VATICAN CITY—Among the key challenges facing the Special Synod of Bishops for America is how to reach out to Catholics who have fallen away from the Church, said the head of the month-long assembly.
Pope John Paul II's agenda for the Synod reflects what he sees as a “need for new evangelization for the third millennium,” Cardinal Jan Schotte told journalists.
The cardinal's office guided preparation of the working document for the synod entitled Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: the Way to Conversion, Communion, and Solidarity in America. He said they tried to promote unity, and that's one reason the synod title speaks about “America” as a single continent.
“We thought about ‘western hemisphere,’‘Pan-American’or ‘the Americas,’ but these were rejected, because if you say ‘Americas,’ you favor division. This term favors unity,” he said.
While debate at the synod has been lively, Cardinal Schotte stressed that unity in helping the Church carry out its teaching is paramount. A synod “is not a political convention where different parties try to convince the others,” he said. “It's not a democratic parliament.”
“The synod is an exercise in episcopal collegiality, the only such instrument at the level of the Universal Church,” the cardinal said.
He said he hoped Synod participants “won't talk about issues from a local point of view, but from a higher and more universal perspective.”
“I hope the Latin American reality will not dominate the Synod, just as I hope the North American reality will not dominate the Synod,” he said. He said his office had tried to reduce the possibility of creating strong national “blocs” by using a formula that limited the number of representatives from large countries, such as Brazil and the United States.
Three years ago, Cardinal Schotte oversaw the synod of bishops of Africa. Although now in the midst of the American Synod, he is already hard at work on synods right up to the year 2000.
In the spring of 1998 the Asian episcopate will meet, followed next fall by the Oceanic episcopate. Then in the spring of 1999 the European bishops will meet for a second time (their first synod took place in 1991).
The last synod, planned for fall of 1999, will involve the Universal Church in discussing: The Bishop: Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World.