October 10th: Reports from Five Continents
One of the very enriching aspects of following a worldwide synod is the opportunity to hear about the People of God in many lands. There are 253 Synod Bishops here from all five continents, including: 51 from Africa, 62 from America,41 from Asia, 90 from Europe, and 9 from Oceania.
Here are highlights from presentations given by representatives from each continent on Monday, October 6.
AFRICA H.E. Most. Rev. John Olorunfemi ONAIYEKAN, Archbishop of Abuja
* My late father, who was one of the first to embrace Christianity in our village around 1920, made it clear to me that when he became a Christian, he did not take on a new God. It was the same Olorun the Yoruba Supreme Being, whom he had known already in the Traditional Religion. Upon this he built his Christian faith, by the grace of God, and thanks to the preaching of the gospel by the missionaries. Thus even in the so-called Dark Continent, the light of the Eternal Word of God was never absent.
* In the New Testament, again Egypt was the land of refuge for the Holy Family, (Mt 2:13-15). At his passion, the African, Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus to carry the cross, Mk 15:21). On the day of Pentecost, many pilgrims came from Africa, from “Egypt and parts of Libya round Cyrene” (Acts 2:10). … Our continent can boast of being a “biblical land” in a way that many great Christian nations of today dare not.
* The very text of Scripture itself can be quite a problem in many places. The cost of a Bible may be minimal in many parts of the world. In Africa, it can be as high as a month’s wages in many places. The result is that many people do not have enough money to own a Bible.
* In a culture that is largely oral like we have in Africa, the importance of listening to the Word of God can not be overemphasized. After all, the Lord Jesus said: “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and put it into practice” (Lk 11:28) Even though I believe that those who read the Word of God may also be blessed, it seems that those who simply listen to the Word of God may even be more blessed.
* We have noticed much to our delight … that the greater familiarity of Catholics with the Holy Scriptures has brought us closer to our brothers of other Christian traditions for whom Scripture is often the main and perhaps only source of guidance in Christian life. When we are able to read the Bible together and pray the Bible together, a lot of misunderstandings are laid aside, cooperation becomes possible and fruitful and the mission of
the church in general is promoted. There are of course difficulties, especially with groups that are not only of the fundamentalist type but clearly anti-Catholic.
AISIA H.E. Most. Rev. Thomas MENAMPARAMPIL, S.D.B., Archbishop of Guwahati (INDIA)
* The Word of God was received, meditated upon by individuals and communities and shaped into spiritual traditions in Asia which became the common heritage of the early Church. The first Councils of the Church that were held in Asia deepened the reflection…Indeed, we cannot close an eye to the unique “Asianness” of the biblical and primitive Christian legacy.
* History tells us that Syrian monks carried God’s word with great enthusiasm to Persia, Afghanistan, Central Asia, West China and South India. They dialogued and inculturated, but in all situations they shared the message of Jesus with extraordinary zeal. We have evidence to say that they interacted with Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Manichaeans, Taoists, Confucians, Hindus, Muslims, and leaders of tribal religions among the Turks, Huns, and Mongols.
* From Christianity’s earliest beginnings Christian Evangelizers had a persuasive power because their ‘Word’ was translated into action. Mother Teresa is a recent example...Even where the Gospel is resisted most, the evangelical witness of socially relevant works find welcome. Silent but sincere service has an eloquence of its own. .. This is a strategic choice in situations where freedom of religion is restricted, not renunciation of one’s duty.
* We are grateful to God, that church-attendance on our continent is encouragingly high. Sundays are kept holy. In remote villages where Mass is not possible every Sunday, people gather around the ‘Word’ of God with great devotion. Prayer-life, both liturgical and situational, is enriched by readings from the Bible... People in large numbers flock to charismatic retreats that announce God’s Word in all its power. Lives are changed. Healing prayers draw non-Christian crowds as well. Miracles do take place, both of healing and of conversion.
* Religious life is understood in Asia, its relevance recognized, its contribution appreciated, and its representatives respected. For, there are native models of religious life belonging to other Asian religions. Religious values like renunciation, austerity, silence, prayer, contemplation, and celibacy are highly regarded.
* Strengthening of theological formation implies also the deepening of reflection on God’s Word in the Asian context of poverty and injustice; and also of a plurality of religions, civilizations, and cultures. It implies the use of categories of thought, symbolisms, spiritual traditions that make meaning to Asians. Here is a challenging task before the teacher of the “Word”.
* As modern society looks for relevance in religion in order to see meaning in it, Asians look primarily for depth. . Whoever can provide that, holds their attention. God-experience in this context does not mean some sort of ecstatic experience, but has reference to sincerity and authenticity, genuineness, deeds matching words, egoless-ness evidenced by commitment to the common good. Such persons always win a hearing when they speak with spiritual unction.
* Pluralism in thought in Asia has not led to total secularization or nihilism. It has only taught respect for each other. However, it should not lead to indifference.
* One thing is certain: there is religious hunger in Asia still. This Asian earnestness about religion is an asset for the whole of humanity, not merely for the eastern continent….
EUROPE H. Em. Card. Josip BOZANIC´, Archbishop of Zagreb (CROATIA)
* One cannot separate Europe from Christianity, this is the incontrovertible fact from which I start, especially because Christianity is the privileged key for reading to understand our Continent in its entirety…There is no lack, however, of dark pages in its history which today seem in clear contrast to the Good News of the Gospel…
* There is an indissoluble bond between the Bible and Europe. All that has made European culture and civilization great - the Europe of the thousand cathedrals, the Europe of the custodians of the art treasures, of literature and Christian music, the Europe that expressed real signs of solidarity and service to the poor through the emphatic force of Christian charity - found their origins in the Bible.
* Filled by the Holy Spirit of Christ described in the Holy Scripture, many European Catholics and Christians in the twentieth century were able to distinguish between good and evil, to resist totalitarianism, revealing its perverse and satanic deviation. Holy Scripture allowed them to discover not only the weaknesses of others and of themselves, but above all the hope that springs from that same Word of God. Hope in life that is stronger than death and destruction, hope in sense that is stronger than nonsense, hope in the care of God for the poor and oppressed, for those living on the edge of society, hope that led them to making a better and a more just world.
*Therefore for we Europeans, regaining Christian memory and heritage - learning from past generations - means going back to the roots of our historical identity, drinking from the fountain of the Word of God. …
OCEANIA: H.E. Most. Rev. Michael Ernest PUTNEY, Bishop of Townsville (AUSTRALIA)
* After some initial contact in previous centuries, the Word of God was carried to Oceania by missionaries, both Protestant and Catholic, during the nineteenth century. The cultures of Oceania, other than the Western culture of Australia and New Zealand, range from literate to predominantly oral cultures. In the former, the scriptures are treasured and read in the homes, often more than they would be in Australia or New Zealand. In the latter, even today the message of the Word of God is best shared by story-telling, ritual, song and drama rather than simply by a reading of the text.
* ..in the many countries of Oceania there are an incredible number of languages in which the Word of God would ideally be communicated. For example, in Papua New Guinea alone there are eight hundred and forty-seven distinct languages. Overall there are as many as twelve hundred quite different languages in Oceania.
* Many Catholics in Australia and New Zealand live lives deeply shaped by their faith in the Word of God, but this is not always apparent and has become almost a secret in our dominant secular culture. This is not because the people are not truly faithful, but because the existence of God is not acknowledged in any way in the daily life of ordinary Australians and many New Zealanders.
* After World Youth Day, some Australians and New Zealanders have a sense that the promise of a new evangelization may finally be underway despite the apparent impermeability of the secular culture.
* On their return from World Youth Day, many young Australian pilgrims asked that they have opportunities in their own dioceses to listen to catechesis and to engage in a question and answer session with their bishops, so aware were they of their ignorance and so eager were they to hear the message of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church.
* At the same time, ecumenical relations with the major Christian Churches and relationships with the Jewish community and the Islamic community and those of other World Religions is a very positive experience for the Church in most parts of Oceania.
AMERICAS H. Em. Card. Oscar Andrés RODRÍGUEZ MARADIAGA, S.D.B., Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, President of the Episcopal Conference (HONDURAS)
Unfortunately the translation of this intervention is not yet available, when it becomes available I’ll send it along. (cs)
OTHER SYNOD FACTOIDS
In addition to 253 Synod Bishops from all five continents here’s the rest of the line up as described by Archbishop Nikola Eterovic on the second day of the Synod:
* Various bishops are here in various capacities: 173 have been elected, 38 are participating ex officio, 32 were appointed by the Pope, 10 were elected by the Union of Superior Generals.
* Of the 253 Synod Delegates there are 8 Patriarchs, 52 Cardinals, 2 Major Archbishops, 79 Archbishops and 130 Bishops.
* Delegates hold various leadership positions including: 10 Heads of the Eastern Churches sui iuris, 30 Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences, 24 Heads of the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, 185 Ordinary Bishops, 17 Auxiliary Bishops.
* Also attending are “Fraternal Delegates,” representatives of “10 Churches and ecclesial communities who share with Catholics the same love and veneration for Holy Scriptures.”
* 41 Experts and 37 Auditors, “men and women who have been chosen from among many specialists and lovers of the Word of God to assist the Synodal Fathers and to help enrich their reflection, through their personal experience and that of their communities, on the always living and active importance of the Word of God (cf. Hebrews 4:12)."
* Press Officers, Assistants and Translators, Technical Staff and the Special Staff of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops.