Vatican City, 5.10.12 (VIS) - This morning in the Holy See Press Office, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, presented the thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which is due to take place in the Vatican from 7 to 28 October on the theme: "The New Evangelisation for the Transmission of the Christian Faith".
Before entering into the details of the forthcoming synodal assembly the archbishop highlighted the importance of not separating the two aspects of the chosen topic. "The theme", he said, "indicates that the goal of new evangelisation is the transmission of the faith. And the process of transmitting the faith, which today faces many obstacles of different kinds, takes place within the context of new evangelisation".
He then went on to explain the preparations and the stages of the Synod, describing it as a "complex and demanding process" which can be divided into three interlinked aspects: "the spiritual dimension, theological and pastoral reflections, and technical and organisational preparations".
1. The spiritual dimension
"Prayer accompanies and stimulates all synodal activity. ... It accompanied the preparatory work ... and will have a pre-eminent role during the course of the gathering. Specifically, the Holy Father will preside at four liturgical celebrations: on 7 October, the inauguration of the Synod and the proclamation of St. John of Avila and St. Hildegard of Bingen as Doctors of the Universal Church; on 11 October, Mass for the inauguration of the Year of Faith; on 21 October, the canonisation of the blesseds: Jacques Berthieu, Pedro Calungsod, Giovanni Battista Piamarta, Carmen Salles y Barangueras, Marianne Cope, Kateri Tekakwitha and Ana Schaffer; on 28 October, the closing of the Synod".
2. Theological and pastoral reflections
"Once the Holy Father had chosen the theme, the General Secretariat of the Synod prepared the 'Lineamenta', or preparatory document for reflection on that topic, which was published on 4 March 2011. The questionnaire accompanying the 'Lineamenta' was submitted to all the ecclesial organisations with which the General Secretariat maintains institutional contacts, with the request that responses be forthcoming before 1 November 2011. The response rate - which reached 90.5 per cent - is an expression of the great interest that the particular Churches and other organisations have in the theme chosen for the Synod. ... The Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat examined the responses which were then summarised in the 'Instrumentum laboris', made public on 19 June 2012".
"Other documents have also played an important role in preparations for the Synod. ... These include, apart from the Holy Father's catecheses, ... two Apostolic Letters 'Motu Proprio data'. The first of these is 'Ubicumque et semper" of 21 September 2010 by which the Holy Father created the Pontifical Counil for Promoting New Evangelisation, the second is 'Porta Fidei' of 11 October 2011 in which he proclaimed the Year of Faith".
3. Technical and organisational preparation
"As per the norms of 'Ordo Synodi Episcoporum', the Ordinal General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is attended 'ex officio' by the heads of the 'sui iuris' Eastern Catholic Churches and of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia. Apart from the Synod Fathers appointed by the Pope, other Synod Fathers are elected by their respective episcopal conferences, by the 'sui iuris' Eastern Catholic Churches if they have more than twenty-five bishops, and by the Union of Superiors General which has the right to elect ten members".
4. Participation in the Synod
"The thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be attended by 262 Synod Fathers, the largest number in the history of Synods. Of these, 103 are from Europe, 63 from the Americas, 50 from Africa, 39 from Asia and 7 from Oceania. The majority of the Synod Fathers, 182, have been elected: 172 by their episcopal conferences, 10 by the Union of Superiors General, and 3 by the 'sui iuris' Eastern Catholic Churches. Of the others, 37 are participating 'ex officio' and 40 were appointed by the Holy Father".
"Benedict XVI has appointed Cardinal Donald William Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, U.S.A., as relator general of the Synod and Archbishop Pierre-Marie Carre, archbishop of Montpellier, France, as special secretary. He has also appointed three presidents delegate: Cardinal John Tong Hon, bishop of Hong Kong, China; Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega, archbishop of Guadalajara, Mexico, and Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. Also participating in the forthcoming synodal assembly will be forty-five experts, forty-nine auditors, fraternal delegates from 15 Churches and ecclesial communities not yet in communion with the Catholic Church, and three special guests: Frere Alois, prior of Taize, France; Rev. Lamar Vest, president of the American Bible Society, U.S.A., and Werner Arber, professor emeritus of microbiology at the University of Basel, Switzerland and president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences".
5. Important events
"Twenty-three General Congregations and eight Working Group sessions are scheduled to take place. The secretary general and relator general will deliver their reports on the morning of 8 October. During the afternoon session representatives of the episcopate on the five continents will deliver brief speeches indicating how the theme of the Synod is viewed in the particular Churches on their continents".
"During the afternoon session of 9 October, Cardinal Marc Ouellet P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, will present a report on the reception of 'Verbum Domini', the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of the twelfth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which took place in October 2008".
"On 10 October His Grace Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury and primate of the Anglican Communion, will address the assembly to outline the Anglican approach to the challenge of new evangelisation for the transmission of the Christian faith".
"On the afternoon of 12 October Werner Arber, professor emeritus of microbiology at the University of Basel, Switzerland and president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, will speak on the relationship between science and faith".
"During the Eucharistic celebration of 11 October, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I will address Benedict XVI and all those participating in the Mass for the opening of the Year of Faith".
"At the beginning of their work, the Synod Fathers will choose the members of the 'commission of the message'. The commission is made up of twelve members. The Holy Father has appointed the president and secretary (respectively, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Tagle of Manila, Philippines) and will appoint a further two members, while the remaining eight members are to be elected by the Synod Fathers".
"The methodology of the Synod, which was modified by Benedict XVI in 2005, remains substantially unchanged. Each Synod Father will have five minutes to speak during the General Congregations, but during the open debates in the afternoon sessions (from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.) they will have no more than three minutes, so as to stimulate greater participation in the discussions. Speeches by fraternal delegates, experts and auditors must not exceed four minutes".