Pope John Paul called the synod in 1994 and led the opening ceremonies this weekend with 233 bishops and 58 experts and observers who will discuss the challenges facing a region that reaches from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica. After the bishops finish their meeting on December 12, they will present a report to the Holy Father who will use them to prepare a formal apostolic constitution.
The working document, as revealed by Reuters, will cover issues ranging from third world debt to threats to the family. Topics of concern in the working paper include growing moral relativism, an "anything goes" mentality in rich countries, poverty, drug trafficking, youth prostitution, and corruption. Some advocates for a democratic framework for the Church criticized the synods as pointless because they have no real power to formulate doctrine.
The elected U.S. delegates to the synod include all the American Cardinals in addition to U.S. bishops Bishop John Cummins of Oakland, California, Archbishop John Favalora of Miami, Florida, Archbishop Patrick Flores of San Antonio, Texas, Archbishop Francis George of Chicago, Illinois, Bishop Roberto Gonzalez of Corpus Christi, Texas, Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb of Mobile, Alabama, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick of Newark, New Jersey, Bishop Donald Pelotte of Gallup, New Mexico, Bishop Raymundo Pena of Brownsville, Texas, Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of Cincinnati, Ohio, Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, New Mexico, Bishop John Ricard of the Pensacola-Talahassee Diocese in Florida, Archbishop Justin Rigali of St. Louis, Missouri, Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In addition, the Holy Father has appointed four special delegates to attend. They are Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, Colorado, Archbishop William Levada of San Francisco, Fr. Richard Neuhaus, the director of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy, and Msgr. Dennis Schnurr, the general secretary for NCCB.