Briefing: A Letter for all God’s people to continue Synodal journey

Briefing: A Letter for all God’s people to continue Synodal journey

At the Synod briefing on Wednesday, Dr. Paolo Ruffini updates reporters, and journalists hear from Cardinal Leonardo Steiner of Manaus, Brazil; Archbishop Zbigņevs Stankevičs of Riga, Latvia; Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP); and 19-year-old US Synod member, Wyatt Olivas.

By Tiziana Campisi 

The XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, at the end of its work, will draft a letter-message for all the people of God.

This was said at this afternoon’s briefing in the Holy See Press Office by Dr. Paolo Ruffini, Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication and President for the Information Commission, specifying that the Commission for the synthesis document has thought of a text to tell “as many people as possible, and especially those who have not yet been reached or involved in the synodal process,” about the experience lived by the members of the Synod.

Dr. Ruffini explained that the Synod Secretariat, in agreement with the Pope, submitted the proposal to a vote of the Assembly, which approved it by a very large majority (out of 346 voters, there were 335 in favour and 11 against).

Guests at the briefing today included Cardinal Leonardo Ulrich Steiner, Archbishop of Manaus (located in Brazil’s Amazon); Archbishop Zbigņevs Stankevičs of Riga, Latvia, and Secretary General of the Bishops Conference of Latvia; Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and Bishop of Kalookan; and Wyatt Olivas from the United States, the youngest participant in the Synod Assembly.

Nineteen years old, Wyatt, a student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, participated as a missionary in the Catholic youth programme Totus Tuus and is a catechist in his home diocese of Cheyenne. He expressed his enthusiasm for his experience at the Synod to the various members of the media.

The Synthesis Document

With regard to the synthesis document, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication again informed reporters that, at the end of Wednesday morning’s General Congregation, the 12th – which began the discussion of the fourth Instrumentum laboris module, Module B-3, on the theme “Participation, responsibility and authority. What processes, structures and institutions in a missionary synodal Church?, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, General Rapporteur, announced that the Commission in charge had decided that the text would be relatively short and at the service of a process that continues.

It will be a transitional text, based on the experience of the Assembly, which will contain the points where there is consensus and those where there is a lack of agreement, as well as open questions that will need to be studied in depth from a canonical, theological and pastoral point of view, to be verified together with the people of God.

It will have a simple style, it will not be a final document, nor will it be the Instrumentum laboris of the next assembly, the Cardinal clarified, adding that it will only serve to accompany the subsequent phases of the Synod on Synodality.

Prayer for migrants with the Pope tomorrow in St. Peter’s Square

To journalists, the secretary of the Commission for Information, Sheila Pires, reported that this morning’s proceedings opened with the remembrance of the late Bishop Robert Patrick Camilleri Azzopardi, bishop of Comayagua and president of the Honduran Bishops’ Conference, who passed away on Tuesday, and that on Thursday afternoon, at the end of the afternoon session, the Synod participants have been invited to gather in St. Peter’s Square for a moment of prayer for migrants and refugees – which will be live-streamed – in which the Pope will also take part.

And on Wednesday morning, in Paul VI Hall, where the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is taking place, Luca Casarini, a special invitee, reported on a rescue in the Mediterranean Sea of 116 migrants from various African countries, in two different boats.

Synodality in Amazonia

Cardinal Steiner spoke of the long experience of synodality in the Church of the Amazon, which has always sought to involve all ministries and all vocations in evangelisation, in debates. The Cardinal pointed out that in diocesan assemblies and in the wider assemblies of the entire region, laymen and laywomen participate, and that in recent meetings there has always been an indigenous representative or representative.

“More and more we seek this presence in order to be able to listen and better exercise our mission,” he remarked, adding that the Synod is a process and that solutions are being sought, but we are “exercising ourselves in synodality, in this Synod,” that “everyone has the opportunity to speak, to express themselves, to say their ideas, always for the good of the Church, always considering the mission of the Church,” that is, the proclamation of the Gospel.

“For us who are from the Amazon, it is an extra incentive to continue on this path of trying to listen to everyone and involve everyone in the evangelisation process,” Cardinal Steiner concluded.

Responding to a journalist’s question, the Cardinal pointed out that listening helps to understand the communities and their needs, it helps to be a Samaritan Church, present, merciful. There are 70,000 indigenous people, listening to the different communities is important because “they tell us how they want to celebrate,” Cardinal Steiner continued, they help to consider popular piety, in short, to be an evangelising Church.

The Synod experience in Latvia

He spoke of the reaction of Catholics in Latvia (20 percent of the population of about two million) to the invitation to participate in the Synod process, Archbishop Zbigņev Stankevičs of Riga, Secretary General of the Latvian Bishops’ Conference.

“There were ambiguous feelings,” some having heard about the synodal ways in Germany had an attitude of rejection, others thought of something formal, but then everyone got down to business. The need emerged to listen to everyone, not only Catholics but also other Christians, representatives of other religions, the marginalised and even non-believers. And then to try to recognise what the Holy Spirit wants to say to the Church today and to awaken the sense of co-responsibility for the Church’s evangelising mission in every baptised person.

“And here there is a great challenge, first of all of the formation of bishops, of priests,” said the prelate, “because their main task is to look at the faithful and recognise their gifts, their charisms. And again the Archbishop of Riga spoke of women in the Church. ‘They should not compete with men, but complementarity is important’; yes, giving them more space in the Church, but not touching what is in the Gospel and in the tradition of the Church.

The ‘Filipino Diaspora’

As for the reality of the Filipinos, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, Bishop of Kalookan, said that there are millions of individuals from the Philippines living scattered around the world, noting they are 10-15% of the population of the Philippines, what is called ‘the Filipino diaspora’.

Pope Francis jokingly calls them ‘smugglers of the faith’, the prelate confided. They are migrants, workers, ‘practically reluctant missionaries’ because they have not been trained for this purpose, but they try to live their faith. 

Bishop David emphasised that this Synod insists precisely on equality in dignity. “It doesn’t matter if one is a Cardinal or Archbishop or whoever, because fundamentally we are a community of disciples who are equal in baptism,” he said.

Regarding the challenges facing the Filipino Church, to a journalist who asked him what the priorities are, the prelate remarked on the need for accompaniment for those living abroad, “so that they become accidental missionaries” by witnessing their faith in the countries where they work.

Welcoming homosexual people

To journalists’ questions about the Church’s position with regard to LGBTQ+ persons or those in same-sex relationships, Cardinal Steiner replied that the topic came up during the reflections and also at the time of the groups’ presentations, but that this session of the Synod does not lead to conclusions.

On the subject of homosexual persons, Archbishop Stankevičs recalled Pope Francis’ invitation in Lisbon to welcome “todos, todos“, “everyone, everyone” and added that homosexual persons should also be welcomed “with love, without judging”, their human dignity should be respected, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, not discriminated against unjustly, pointing out that homosexual couples are called to live in chastity because any sexual relationship outside of marriage is a sin and that therefore blessing those couples who do not accept this principle is a problem because it would mean blessing living in sin.

Bishop David, for his part, said that there is a strong tendency to label people in terms of gender, sexuality, political or religious affiliation, but that Jesus looked upon every human being as a child of God.