that work was previously one of the great issues of Church social doctrine, but today the "greater challenge" is the family.

    Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, proposed the "globalization of holiness." The objective, he said, is to make all Catholics understand that holiness is the norm for all Christians, and not something extraordinary.

    Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino, archbishop of Havana, stressed the role of the hierarchy in presenting holiness as a topic for the Church. "We need a real and audacious pastoral ministry of holiness," he said.

    Navarro-Valls concluded his summary of the addresses by quoting Cardinal Jozef Tomko, former prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples: "Today we do not need a Church of support; we need missionary mobilization." ZE01052106

May 22, 2001
volume 12, no. 128
News from ROME
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