Bishop's Blog - Week One

13/10/2012 11:48 am

Bishop Michael Campbell OSA with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams in Rome

The Rt Rev Michael Campbell OSA, Bishop of Lancaster, is is a Bishop representative at the Synod. He is blogging weekly about events in Rome.

Greetings to you all from Rome!

At Mass in St. Peter’s Square last Sunday the Holy Father formally opened the Synod of Bishops which I am attending here and which has as its theme 'the transmission of the Christian faith in the new evangelisation'.

Just before the start of the Mass, Pope Benedict declared the German Benedictine nun, Hildegard of Bingen (born 1098) and the sixteenth century Spanish diocesan priest, St. John of Avila, Doctors of the Church. Both were remarkable for their holiness of life and great love of Christ.

In the course of his homily at Mass Pope Benedict again stressed the fundamental need for deep conversion on the part of all God’s people. We must first be living witnesses of the faith we profess so as to proclaim it to others, especially those distant from the Church and non-believers.

The presence of many Cardinals, bishops and priests from all over the world underlines the importance and urgency the Holy Father attaches to this Synod, and he has appealed to the whole Church to support the Synod in prayer.

The presentation of papers by the Synod officials took place throughout the sessions on Monday and Tuesday. There were lots of responses from the floor during these ‘general assemblies’, which were attended for the most part by the Holy Father. Each day begins with the Office of Terce, and on Monday Pope Benedict gave a reflection at the conclusion of the prayer. One of the Synod Fathers is invited to offer a short meditation before the day’s work begins.

Many reflections were heard from the floor on the central theme of the Synod, that of handing on the faith in the new evangelisation. A particular value of such contributions was that they were world-wide and gave a sense of the universal Church and its work of proclaiming the faith in the twenty-first century.

On Wednesday morning the Synod members divided into smaller language groups which enabled a real and perhaps more personal sharing to take place.

The highlight of the Wednesday evening session was the excellent address of Archbishop Rowan Williams on the New Evangelisation. He was responding to a personal invitation by Pope Benedict himself to speak to the Synod.

Paradoxically as it may seem, he chose the theme of ‘contemplation’, and went on to deliver what was a well crafted, highly spiritual and thoughtful reflection, which was very well received.

In the presence of the Holy Father, it was gracious occasion and a wonderful sign of just how far we have travelled along the ecumenical road. The Archbishop answered some questions afterwards and concluded by expressing his deep emotion and gratitude at being invited to address the Synod.

Saint Peter’s Square was the setting on Thursday morning for the official opening Mass of the Year of Faith, at which Pope Benedict presided.

The occasion was both solemn and prayerful, and Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences from around the world joined the Holy Father (read his homily) and the Synod fathers in the concelebrated Mass.

The attendance of the Eastern rite Church leaders added a rich colour to the procession to the altar, while many members of the Roman Curia and diplomatic corps were in the congregation. The Pope spoke at some length on the Year of Faith, clearly a cause close to his heart and expressive of his wish that the renewal begun by the Second Vatican Council fifty years ago should continue. The Archbishop of Canterbury was given a place of honour in the piazza and his presence was acknowledged by Pope Benedict.

Before the final blessing the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople spoke movingly of his joy at being present in St. Peter’s Square, and of his sincere hopes for the eventual reunion of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Notwithstanding the Roman heat, it was good to be part of such a large gathering and, with God’s grace, augurs well for the Year of Faith now officially under way. The occasion was also an historical one in view of the fact that it was fifty years to the day since the Second Vatican Council opened.

It was back to work at the General Session iof the Synod in the evening, where again many speakers reflected on the hopes for the coming year in their different Churches, and it was both humbling and salutary to hear the stories of minority Catholic communities in predominantly non-Christian countries. The faith and courage of such communities is admirable and inspiring.

In accord with custom, on Friday the Holy Father hosted a lunch for the members of the Synod and the invited ecumenical guests. This allowed for a relaxed meal in the middle of the day, and the presence of the Holy Father made it special.

The day concluded with a presentation on Science and Religion by the President of the Pontifical Council of Sciences, Professor Werner Arber. And the day was marked by rain which had been threatening for most of the week.

Today, Saturday, is a normal working day for the Synod, and do please remember us all in your prayers. To follow the daily addresses and interventions look here for the Synod Bulletin and keep a close eye on our Lancaster Diocesan Website (latest news section).

God bless you all.

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

Bishop Michael Campbell's blog posts can be found on the official website for the Diocese of Lancaster