The first week of the Synod is over. The 13 small groups (Circoli Minori) have met since Tuesday afternoon for deeper discussions of the first part of the Lineamenta.
The Holy See Press office released the Circuli Minores membership list on paper, but it did not seem to be published online. So Deborah just before she left for her pilgrimage to Greece, made a list of all the participants in the English speaking and German speaking groups . The French, Italian and Spanish groups will be listed in her next post.
Friday morning, the results of the work in the Circoli Minori were presented in a plenary session in the Synod Hall and published at noon in the daily press conference and on the Internet: www.news.va/en/news/278661 (OR http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2015/10/09/0771/01657.html) Of particular interest are probably the texts Anglicus "C", Anglicus "D", Germanicus. Ludwig Ring-Eifel, editor-in-chief of the Catholic German news agency KNA, headlined his report "The Bishops follow the Pope" (www.katholisch.de/aktuelles/aktuelle-artikel/die-bischofe-folgen-dem-papst). That is exactly what we reform groups have been demanding for this Synod.
On Friday morning I had the privilege of watching the arrival of the Synod participants in the Synod Hall and attending Morning Prayer in the press box. It was most interesting to observe how easy and yet with sovereignty Pope Francis moved among the participants and related to them in a very friendly manner.
Different to Synods before, this Synod provides much more time for discussion in small groups which, in total, are to meet for 40 hours. However, five days in there is – intentionally? – lack of clarity about the procedure and the task of the synod as an whole. Open-minded Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle from Manila/ Philippines defended the process of the work and the apparent confusion at a press briefing on Friday. He said a new method of discussion was being tried at this Synod, and that “definitely it has caused … a bit of confusion.” “But it's good to be confused once in a while,” said the cardinal, laughing. “If things are always clear, then we might not be in real life anymore.” The Philippine cardinal also said that it is still unknown whether the Synod will create its own final document, or simply provide some sort of advice to Francis (http://ncronline.org/news/vatican/synod-bishops-express-confusion-group-reports-cardinal-calls-it-healthy).
On Saturday “his Eminence Beatitude Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, President of the Indian Bishops Conference and head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church” was a guest at the daily press briefing. You can find his statement and many other useful information on the website www.news.va. But that is only the Vatican’s view and it is good also to get more open minded information from e.g. the National Catholic Reporter (http://ncronline.org). But there are also a lot of critical or even hostile websites to the Synod, e.g. www.lifesitenews.com (with headlines like “Our youth desperately need clarity, but Pope Francis’ actions are creating confusion” and “Leading African cardinal critiques Vatican spokesman Fr. Rosica”) and www.churchmilitant.com, attacking Vatican press officers and other journalists. Against the Synod rules the Polish Bishop’s conference posted on their website the summaries of statements in the Synod hall and so had to delete them after having been criticised for that by Card. Baldisseri, Secretary of the Synod (http://blog.radiovatikan.de/der-pressebalkon).
The German speaking group includes six cardinals, different personalities with sometimes opposing positions: Gerhard Ludwig Müller (Prefect of the CDF), Kurt Koch (Prefect of Ecumenism, from Switzerland), Walter Kasper (emeritus Prefect of Ecumenism), Reinhard Marx (Head of the German Bishops’ Conference), Audrys Backis (Lithuania), Christoph Schoenborn (Head of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference). Unexpectedly they are having a fruitful discussion, as members of the German group told me on Friday evening when I approached them with ease as they came from the Synod Hall. But the most controversial issues, for example, regarding the indissolubility of sacramental marriage, are on the agenda for the second and third week of the Synod. So I’m thinking about sending out our appeal to the Synod fathers again next week.
Rome and the area around St. Peter's Basilica is like a village. Opposite to my accommodation run by Sisters there are the two restaurants where all the German speaking media people meet. So I have been in contact with almost every German speaking journalist here in Rome during my stay and we were able to discuss all aspects of hope for the Synod. The Austrian TV interviewed me on Saturday. The German journal Publik-Forum contacted me several times and reported about our appeal to the Synod fathers (www.publik-forum.de/Religion-Kirchen/wir-unterstuetzen-den-papst ). On the other side of St. Peter's Square, in Borge Pio, are to be found more English-speaking journalists and prelates. On Friday night I was invited there to a very interesting press briefing by the Association of Catholic Priests US (AUSCP) www.uscatholicpriests.org/. There I met old friends and got to know new people for networking for reform.
When you come to Rome you must visit the churchyard in Campo Santo Teutonico. Inside the Vatican and next to the Aula Paul VI it is extraterritorial ground and belongs to a fraternity of lay men and women founded in the 15 century (www.vatican.va/various/teutonico/index.htm). I attended their Mass, spoke to the rector and visited a very fine temporary exhibition about the Second Vatican Council that was compiled in Germany two years ago. I proposed to the Rector that this exhibition and the content-rich catalog should be made available in other languages.
On Friday Deborah Rose-Milavec set off to lead a pilgrimage to Greece for the next 10 days but will be back in Rome on October 18th. My wife Renate and I will now go to the Sunday Angelus with Pope Francis and will leave this evening but I will come back on October 20th for the final days of the synod.
Best wishes from Rome
Christian (and Renate)