Participants in the Synod of Bishops for America are voting on where they would like the Pope to celebrate the closing Mass of the historic month-long synod.
The 297 bishops, experts, and auditors received ballots today to gather opinions on how many cities John Paul II should visit during his trip to America. The General Secretary proposed the options of a one-, three- or five-city tour.
The Synod closes Friday, December 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Pope wants to publish the post-synodal exhortation in an American city, just as he gave similar addresses in Lebanon and Africa following the synods for bishops in those regions.
Sources say that the delegates will likely reject the five-city plan, in order to spare the Holy Father a strenuous trip. Some are favoring a three-city tour, with the cities chosen in the various parts of the massive American Continent.
Others favor a one-city trip to underline the unity of the Continent. Mexico City would be the likely choice, as proposed in the first phase of the Synod by Archbishop Norberto Rivera Carrera. This would give the Holy Father the opportunity to crown Our Lady of Guadalupe as Empress of America, and, if the Congregation for the Causes of Saints agrees, to canonize Juan Diego, the 16th-century Indian whose garment bears the miraculous image.
Cardinal Jan Pieter Schotte, General Secretary of the Synod, passed out the ballots for the vote. The Holy See will announce the Pope's itinerary in the coming days.
Meanwhile, the Synod entered its final phase late last week, one day after the twelve language groups presented their recommendations on topics ranging from inter-religious dialogue to macroeconomic problems.
Cardinal Schotte cautioned the delegates to avoid certain temptations in the drafting of their final proposals to the Pope. He recommended that the delegates:
The Belgian cardinal also asked the bishops to take a personal and active role in the work. The delegates will send their final proposals to the Holy See next week. The post-synodal document will then be drafted for the Pope's review.