DAILY CATHOLIC     TUESDAY     November 24, 1998     vol. 9, no. 230

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- With a solemn Mass in St. Peter's basilica, Pope John Paul II opened a special Synod of Bishops for Oceania on Sunday, November 22.

          The synod, which brings together the bishops of Australia and the Pacific islands, will continue its deliberations until December 12. There are 117 bishops participating in the discussions, including all but 3 of the 85 bishops who head dioceses in that region.

          The opening liturgy had a distinctly exotic flavor. The introductory chant was preceded by the sounding of conch shells-- a traditional Pacific signal calling attention to an important event. The Prayers of the Faithful were offered in Fijian, Samoan, Tongan, Maori, and Pidgin, as well as English. The altar of St. Peter's was surrounded by huge vases of flowers native to the Southern Pacific islands.

          In his homily, Pope John Paul II observed that it was fitting, on the feast of Christ the King, for the bishops to come together "in order to give new energy to their pastoral care, which impels them to preach the kingdom of Christ amidst a diversity of cultures and of human, social, and religious traditions, and of an admirable plurality of peoples."

          Cardinal Jan Schotte, the secretary general of the bishops' synod, noted that this would be the first gathering ever to unite the bishops of this broad geographical region. He said that the Pope was expected to attend all of the general sessions.

          The main topics expected to attract the bishops' attention are the question of inculturation (how the teachings and practices of the Church can be incorporated into very different cultures); religious pluralism and the rights of minorities; and the difficulties of pastoral care in a setting where geographical distances and cultural heritage often impose serious obstacles.

          On Monday, November 23, the Synod began its deliberations. In his opening statement Archbishop Barry James Hickey of Perth, Australia, the reporter general for the Synod, laid particular stress on the secularizing trends which the Church must face in Oceania, along with the unsettling interest in Western materialism.

          Archbishop Hickey said that these challenges often divide Catholics. "One group proposes adopting a friendly attitude toward modernity," asking the Church to modify her teachings to adapt to contemporary moral standards, he said. Another group "insists on the fact that the Church must exercise her authority without fear, so that the faithful will not be betrayed by the false promises of modernity." As an example of those false promises, the archbishop cited contraception, which has resulted in a breakdown of family life.

Articles provided through Catholic World News Service.
CWN is not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

Nov 24, 1998       volume 9, no. 230


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