December 15, 1997   vol 8, no.52

     SECTION ONE     
To print out SECTION TWO, click here

American Synod was a Resounding Success!

      The three and a half week Synod of the Americas which just concluded this past Friday was an accomplishment of the highest degree, bringing together the various cultures of North and South America in a blending of ideas and unified resolve to be truly universal in intent. For the lengthy final message to the Synod delegates this past Friday given by Pope John Paul II, please go to Catholic World News Feature. To read what was accomplished on the final day, click on DAILY SYNOD SYNOPSIS


[The following report-- one in a series of daily reports on the activities of the special Synod of the Americas-- comes through the courtesy of the international news agency ZENIT, based in Rome.]

      VATICAN (CWN) -- Pope John Paul II sees the present as a favorable time for the New Evangelization in America.

      Speaking to the members of the American Synod as they concluded their deliberations on Thursday afternoon, the Holy Father stressed the need for a new effort to evangelize the Western hemisphere.

      The meetings of the American Synod ended today, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, with a formal liturgical celebration in St. Peter's Basilica, concelebrated by the Pope along with 41 cardinals, 81 archbishops, 91 bishops, and 76 priests.

      In his homily, the Pope recalled the example of the missionaries who had evangelized the New World five centuries ago. "Now," he said, "is a favorable time for the New Evangelization, a providential occasion to lead the People of God in America to cross the threshold of the third millennium with renewed hope."

      The world today is "hungry for truth," the Holy Father said, and that truth can be found through an encounter with Jesus Christ. Toward that end, he challenged all Christians to follow their own baptismal vocations, and bring all of the world closer to Christ.

      The most revolutionary result of the American Synod may be the bishops' new perception of "America." What had been long considered two continents-- the rich mosaic of lands and peoples of the New World-- the bishops have learned to view as one country: "America", and the treasure of its own diversity.

      "In this common country there are common problems and richness," said Archbishop Dario Castrillon Hoyos of Colombia, the pro-prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy and one of the delegated presidents of the assembly. "From this Synod, we leave with a less provincial and more objective and broad vision."

      His comments came at a Thursday press conference, hours before the Synod Fathers gave final approval to the 76 propositions that will be used by Pope John Paul II in writing the postsynodal exhortation.

      One journalist at the press conference objected to the "one continent" view, claiming that the differences between the North and South are too great. In response, Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, archbishop of Montreal, defended the view of the Synod Fathers. "Often it is a matter of the same problems seen in a different way," he said. "For example, the ecumenical dialogue in the South of America, where 90 percent of the citizens are Catholic, is lived in a very different way than in the North, where we Catholics are in the minority."

      "Our experience of dialogue with other Christians has been very useful for the bishops of the South," said the cardinal, who is also president of the Canadian episcopal conference. "That's why the intuition of the Holy Father to convoke a Synod for America has shown itself to be brilliant.

      Three US archbishops will help shape the final text of the American Synod, a document that will be signed by the Pope when he visits Mexico, probably in December 1998.

      Archbishops Francis Eugene George of Chicago, Theodore Edgar McCarrick of Newark, New Jersey, and William Joseph Levada of San Francisco will join twelve other prelates on the panel that assists John Paul II in the writing of the postsynodal exhortation for the historic assembly.

      Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez, archbishop of Guadalajara and Relator General of the Synod, read the Latin draft of the final proposals to the assembly over the course of three hours.

      Two of the wide-ranging 78 propositions denounce the arms trade and drug trafficking as manifestations of the "culture of death." Others reaffirm the preferential option for the poor, offer solutions for external debt, and address the challenges of economic globalization.

      Another group of proposals, centering on ecumenism, calls for dialogue with other Christian denominations, denounces violence in the name of religion, and promotes respect and collaboration with Jews. The document avoids using the word "sect" to describe evangelical Protestant groups, though it does denounce "religious proselytism."

      The bishops' desire to proclaim the "Guadalupana" as Queen and Patroness of America is spelled out. Earlier, many bishops had proposed the title "empress" for Our Lady, but the Latin text reads "Regina et Patrona." The same proposal goes on to say, "We propose to implore the Supreme Pontiff to consider the possibility of declaring December 12 the liturgical solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe for the entire Continent." It presents Juan Diego, the native Mexican to whom the Virgin appeared, as a model of transmission of the Gospel. Many bishops hope that the 16th-century Aztec will be canonized by the Holy Father when he visits Mexico.

      The proposals reaffirm the Church's stance against euthanasia and assisted suicide. They reiterate the condemnation of abortion while affirming that the Church should offer assistance to women in need. They call for doctors and public officials to act conscientiously in these issues, and urge priests and bishops to be "tireless witnesses to the Gospel of life."

      Renovation of parish life is also called for. According to proposition 47 and 48, which the Synod proposes as a new model for pastoral work, renewed parishes, would become a "community of communities", open to new charisms, services and ministries. Despite a lack of resources or excessive bureaucracies, parishes must put a new emphasis on Christian initiation, education in the faith, and liturgy it said.

      In addition to the three US prelates and Cardinal Sandoval, other members of the Postsynodal commission are:

      The final preparation of the exhortation will likely take eight months. Plans call for the Pope to sign it in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in accordance with the vote of the Synod Fathers.

Synod has its roots in the early Church just as the catacombs do

     Going back to the early fathers of the Church we learn how our One, True Faith was preserved through the sacrifice of the martyrs and the perseverance of the countless Christians who documented the faith in stone in the labyrinth below Rome, better known today as the catacombs. This week's Significant Site of the Week highlights this early phenomenon of Holy Mother Church through the international Christian Catacombs of Rome site operated by the Salesian Fathers in Rome. To them we present our Golden Chalice Award for the week. A site definitely worth research. Click on SIGNIFICANT SITE OF THE WEEK


Combing the catacombs through cyberspace

      Since we are still in the early days of the Church Liturgical year, it is only appropriate to think of the early days of the Church - the Age of the Martyrs during the first three centuries when, in the words of Tertullian "the blood of the martyrs became the seeds of Christianity." We have discovered an excellent site that covers this and provides the browser with everything you ever wanted to know about the early martyrs and the labyrinth of underground tunnels, crypts, nooks and crannies known as the catacombs. This virtual site, called "The Christian Catacombs of Rome" can be found at It provides information, history, symbols, spirituality, words from Pope John Paul II, maps, descriptions and even locations, times, prices and tips on when and what to see from the famous Saint Callixtus Catacombs and the catacomb of popes, better known as "little Vatican," to the lesser known ones. The background on the catacombs is quite interesting, dispelling many myths such as the fallacy that the catacombs were hiding places. They were not, but rather burial places first and foremost for the Christians as well as a meeting place to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and share the faith in study, discussion and prayer. There are fascinating facts of why Saint Peter and Saint Paul were buried where they were and how Vatican Hill, a former pagan cemetery, became the seat of Christianity; or why the catacombs are all outside the walls of Rome; or the fact that there are also catacombs in other parts of Italy as well as Carthage and portions of North Africa. The answers to these and numerous other questions can all be found here. There are so many facets we never realized that are explained here, including the fact the catacombs were also shared with the Jews.

      This informative site, operated by the Salesians has assigned Father John Del Col to produce the English version. They also provide full sites in seven other languages: French, German, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Dutch, and Portuguese making it truly international. The whole purpose is to foster a deeper knowledge of the Christian catacombs and the early history of Holy Mother Church. If one has been to Rome, one will appreciate all the more the nuances and details illustrated and explained in each major catacomb and shrine - especially the Catacombs of St. Callixtus and St. Cecilia. The origins and history of the catacombs show how the True Faith was fostered, why Christians were drawn here, why families were "dying to get in," and why and how these catacombs became shrines. The spirituality of these granite vaults are emphasized along with prayers and a list of the marytred saints and popes buried in over 60 catacombs winding their way through the subterranean regions of outer Rome. The illustrations and symbols truly show how the faith was perpetuated in a summary of Christian faith, a "miniature Gospel" for all to imbibe in their soul and sustain during those terrible times of persecution and passed on for posterity. Their legacy outlasted the catastrophic times of the pagan hordes who invaded Rome, intent on destroying the catacombs. This site also explains how they were excavated in later centuries by such unsung heroes as Antonio Basio, known as the "Columbus of subterranean Rome." Finally, a very important fact is that they were not referred to as "catacombs" until the ninth century.

     All this and more is contained within this fascinating site which downloads very fast, reads quite easily, is very succinct in wording and offers just the right graphics to go with the copy. The symbols themselves are worth a visit to this site. Though it is departmentalized in content, it is not intended to be anything more than a virtual tribute to the shrines of the martyrs and in that it succeeds admirably. For that we gladly present this week's Golden Chalice Award to THE CHRISTIAN CATACOMBS OF ROME, conferring FIVE Hail Mary's. as we ask all the martyred saints to pray for those of us in the Church Militant that we all may have the perseverance to stand up for Christ and our faith no matter what the obstacles may be.

Synod faces the reality of apathy among the people

     Realizing the growing apathy and boredom among the faithful in every sector of the Church, the bishops resolved to deal directly with this issue. In his weekly column, Father Stephen Valenta, OFM Conv. points out how apathy can drain us of our resolve to pray and when it does this it opens the door wide for satan in "Apathy - the great obstacle to prayer." Click on HEARTS TO HEART TALK

How to Pray with the Heart

Part Twelve: Apathy - the great obstacle to prayer

by Father Stephen Valenta, OFM Conv.

      It is so sad that people of the world at large find it is so difficult to respond when faced with the gentle and even comforting Words of the Gospel. Even listening to those Words which Jesus spoke with fire in His eyes and Words which speak of the devastating consequences of unbelief and sin, scarcely merit a blink of an eye. There seems to be something even more wrong with us in our day. We are children of a fallen race, yes, but through the sacrifice of the Cross, with Jesus' coming into our midst, leaving with us the Sacraments, the Sacrifice of the Mass, and His greatest gift, that of the Holy Spirit, we don't seem to be responding too well. Nor is it that we respond better when there is the threat of punishment for our failure to respond to gentleness and tears. As the Gospel is preached in our churches with pleas for compliance; even the televangelists with their constant pounding of the Word into millions through our modern vehicles of television and radio; with all these efforts to reach the hearts of God's children everywhere - it all seems to be falling on deaf ears! If threats of punishment, if pleas and tears, if nothing seems to move people towards obedience, what hope is there? What makes us think that Our Lady's tears are going to accomplish much, even to get us to pray with the heart, to say nothing of converting us.

      With what has been said, does it mean that Our Blessed Lady should throw in the towel and stop her tearful pleading? No, definitely not! What it does mean, however, is that everyone entering the world has a responsibility to self and to God to avail themselves of the redemptive aid given to us by the loving Father through the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Moved by compassion, this same Jesus leaves for us as He returns to the Father, the prescription of being baptized by water and the Holy Spirit in order to generate a want for that Word which will make one truly free. What it all comes down to is this: Unless one allows oneself to be assisted by the Holy Spirit, one will never be able to respond to Our Lady's pleas to pray, pray, pray and/or to pray with the heart. In my next installment I will go into this in more detail and how we must give recognition to the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.

To review Father Valenta's previous columns in this series, go to Archives beginning with the August 18, 1997 issue of A CALL TO PEACE: volume 8, no. 16.

Apathy can lead to minimizing sin

      When that happens, the Sacrament of Penance is the farthest thing from their minds and the longer they go without this healing sacrament the greater the danger that sin will crust on their souls. Even those who are not severe sinners need Confession as we point out in our continuing treatise of the Sacrament of Reconciliation as explained in the catechisms. Click on CATECHISM CAPSULES

Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation

    The Sacraments are part and parcel of our lives and so we continue our "capsule series" on each of the Sacraments, bringing you a few capsule paragraphs each day from both the new Catechism of the Catholic Church and the old Baltimore Catechism. It is appropriate that we begin Advent with the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, better known as "Confession." There are various terms for this sacrament of healing. It has often been called the key to the door, for without this key sacrament we cannot receive Jesus in Holy Communion nor can a candidate be confirmed. The Sacrament of Penance reminds us of our humanness and our total dependence on the Mercy of God. Along with the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick or Extreme Unction, Penance/Reconciliation is a sacrament of healing.

No. 1455 and 1458, page 365 and 366 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: The Celebration of the Christian Mystery; Chapter Two - The Sacraments of Healing; Libreria Editrice Vaticana: Urbi Et Orbi Communications:

      The confession (or disclosure) of sins, even from a simply human point of view, frees us and facilitates our reconciliation with others. Through such an admission man looks squarely at the sins he is guilty of, takes responsibility for them, and thereby opens himself again to God and to the communion of the Church in order to make a new future possible.

      Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church (Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1680; CIC, can. 988 #2). Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit. By receiving more frequently through this sacrament the gift of the Father's mercy, we are spurred to be merciful as He is merciful (Cf. Luke 6: 36).

From the Baltimore Catechism No. 3; Benziger Brothers, Inc. and Tan Books and Publishers, Inc. Nos. 781 and 783, pages 164 and 165.

Q. Why is it well to confess also the venial sins we remember?
A. It is well to confess also the venial sins we remember (1) because it shows our hatred of all sin, and (2) because it is sometimes difficult to determine just when a sin is venial and when mortal.

Q. Should a person stay from confession because he thinks has no sin to confess?
A. A person should not stay from confession because he thinks he has no sin to confess, for the Sacrament of Penance, besides forgiving sin, gives an increase of sanctifying grace, and of this we have always need, especially to resist temptation. The Saints, who were almost without imperfection, went to confession frequently.

Apathy can cause Liturgical abuse

     If we are not watchful and astute in all that comes down from Rome, we can easily fall into a rut that liberalizes much occuring in Church ritual today. By our apathy we are giving taciturn approval to these abuses. Rome is intent on this not happening, evident by the 37-page instructions to the laity and clergy on curbing abuses. We continue bringing this entire, important document to you in installments with today's seventeenth installment on "The Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion." Is your parish in total accord with these norms? To see, click on THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS

INSTRUCTION on Certain Questions regarding the Collaboration of the Non-ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priest

Seventeenth installment: PRACTICAL PROVISIONS - Article 8
The Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion

The non-ordained faithful already collaborate with the sacred ministers in diverse pastoral situations since "This wonderful gift of the Eucharist, which is the greatest gift of all, demands that such an important mystery should be increasingly better known and its saving power more fully shared". (95)

Such liturgical service is a response to the objective needs of the faithful especially those of the sick and to those liturgical assemblies in which there are particularly large numbers of the faithful who wish to receive Holy Communion.

§ 1. The canonical discipline concerning extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion must be correctly applied so as to avoid generating confusion. The same discipline establishes that the ordinary minister of Holy Communion is the Bishop, the Priest and the the Deacon. (96) Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are those instituted as acolytes and the faithful so deputed in accordance with Canon 230, § 3. (97)

A non-ordained member of the faithful, in cases of true necessity, may be deputed by the diocesan bishop, using the appropriate form of blessing for these situation, to act as an extraordinary minister to distribute Holy Communion outside of liturgical celebrations ad actum vel ad tempus or for a more stable period. In exceptional cases or in un foreseen circumstances, the priest presiding at the liturgy may authorize such ad actum. (98)

§ 2. Extraordinary ministers may distribute Holy Communion at eucharistic celebrations only when there are no ordained ministers present or when those ordained ministers present at a liturgical celebration are truly unable to distribute Holy Communion. (99) They may also exercise this function at eucharistic celebrations where there are particularly large numbers of the faithful and which would be excessively prolonged because of an insufficient number of ordained ministers to distribute Holy Communion. (100)

This function is supplementary and extraordinary (101) and must be exercised in accordance with the norm of law. It is thus useful for the diocesan bishop to issue particular norms concerning extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion which, in complete harmony with the universal law of the Church, should regulate the exercise of this function in his diocese. Such norms should provide, amongst other things, for matters such as the instruction in eucharistic doctrine of those chosen to be extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, the meaning of the service they provide, the rubrics to be observed, the reverence to be shown for such an august Sacrament and instruction concerning the discipline on admission to Holy Communion.

To avoid creating confusion, certain practices are to be avoided and eliminated where such have emerged in particular Churches:

NEXT ISSUE: PRACTICAL PROVISIONS - Article 9 The Apostolate of the Sick

Click here to go to SECTION TWO, or click here to return to the graphics front page of this issue of the Daily CATHOLIC.

December 15, 1997 volume 8, no. 52         DAILY CATHOLIC

December 1997