Bishop's Blog - Week Two

22/10/2012 11:24 am

Bishop Michael Campbell of Lancaster in the Synod Hall, Vatican City

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.

Dear Friends in Christ,

Greetings again to all from Rome!

It has been a busy week here as the Synod of Bishops continued to reflect on the theme of transmitting the Christian faith in the very changed and ever changing circumstances of our world.

The extended discussions took place in the General Assembly (daily bulletins here) and increasingly in smaller language groups. Pope Benedict was present in the assembly hall for much of the general presentation of views over the last week, a sign of the importance he attaches to this particular Synod.

Earlier in the week, Cardinal Wuerl of Washington DC gave a summary of the direction of the debate so far, and his paper provided the basis for the language group sessions.

There are about a dozen such groups: English, Italian, Spanish, French and German, and while not everyone has, or will have, the opportunity to speak in the main aula, being part of the individual language groups does offer everyone the chance to make his or her contribution.

A fascinating aspect of this Synod of Bishops is its worldwide dimension, with bishops and other speakers shedding light on their own particular Church situations from many different countries. We needed to be reminded of the realities of the Church in current turbulent areas such as Syria and parts of Africa, living in the shadow of war and civil unrest.

Bishops from Cambodia and Vietnam described the life of their local Church communities, while believers in parts of Europe which were originally behind “the Iron Curtain” were now living in freedom and catching up on the work of the Second Vatican Council and other theological trends in the last fifty years. There is much more to the Church than the large cities of the Western world!

Despite these vastly differing local circumstances certain common threads are emerging, such as the centrality and importance of the family for the life of the Church, the responsibility of each baptised person for handing on the faith, the necessity of conversion for all members of the Church, and the challenges posed for example by globalisation.

If we are to be evangelisers, we must first be evangelised ourselves! Apart from the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is seen to be fundamental as a fundamental instrument for handing on the Catholic faith. Many other suggestions and convictions are surfacing and the challenge facing the Synod this coming week will be to formulate these into propositions to be voted on and presented to the Holy Father next weekend.

Apart from bishops, the Synod heard interventions from many other invited speakers, one of whom was the Anglican bishop of Sheffield, Bishop Stephen Croft. Members of Orthodox Churches, including that of the Russian Federation, also spoke. The atmosphere was friendly and courteous at all times, and we were privileged to be given an amazing ‘birds-eye’ view of the universal Church and its life at the present time.

The courage, faith and resilience of those bishops from unsettled and war-torn regions was evident to us all, as exemplified in the moving reflection by a Sudanese bishop after the opening morning prayer earlier in the week. His optimism and deep faith were a living proof of the presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit in what we would consider harrowing, even desperate situations. I mused on just how in spite of everything the Church goes on.

The Roman weather varied in the course of the week, with the occasional downpour but often beautifully clear blue skies.

Kindly keep the Synod in your prayers as we enter the final week of our deliberations.

Until next week - May 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