May 25-28, 2001
volume 12, no. 131


Pope to Take a Cue From Consistory

Largest-Ever Meeting of Cardinals Ends

    VATICAN CITY, MAY 24, 2001 ( John Paul II promised to draw "opportune operative indications" from the proposals offered by the cardinals' consistory, to address the Church's great challenges.

    The Pontiff made his promise at today's solemn closure of the sixth extraordinary consistory of his pontificate. Over three days, 155 cardinals spoke spontaneously about the situation and needs of the Church.

    The proposals were summarized Wednesday afternoon, in the Pope's presence, by Mexican Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iñíguez, archbishop of Guadalajara. They included the addresses of 60 cardinals, as well as the conclusions of the various linguistic working groups.

    The Pope and cardinals concelebrated a solemn Mass on the feast of the Ascension in St. Peter's Basilica to mark the close of the consistory. During his homily the Pope said: "Today the Church must face enormous challenges, which test the confidence and enthusiasm of those who proclaim her message."

    It "is not just [a question] of quantitative problems, due to the fact that Christians represent a minority, while the process of secularization continues to erode the Christian tradition even in countries of early evangelization," the Pope warned.

    The problems are "even more grave," and "stem from a general change of the cultural horizon, dominated by the primacy of experimental sciences inspired by the criteria of scientific epistemology," the Holy Father explained.

    He continued: "Even when it shows itself to be sensitive to the religious dimension, more than that, seems to rediscover it, the modern world at most accepts the image of God the Creator, but finds it difficult to accept the 'scandalum crucis,' the scandal of a God who enters history out of love, becomes man, dies and resurrects for us."

    Also, globalization poses "ulterior problems" for evangelization, John Paul II added.

    Although this new phenomenon "offers the advantage of bringing peoples and cultures closer together, making innumerable messages more accessible to every one," he said, "it does not facilitate discernment and a mature synthesis, fostering a relativist attitude, which makes it more difficult to accept Christ as the way, truth and life."

    These challenges find their clearest expression in the "moral questions," the Holy Father said. "Never before has humanity been challenged by such formidable problems, which cause it to doubt its own end, especially in the great fields of bioethics, as well as those of social justice, the institution of the family, and conjugal life."

    It was precisely to address these problems that the Holy Father convoked this consistory. The cardinals responded with a "profound analysis" and offered concrete "solutions," he said. Next October's synod of bishop will also address of the same topics.

    The Pope thanked the cardinals for their contributions and promised "to draw operative indications from them, so that the pastoral and evangelizing action of the whole Church will grow in missionary tension, fully aware of today's challenges." ZE01052406

Synods Come Under Cardinals´ Scrutiny

Consistory Debates Collegiality

    VATICAN CITY, MAY 24, 2001 ( One of the key topics discussed at this week's consistory was collegiality -- how the College of Bishops exercises authority in the Church.

    Collegial authority in a solemn way is exercised in an ecumenical council. The cardinals who met at the Vatican, however, dealt with collegiality in its less formal and broader applications. Synods came under particular scrutiny.

    Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, archbishop of Westminster, called for "a serious examination of the working method of synods."

    "Never Peter without the Eleven [Apostles]," he said, "but never the Eleven without Peter."

    Syrian Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, asked that "greater consideration be given to the role of the Eastern synods in the appointment of bishops."

    Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, until recently prefect of the same congregation, said that at times the synods become "monologues without debate or response."

    Cardinal Godfried Danneels, archbishop of Mechelen-Brussel, went so far as to hold a press conference on the topic Wednesday. The Belgian primate proposed to offer the Pope more frequent consultations with bishops "in the field," and he suggested a different methodology for synods.

    "The way the synod is organized does not foster the development of a genuine culture of debate within the College of Bishops meeting around the Pope," Cardinal Danneels said in an interview published today in the Italian daily Il Corriere della Sera.

    "There is no real discussion in the synodal auditorium," he said. "First, one listens to a long series of free speeches, where everything is discussed over two weeks. As a result, there is no time to concentrate attention on specific points and to draw effective conclusions. Something is written one night and everything is left in the Pope's hands."

    Cardinal Bernard Law, archbishop of Boston, suggested "annual synods with no topic" set in advance. The synods should be shorter, he said, and allow for free exchange on timely issues.

    At least eight of the 60 cardinals who spoke at the closed-door consistory addressed the question of collegiality.

    John Paul II touched on the topic himself in his apostolic letter "Novo Millennio Ineunte," which was the springboard for the consistory's debates.

    "The new century," the Pope wrote in No. 44 of the letter, "will have to see us more than ever intent on valuing and developing the forums and structures which, in accordance with the Second Vatican Council's major directives, serve to ensure and safeguard communion. How can we forget in the first place those specific services to communion which are the Petrine ministry and, closely related to it, episcopal collegiality?"

    In the letter, John Paul II recognized that much has been done since Vatican II on the reform of the Roman Curia, the organization of synods, and the working of bishops' conferences. He concluded, however, that "much still remains to be done ... given the need to respond with alacrity and efficiency to the problems the Church must address in the rapid changes of our time."

    During the homily of the Mass for the closing of the consistory, John Paul II offered suggestions in this connection.

    "The missionary nature of the Church, which stems from Christ, finds support in episcopal collegiality and is encouraged by Peter's Successor, whose ministry is directed to promoting communion in the Church, guaranteeing the unity in Christ of all the faithful."

    The topic will be addressed this October, during the synod on the figure of the bishop.

    The Pope mentioned this during the closing Mass today in St. Peter's Basilica. "The consistory has amply reflected on some of these problems, developing profound analyses and proposing solutions," he said. "Several questions will be taken up again in the forthcoming synod of bishops, which has proved to be a valid and effective instrument of episcopal collegiality at the service of the local churches." ZE01052408

Consistory Envisages Church of Future

Cardinals´ Final Message

    VATICAN CITY, MAY 24, 2001 ( The largest consistory of cardinals in history ended Thursday, with participants urging the Church toward missionary activity, solidarity and work for Christian unity.

    The 155 princes of the Church also appealed to Christians to mobilize in support of Africa, and made an urgent plea for an end to arms and commitment to dialogue.

    In its final message, this pontificate's sixth extraordinary consistory, held from May 21-24, offers the ever new Christian message: faith in Jesus Christ, "unique and universal Savior of the world," exactly as he was presented in the "Dominus Iesus" declaration. Several cardinals during the plenary assemblies applauded the declaration.

    For Christians to discover the beauty of Christ, the cardinals in their final message suggested some of the means the Church has guarded for 2,000 years: "familiarity with the Word of God, assiduous prayer, and personal communion with him, [and] participation in the Eucharist, especially on the Day of the Lord; acceptance of the Father's mercy in the sacrament of reconciliation; courageous commitment to holiness, the meaning and end of every man."

    The message added: "In the face of every man's great need for Christ, we feel urgently called not only to 'talk' about him, but also to make him 'seen': with the proclamation of the Word that saves, and the audacious witness of faith in a renewed missionary endeavor."

    If the Gospel message is to be credible, the cardinal wrote, this missionary Church must also overcome its divisions, "both within the Christian community, as well as in proceeding with charity, truth and confidence in the ecumenical road and interreligious dialogue."

    A more united and reconciled Church, the cardinals continued, must necessarily "be in solidarity with humanity, especially in the present context of globalization, with the growing mass of poor, of suffering, of those who are trampled in their sacrosanct rights to life, health, work, culture, social participation, religious liberty."

    The cardinals' message ends with two appeals. First, they ask for the "solidarity of the whole Church" in support of Africa, "where numerous populations are afflicted by ethnic conflicts, endemic poverty and serious illnesses." Second, they ask "those who are responsible for nations to help Israelis and Palestinians to live together peacefully."

    The "situation in the Land of Jesus has worsened, and too much blood has already been spilled," they concluded. "In union with the Holy Father, we entreat the parties in dispute to agree to a 'cease-fire' immediately, and return to dialogue on a plane of parity and mutual respect." ZE01052403

Pope Defends Bishop Consulations

Victor L. Simpson , Associated Press Writer

    VATICAN CITY - May 24, 2001 (AP) - Pope John Paul II on Thursday defended the Vatican's practice of consulting with bishops, a major point of contention during an extraordinary meeting of cardinals this week.

    The pope spoke at a Mass celebrated in St. Peter's Basilica with more than 150 cardinals from around the world who gathered to discuss challenges facing the church.

    Some leading voices in the church, including Cardinal Godfried Danneels, 67, of Belgium, had criticized the periodic meetings of bishops called by the Vatican, saying they discouraged honest dialogue.

    In his homily, John Paul said many of the issues raised by the cardinals will be taken up in October at a synod of bishops.

    The pope said the synod ``has proved to be a valid and effective instrument of episcopal collegiality, at the service of the local church.''

    Collegiality is often used as a code word for democracy in the church.

    In a closing message from the cardinals distributed Thursday by the Vatican, the issue was not mentioned.

    The cardinals strongly endorsed John Paul's efforts to improve relations with other Christians and other religions, offering prayers for the pope's pilgrimage next month to predominantly Orthodox Ukraine.

    The meeting was the largest gathering of cardinals in history and gave the so-called princes of the church the possibility to assess candidates to eventually succeed the 81-year-old John Paul.

    Danneels is considered a possible contender.

    Another cardinal mentioned as a possible successor, Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, struck a similar note about synods in an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Giornale.

    ``I believe we need fewer monologues and more dialogue,'' he said.

    The forum took up such issues as the church's relations with non-Catholics, the response of Catholics to the church's teaching on sex and the pope's call for a new evangelization.

    Several cardinals complained about ``poor communications'' between Rome and local dioceses.

    The cardinals also prayed for peace in the Middle East and called for a cease-fire to allow talks between Israel and the Palestinians to resume. They were told the pope plans to send an envoy soon to the Middle East.

    Because of so many new faces - John Paul elevated 44 cardinals in February - the prelates wore name tags so they could be easily identified. Danneels and several others called the meeting useful for getting to know each other, but he said there was no ``head hunting'' for a new pope.

    ``There are so many great voices saying so many great things,'' said Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles. ``How are we ever going to narrow down the field?''

No Papal 'Headhunting' But Cardinals Sized Up

Philip Pullella

    VATICAN CITY - May 24, 2001 (Reuters) - They may not have been ''headhunting for a new Pope,'' as one participant put it, but one of the 150 or so cardinals attending a meeting that ended on Thursday will emerge some day as the next Roman Catholic leader.

    Pope John Paul , 81, closed the three-day ``extraordinary consistory'' with a solemn mass in St. Peter's Basilica.

    As if any reminder were needed of his frailty, viewers needed look no further than the close-up television shots.

    His left hand trembled violently and a priest helped him hold up a heavy gold chalice containing wine which Catholics believe is transformed during the mass into Christ's blood.

    His body slow, his face stiff, his words slurred, the Pope said the meeting of all the world's cardinals underscored enormous challenges facing the Church in the new millennium.

    In his homily, he mentioned ``a general change in the cultural horizon'' as well as problems the billion-member Church faces in dealing with globalization, changing sexual morality and social justice issues.

    From the start, the Vatican insisted that the meeting, whose theme was ``Pastoral Perspectives of the Church in the Third Millennium,'' was not a ``pre-conclave.''

    But the gathering did give the prelates an opportunity to size up potential successors to lead the Church after the death of the Pope, who is suffering from Parkinson's disease (news - web sites) as well as mobility problems stemming from a 1994 accident.

    ``Some say it was a preparation for the conclave. No,'' said Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Brussels.

    ``(But) in the sense that we learned to get to know (each other) it is a preparation,'' he told reporters. ``But we didn't do any headhunting for the new Pope,'' he joked.

Present and future Pope in same room

    Still, the reigning Pope and the future pontiff -- whoever he is -- were in the same modern auditorium in the Vatican.

    The meeting gave brother cardinals, who one day will be called to elect a new Pope from among their number, a chance to listen carefully, look discreetly and make mental notes.

    With the Pope's failing health increasingly in the spotlight, such gatherings take on a significance that can go well beyond their official purpose.

    Danneels, considered among the leading liberal candidates to succeed the conservative Pope, was one of the few to acknowledge that the meeting was at least a partial preparation for a future conclave.

    Judging by what Danneels and other cardinals said, the conversations were rather animated at the meeting, held behind closed doors. Reporters were given only bare-bones briefings.

    A number of cardinals appealed for local Churches to be allowed a greater say in global Church affairs, which some said were still caught in a clerical stranglehold by the Curia, the Vatican's often staid and crusty central administration.

    Danneels suggested that he would like to see as much debate in the universal Church as there is in Belgium, which has one of the world's most progressive and lively Catholic communities. Synod should have freedom

    He and other participants said they believed the Synod of Bishops, next due to meet Rome in October, should have more decision-making power and freedom.

    ``We should have cardinals and bishops who are really free,'' he said, faulting the current Synod structure for not allowing enough debate.

    The Pope has appointed some 92 percent of the cardinal electors under 80 years old, stacking the odds that his successor will be a theological conservative in his own image.

    Some factions in the Church favor a Latin American or African Pope in order to draw attention to the problems of the developing world, the only place where Catholicism is growing.

    Others say a papacy as long, dynamic and history-making as John Paul's 23-year tenure should be followed by a low-key papacy, preferably brief, in which an Italian bureaucrat serves in a transitional period to allow everyone to take stock.

    But predicting who will be the next Pope is about as easy as forecasting the instant of an earthquake. An old Roman saying warns: ``He who enters a conclave as a Pope leaves it as a cardinal.''

May 25-28, 2001
volume 12, no. 131
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