CARDINAL OUELLET RESPONDS TO VIGANO ACCUSATIONS

The Vatican this morning published a letter from Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops in answer to last week’s letter, the second he has written, from Abp. Carlo Maria Vigano that contained, among other things, accusations of coverup in the Vatican at the highest levels in the Abp. McCarrick scandal. Vigano’s second letter specifically named Cardinal Ouellet, by virtue of his office, as possessing information that would prove his – Vigano’s – claims.

The letter was written in French and translated into Italian – both were published.

I offer the following English language translation of that letter. Where you see bold, that was in the original.

CARDINAL OUELLET RESPONDS TO VIGANO ACCUSATIONS

Dear Brother Carlo Maria Viganò,

In your last messgae to the media, in which you denounce Pope Francis and the Roman Curia, you exhort me to tell the truth about the facts you interpret as an endemic corruption that has invaded the Church’s hierarchy to its highest level. With due pontifical permission, I offer my personal testimony here, as Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, on the events concerning the Archbishop emeritus of Washington Theodore McCarrick and his alleged ties with Pope Francis which are the object of your resounding public denunciation as well as your claim that the Holy Father resign. I write my testimony based on my personal contacts and the documents of the archives of the aforementioned Congregation, which are currently the subject of a study to shed light on this sad case.

Allow me to tell you first, in full sincerity, by virtue of the good relationship of collaboration that existed between us when you were Nuncio in Washington, that your current position seems incomprehensible and extremely reprehensible, not only because of the confusion that it sows in God’s people, but because your public accusations seriously hurt the fame of the Successors of the Apostles. I remember having once enjoyed your esteem and your confidence, but I note that I would have lost the dignity you recognized in me, simply because I remained faithful to the guidelines of the Holy Father in the service entrusted to me in the Church. Is not the communion with the Successor of Peter the expression of our obedience to Christ who chose him and supports him with His grace? My interpretation of Amoris Laetitia, which you lament, is inscribed in this fidelity to the living tradition, of which Francis has given us an example with the recent modification of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the question of the death penalty.

Let’s go to the facts. You say you informed Pope Francis on June 23, 2013 on the McCarrick case in the audience he gave you, as well as many other pontifical representatives whom he met for the first time on that day. I imagine the enormous amount of verbal and written information that he had to gather on that occasion on many people and situations. I very much doubt that McCarrick interested him to the point that you would have us believe, since he was an Archbishop emeritus of 82 years and seven years without an assignment. Moreover, the written instructions prepared for you by the Congregation for Bishops at the beginning of your service in 2011, did not say anything about McCarrick, except what I told you about his situation as Bishop emeritus who had to obey certain conditions and restrictions to because of the rumors about his behavior in the past.

Since 30 June 2010, that is, since I have been Prefect of this Congregation, I have never brought the case of McCarrick to an audience with Pope Benedict XVI or Pope Francis, except in these last days, after his demission from the College of Cardinals. The ex-cardinal, who had retired in May 2006, had been strongly urged not to travel and not to appear in public, in order not to provoke other rumors about him. It is false to present the measures taken against him as “sanctions” decreed by Pope Benedict XVI and canceled by Pope Francis. After re-examining the archives, I note that there are no documents signed by either of the Popes, nor a note of the hearing of my predecessor, Cardinal Giovanni-Battista Re, who gave the mandate of the Archbishop’s emeritus McCarrick to silence and private life, with the rigor of canonical penalties. The reason is that then, unlike today, there was no sufficient evidence of his alleged guilt. Hence the position of the Congregation inspired by the prudence and the letters of my predecessor and mine that reaffirmed, through the Apostolic Nuncio Pietro Sambi and then also through you, the exhortation to a discreet lifestyle of prayer and penance for his own good and for that of the Church. His case would have been the subject of new disciplinary measures if the Nunciature in Washington or any other source had given us recent and decisive information about his behavior. Like so many, I hope that, out of respect for the victims and the need for justice, the investigation underway in the United States and the Roman Curia finally offers us a critical and comprehensive view of the procedures and circumstances of this painful case, so that such facts are not repeated in the future.

How can it be that this man of the Church, whose incoherence is known today, was promoted on several occasions, up to the very high functions of Archbishop of Washington and then of Cardinal? I am amazed by it myself and I recognize the flaws in the selection procedure that has been carried out in your case. But without going into details, it must be understood that the decisions taken by the Supreme Pontiff rest on the information available at that precise moment and which constitute the object of a prudential judgment that is not infallible. It seems unfair to me to conclude that the persons responsible for the discernment prior to them are corrupt even if, in this specific case, some evidence provided by the testimonies should have been further examined. The prelate in question was able to defend himself with great skill from the doubts raised about him. On the other hand, the fact that there may be people in the Vatican who practice and support behavior contrary to the values of the Gospel in matters of sexuality, does not authorize us to generalize and declare this or that and even the Holy Father himself unworthy and complicit. First of all, do not the ministers of the truth look at themselves from slander and defamation?

Dear Pontifical Representative Emeritus, I tell you frankly that to accuse Pope Francis of having covered this presumed sexual predator with full knowledge of the facts and therefore to be complicit in the corruption that spreads in the Church, to the point of deeming him unworthy to continue his reform as the first pastor of the Church, I find it incredible and far-fetched from all points of view. I am unable to understand how you could convince yourself of this monstrous accusation that does not stand up. Francis had nothing to do with McCarrick’s promotions in New York, Metuchen, Newark and Washington. He dismissed him from his dignity as a Cardinal when a credible allegation of child abuse became evident. I have never heard Pope Francis refer to this so-called great adviser of his pontificate for nominations in America, although he does not hide the trust he accords to some prelates. I sense that these are not your preferences, nor those of friends who support your interpretation of the facts. However, I find it aberrant that you take advantage of the resounding scandal of sexual abuse in the United States to inflict on the moral authority of your Superior, the Supreme Pontiff, an unheard and undeserved blow.

I have the privilege of meeting Pope Francis for a long time each week, to discuss the appointments of the Bishops and the problems that affect their government. I know very well how he treats people and problems: with much charity, mercy, attention and seriousness, as you yourself have experienced. Reading how you conclude your last message, apparently very spiritual, playing a game and casting doubt on his faith, it seemed really too sarcastic, even blasphemous! This cannot come from the Spirit of God.

Dear brother, I would really like to help you rediscover the communion with the one who is the visible guarantor of the communion of the Catholic Church; I understand how bitterness and disappointments have marked your way in service to the Holy See, but you can not conclude your priestly life in an open and scandalous rebellion, which inflicts a very painful wound on the Bride of Christ, whom you claim to serve better, exacerbating division and bewilderment in God’s people! How can I answer your question if not to tell you: come out of your clandestinity, repent of your revolt and return to better feelings towards the Holy Father, instead of exacerbating hostility against him. How can you celebrate the Holy Eucharist and pronounce his name in the canon of the Mass? How can you pray the holy Rosary, St. Michael the Archangel and the Mother of God, condemning him whom you protect and accompany every day in his heavy and courageous ministry?

If the Pope were not a man of prayer, if he were attached to money, if he favored the rich to the poor, if he did not demonstrate an indefatigable energy in welcoming all the poor and giving them the generous comfort of his word and his gestures, if he did not multiply all possible means to announce and communicate the joy of the Gospel to everyone and everyone in the Church and beyond its visible borders, if he did not extend his hand to families, to the abandoned elderly, to those sick in soul and body, and above all to the young people looking for happiness, one might, according to you, perhaps prefer someone else with different diplomatic or political attitudes, but I who have been able to know him well, I cannot question his personal integrity, his consecration to the mission and above all the charism and peace that live within him by the grace of God and the power of the Risen One!

In response to your unjust and unjustified attack on the facts, dear Viganò, I conclude therefore that the accusation is a political frame devoid of a real foundation that can incriminate the Pope, and I repeat that it deeply hurts the communion of the Church. It is to God that this injustice is quickly repaired and that Pope Francis continues to be recognized for what he is: a distinguished pastor, a compassionate and firm father, a prophetic charism for the Church and for the world. May he continue with joy and full confidence his missionary reform, comforted by the prayer of the people of God and by the renewed solidarity of the whole Church together with Mary, Queen of the Holy Rosary.

Marc Cardinal Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops

October 7, 2018

HOLY SEE INVESTIGATING ARCHBISHOP MCCARRICK CASE

Below is the long-awaited Vatican statement issued today about its investigation in the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. It does leave a few questions, but the Holy See has at last spoken in a summary fashion to some of the accusations issued in two letters in August and September by former nuncio the United States, Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò. One of those accusations was that the Holy Father knew of the scandal involving the former cardinal and never did anything about it, instead making him an important part of Vatican diplomacy, sending him on missions,. including one to China.

More to come as the statement does say, “The Holy See will, in due course, make known the conclusions of the matter regarding Archbishop McCarrick.”

Read the Holy See statement first and then watch the following, absolutely riveting video of Raymond Arroyo’s interview with Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that aired on Thursday on “The World Over” – 40 minutes you’ll never forget! I found myself holding my breath at a few points. He talks of the McCarrick case (very interesting once you have read today’s Vatican statement!), the abuse scandal, the China deal, the synod on youth, the papal document on the synod, Episcopalis communio, and much more! You will learn a great deal! Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin appears after the cardinal so stay tuned for that !

HOLY SEE INVESTIGATING ARCHBISHOP MCCARRICK CASE

After the publication of the accusations regarding the conduct of Archbishop Theodore Edgar McCarrick, the Holy Father Pope Francis, aware of and concerned by the confusion that these accusations are causing in the conscience of the faithful, has established that the following be communicated:

In September 2017, the Archdiocese of New York notified the Holy See that a man had accused former Cardinal McCarrick of having abused him in the 1970s. The Holy Father ordered a thorough preliminary investigation into this, which was carried out by the Archdiocese of New York, at the conclusion of which the relative documentation was forwarded to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In the meantime, because grave indications emerged during the course of the investigation, the Holy Father accepted the resignation of Archbishop McCarrick from the College of Cardinals, prohibiting him by order from exercising public ministry, and obliging him to lead a life of prayer and penance.

The Holy See will, in due course, make known the conclusions of the matter regarding Archbishop McCarrick. Moreover, with reference to other accusations brought against Archbishop McCarrick, the Holy Father has decided that information gathered during the preliminary investigation be combined with a further thorough study of the entire documentation present in the Archives of the Dicasteries and Offices of the Holy See regarding the former Cardinal McCarrick, in order to ascertain all the relevant facts, to place them in their historical context and to evaluate them objectively.

The Holy See is conscious that, from the examination of the facts and of the circumstances, it may emerge that choices were taken that would not be consonant with a contemporary approach to such issues. However, as Pope Francis has said: “We will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead” (Philadelphia, 27 September 2015). Both abuse and its cover-up can no longer be tolerated and a different treatment for Bishops who have committed or covered up abuse, in fact represents a form of clericalism that is no longer acceptable.

The Holy Father Pope Francis renews his pressing invitation to unite forces to fight against the grave scourge of abuse within and beyond the Church, and to prevent such crimes from being committed in the future to the harm of the most innocent and most vulnerable in society. As previously made known, the Holy Father has convened a meeting of the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences from around the world for next February, while the words of his recent Letter to the People of God still resonate: “The only way that we have to respond to this evil that has darkened so many lives is to experience it as a task regarding all of us as the People of God. This awareness of being part of a people and a shared history will enable us to acknowledge our past sins and mistakes with a penitential openness that can allow us to be renewed from within” (20 August 2018).

VATICAN INSIDER IN HAWAII: THE AUGUSTINE EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION (PART II) – THREE U.S. BISHOPS, ONE AUSTRALIAN ADDRESS THE SYNOD CHALLENGES

VATICAN INSIDER IN HAWAII: THE AUGUSTINE EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION (PART II)

Tune in to the interview segment for Part II of my conversation with Sue Ferandin, the vibrant and wonderfully caring executive director in Hawaii of AEF – the Augustine Educational Foundation – a foundation whose mission is to make Catholic education more affordable for families in Hawaii.

Sue and I met during my recent visit to Honolulu when Bishop Larry Silva invited me to attend the September 13 AEF donor appreciation reception. She was a speaker at this event, as was the bishop. I was enthralled by her words and her mission. I told Sue I’d love to have her as a guest on Vatican Insider to speak about AEF and her work. So here we are…..

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on http://www.ewtn.com. OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on http://www.ewtnradio.net ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/multimedia/audio-library/index.asp (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)

THREE U.S. BISHOPS, ONE AUSTRALIAN ADDRESS THE SYNOD CHALLENGES

ARCHBISHOP CHARLES J. CHAPUT, O.F.M. CAP of Philadelphia
Synod intervention on October 4: Comments on Instrumentum Laboris, Chapter IV, paragraphs 51-63:

From http://catholicphilly.com/2018/10/homilies-speeches/truth-of-church-teaching-on-sexuality-missing-in-synod-doc-archbishop-says-2/

Brothers,

I was elected to the synod’s permanent council three years ago. At the time, I was asked, along with other members, to suggest themes for this synod. My counsel then was to focus on Psalm 8. We all know the text: “When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast established; what is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou dost care for him?”

Who we are as creatures, what it means to be human, why we should imagine we have any special dignity at all – these are the chronic questions behind all our anxieties and conflicts. And the answer to all of them will not be found in ideologies or the social sciences, but only in the person of Jesus Christ, redeemer of man. Which of course means we need to understand, at the deepest level, why we need to be redeemed in the first place.

If we lack the confidence to preach Jesus Christ without hesitation or excuses to every generation, especially to the young, then the Church is just another purveyor of ethical pieties the world doesn’t need.

In this light, I read Chapter IV of the instrumentum, grafs 51-63, with keen interest. The chapter does a good job of describing the anthropological and cultural challenges facing our young people. In fact, describing today’s problems, and noting the need to accompany young people as they face those problems, are strengths of the instrumentum overall.

But I believe graf 51 is misleading when it speaks of young people as the “watchmen and seismographs of every age.” This is false flattery, and it masks a loss of adult trust in the continuing beauty and power of the beliefs we have received.

In reality, young people are too often products of the age, shaped in part by the words, the love, the confidence, and the witness of their parents and teachers, but more profoundly today by a culture that is both deeply appealing and essentially atheist.

The elders of the faith community have the task of passing the truth of the Gospel from age to age, undamaged by compromise or deformation. Yet too often my generation of leaders, in our families and in the Church, has abdicated that responsibility out of a combination of ignorance, cowardice and laziness in forming young people to carry the faith into the future. Shaping young lives is hard work in the face of a hostile culture.

The clergy sexual abuse crisis is precisely a result of the self-indulgence and confusion introduced into the Church in my lifetime, even among those tasked with teaching and leading. And minors – our young people – have paid the price for it.

Finally, what the Church holds to be true about human sexuality is not a stumbling block. It is the only real path to joy and wholeness. There is no such thing as an “LGBTQ Catholic” or a “transgender Catholic” or a “heterosexual Catholic,” as if our sexual appetites defined who we are; as if these designations described discrete communities of differing but equal integrity within the real ecclesial community, the body of Jesus Christ.

This has never been true in the life of the Church, and is not true now. It follows that “LGBTQ” and similar language should not be used in Church documents, because using it suggests that these are real, autonomous groups, and the Church simply doesn’t categorize people that way.

Explaining why Catholic teaching about human sexuality is true, and why it’s ennobling and merciful, seems crucial to any discussion of anthropological issues. Yet it’s regrettably missing from this chapter and this document. I hope revisions by the Synod Fathers can address that.

BISHOP ROBERT BARRON. Auxiliary of Los Angeles

From his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BishopRobertBarron/
Thursday, October 4, Bishop Barron offered the following intervention at the Vatican during the 2018 Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment. For more Synod content from Bishop Barron, visit WordFromRome.com, where you’ll find behind-the-scenes videos, interviews, commentaries, and more.

Jesus’ encounter with two erstwhile disciples on the road to Emmaus provides a beautiful template for the Church’s work of accompaniment across the ages. The Lord walks with the couple, even as they move away from Jerusalem, which is to say, spiritually speaking, in the wrong direction. He does not commence with a word of judgment, but rather with attention and quiet encouragement. Jesus continues to listen, even as they recount, accurately enough, all the data having to do with him. But then, knowing that they lack the interpretive pattern that will make sense of the data, he upbraids them (“Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!”), and then he lays out the form (“beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.”). He listens with love, and he speaks with force and clarity.

Innumerable surveys and studies over the past ten years have confirmed that young people frequently cite intellectual reasons when asked what has prompted them to leave the Church or lose confidence in it. Chief among these are the convictions that religion is opposed to science or that it cannot stand up to rational scrutiny, that its beliefs are outmoded, a holdover from a primitive time, that the Bible is unreliable, that religious belief gives rise to violence, and that God is a threat to human freedom. I can verify, on the basis of twenty years of ministry in the field of online evangelization, that these concerns are crucial stumbling blocks to the acceptance of the faith among young people.

What is vitally needed today, as an aspect of the accompaniment of the young, is a renewed apologetics and catechesis. I realize that in some circles within the Church, the term apologetics is suspect, since it seems to indicate something rationalistic, aggressive, condescending. I hope it is clear that arrogant proselytizing has no place in our pastoral outreach, but I hope it is equally clear that an intelligent, respectful, and culturally-sensitive explication of the faith (“giving a reason for the hope that is within us”) is certainly a desideratum. There is a consensus among pastoral people that, at least in the West, we have experienced a crisis in catechesis these last fifty years. That the faith has not been effectively communicated was verified by the most recent Religious Landscape Study, from the Pew Research Center in America. It indicated that, among the major religions, Catholicism was second to last in passing on its traditions. Why has it been the case, over the past several decades, that young people in our own Catholic secondary schools have read Shakespeare in literature class, Homer in Latin class, Einstein in physics class, but, far too often, superficial texts in religion? The army of our young who claim that religion is irrational is a bitter fruit of this failure in education.

Therefore, what would a new apologetics look like? First, it would arise from the questions that young people spontaneously ask. It would not be imposed from above but would rather emerge organically from below, a response to the yearning of the mind and the heart. Here it would take a cue from the method of St. Thomas Aquinas. The austere texts of the great theological master in point of fact emerged from the lively give-and-take of the quaestiones disputatae that stood at the heart of the educational process in the medieval university. Thomas was deeply interested in what young people were really asking. So should we.

Secondly, a new apologetics should look deep and long into the question of the relationship between religion and science. For many people today, scientific and rational are simply equivalent or co-extensive terms. And therefore, since religion is obviously not science, it must be irrational. Without for a moment denigrating the sciences, we have to show that there are non-scientific and yet eminently rational paths that conduce toward knowledge of the real. Literature, drama, philosophy, the fine arts—all close cousins of religion—not only entertain and delight; they also bear truths that are unavailable in any other way. A renewed apologetics ought to cultivate these approaches.

Thirdly, our apologetics and catechesis should walk the via pulchritudinis, as Pope Francis characterized it in Evangelii Gaudium. Especially in our post-modern cultural context, commencing with the true and the good—what to believe and how to behave—is often counter-indicated, since the ideology of self-invention is so firmly established. However, the third transcendental, the beautiful, often proves a more winsome, less threatening, path. And part of the genius of Catholicism is that we have so consistently embraced the beautiful—in song, poetry, architecture, painting, sculpture, and liturgy. All of this provides a powerful matrix for evangelization. And as Hans Urs von Balthasar argued, the most compelling beauty of all is that of the saints. I have found a good deal of evangelical traction in presenting the lives of these great friends of God, somewhat in the manner of a baseball coach who draws young adepts into the game by showing them the play of some of its greatest practitioners.

When Jesus explained himself to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, their hearts began to burn within them. The Church must walk with young people, listen to them with attention and love, and then be ready intelligently to give a reason for the hope that is within us. This, I trust, will set the hearts of the young on fire.

BISHOP FRANK J. CAGGIANO of Bridgeport – From his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BishopCaggiano/

My friends, yesterday I gave my intervention at the Synod2018. I would like to share it with you now:

Holy Father, my brother bishops and my sisters and brothers in the Lord, allow me to share two points that weigh on my heart as we begin this synodal journey.

Reflecting upon paragraphs 59-60, the first is the need for the Church to continue to directly address the issue of the sexual abuse of minors and youth by clerics in many regions of the world (#50). It is a both a crime and a sin that has undermined the confidence and trust that young people must have in the Church’s leaders and the Church as an institution, so that they may again trust their priests and bishops to exercise true spiritual fatherhood (#12), serve as adult figures in their lives (#79) and as authentic mentors of faith (#120, 130-132). The Instrumentum Laboris speaks insightfully of young people’s growing disaffection with civil and social institutions (#59-60) and their desire to address issues of discrimination (#48) and exploitation (#44). Building upon this, we must continue to face courageously and honestly the betrayal of young people by clerics to whom they were entrusted. This sin must never again be found in our midst. Only in this way can the youth of the world believe our synodal call to offer them reassurance, comfort, hope, and belonging.

Reflecting upon paragraphs 34-35, the second issue involves the role that technology now plays in the development of young people. The Instrumentum Laboris rightly identified the key phenomenon that visual images play as the prime medium through which young people understand reality (#38). However, it does not fully explore, nor take advantage of the formative power that technology now exercises upon the full development of young people. For example, the document notes that music and the arts are powerful ways to open up spaces of interiority among young people that the written word may not do as effectively (#36). Young people are more apt to seek creative solutions and collaborate with a variety of relationships (#154). This shift is as much determined by physiology as it is by culture or theology. I urge the Synod to seek ways to investigate further these fundamental changes now experienced by young people so that the pastoral initiatives we embrace can be as comprehensive as possible.

Allow me to conclude by offering one concrete way towards achieving this goal. It was Saint Thomas Aquinas who taught that the human person can encounter God by three privileged paths: truth, beauty and goodness. In terms of technology’s formative influence on young people, I would respectfully suggest that it is the path of beauty that must be better explored for the sake of evangelization and catechesis. In my experience with young people, the questions that haunt them are not simply intellectual ones. They are first and foremost affective questions (i.e., “questions of the heart”), that ask about their self-worth, the reasonableness of hope, the ability to commit to another and to be loved in return. We must unlock the power of beauty, which touches and captures the heart, precisely by utilizing the many opportunities now afforded by digital communication and social media to accompany young people to experience beauty in service of the Gospel (#162). Let us offer the sacred liturgy as a celebration of the beautiful, the transcendent, with an engagement of the affective senses (#187). Let us work to capture the heart of all believers to encounter a God who does not promise a sterile but a life that is itself beautiful, rich in meaning, that invites one’s heart to dare to believe that this earthly life is worth living and worth fighting for in light of an eternal life where the restlessness of the heart will find its final rest in the salvation that alone comes from Christ Jesus the Lord.

ARCHBISHOP ANTHONY FISHER, OP, of Sydney, Australia:

A photo from his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/anthonyfisherop/
Just a couple of days in to #Synod2018, and I’ve been given a job to do. Yesterday, I was elected to the Information Commission for the Synod on Youth, as representative of Oceania. It will be our role to establish criteria and methods for disseminating news coming out of the Synod. We got to work immediately, having our first meeting yesterday afternoon. (Photo: Alessandro Gisotti)

Also from his Facebook page: This is the full text of the Intervention given by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP on 4 October at the XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops:

Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.

Today in the presence of the Holy Father and amidst my brother bishops, I want to say sorry to young people for all the ways we’ve failed them.
For the shameful deeds of some priests, religious and lay people, perpetrated upon you or other young people just like you, and the terrible damage that has done; and for the failure of too many bishops and others to respond appropriately when abuse was identified, and to do all in their power to keep you safe and for the damage thus done to the Church’s credibility and to your trust: I apologise.

For the times Catholic families, parishes and schools have failed to introduce you to the person of Jesus Christ, his saving word, and his plan for your life; and for the times we’ve seemed to you unwelcoming, distant or harsh, or have not demonstrated the sheer joy of being Christians; and for the times when you were searching for your sexual, ethnic or spiritual identity, and needed a moral compass, but found Church people unsympathetic or ambiguous: I apologise.

For when we’ve sold you short not encouraging you to live heroically your baptismal call to holiness and the paschal path to life through self-renunciation; or when we’ve provided too little youth ministry or other support, so you’ve found living as a young person of faith and ideals lonely in a secular, often cynical world; or when unbeautiful or unwelcoming liturgies have failed to inspire or include you, and when you’ve been denied the Church’s treasury of examination of conscience, reconciliation, adoration, pilgrimages, penances and devotions: I apologise.

For poor preaching, catechesis or spiritual direction that fails to convert, and for lack of imagination or enthusiasm for that new evangelisation to which the recent popes have called us; and for our failures to demonstrate God’s mercy, as Pope Francis has insisted we must, and to involve you in campaigns for justice and in works of mercy; and for families, dioceses and religious orders that with a contraceptive mentality have given up on generating new vocations and so have not nurtured yours: I apologise.

To any young person we have let down in these or other ways: from the bottom of my heart I apologise to you. And to the Lord I pray: Kyrie eleison.

But I say to young people also: never give up on Jesus because of our failures. Never give up on the Church that you can help make more faithful. Never give up on the world that, with Christ and the Church’s help, you can make a better place.

In Jesus Christ, the Ancient of Days is made young – for you. The Creator of this beautiful universe comes close to your life to save you. He calls you to ‘come, follow’ him and become his young disciple. He sends you out as a missionary to our world. You can be a hero, for nothing is so exciting as the adventure of the Gospel!

So: when you are lost and need direction, know that the young Jesus is the eternal Way for you! When you are confused and need sound teaching, know that the young Jesus is the eternal Truth for you! When you are searching for the vocation that will most fulfil you, know that the young Jesus is eternal Life for you!

In the presence of the Holy Father and amidst my brother bishops, I recommit myself to young people and to drawing them closer to Christ who is always there for them.

POPE FRANCIS GREETS 2 CHINESE BISHOPS

One way to follow Vatican coverage of the 2018 Synod of Bishops as it offers speeches by or interviews with participants, videos, live streaming of press conferences in the Holy See Press Office, can be found on the officil Vatican synod website: http://www.synod2018.va/content/synod2018/en.html

The Vaticannews site also offers #SYNOD2018

Obviously EWTN and the National Catholic Register are go-to sources!

You might also want to check the Facebook posts or Twitter pages of some of the U.S. participants – or participants you want to know about (just google Facebook or Twitter and then the person’s name).

Here’s a head start to help you:

https://www.facebook.com/pg/ArchbishopChaput/posts/?ref=page_internal

https://www.facebook.com/archbishopgomez/

https://www.facebook.com/BishopRobertBarron/

https://www.facebook.com/CardinalBCupich/

https://www.facebook.com/BishopCaggiano/

Interesting news about the two Chinese bishops present for the synod – a historic first. A I understand it, one is from the government-approved Patriotic Association and one from the underground Church that is loyal to Rome and the Pope.

I have been searching for days but without any luck for a piece I wrote a number of years ago while working at the Vatican Information Service (VIS) at the Holy See Press Office. It was just before or at the start if a synod we were covering under Pope John Paul. Bishops from mainland China had been invited to attend but never did make the synod as they were not allowed to get the proper travel documents from the government.

VIS received the text of telegrams written in Latin from the bishops in China, explaining that they would not be present. We were expected to publish the telegrams as they arrived, that is, in Latin, but I said we should translate them and provide that translation along with the original. I translated the Latin to English and gave that to my colleagues who then translated the messages into French, Spanish and Italian.

In all the years I worked at VIS, I don’t think my years of high school Latin had ever been put to such good use. I felt that Miss O’Brien, my Latin teacher at Trinity High School in River Forest, Illinois would have been very proud of me that day!

POPE FRANCIS GREETS 2 CHINESE BISHOPS

Pope Francis greets two bishops from continental China as they arrive Thursday for the second day’s session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocation discernment.

The Synod on young people began with Mass in St. Peter’s Square on October 3. (vaticannews photo)

During the homily at Mass, the Holy Father prayed that the Spirit grant the Synod Fathers the grace to dream and to hope, so as to be able to anoint young people with the gifts of prophesy and vision.

Click here for video: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-10/synod-youth-2018-pope-china.html#play

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE SYNOD ON YOUTH, FAITH, VOCATIONS – WHAT IS THE REAL ROLE OF THE 2018 SYNOD INSTRUMENTUM LABORIS?

Vaticannews.va has a live stream of current meeting in synod hall. Check this page daily for such streams: https://www.vaticannews.va/en.html

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE SYNOD ON YOUTH, FAITH, VOCATIONS

The 25-day long Synod of Bishops on the theme, “Youth, the Faith and Discernment of Vocation,” opened this morning in a sun-splashed St. Peter’s Square, an ever stunning venue, with Mass presided over by Pope Francis.

This is the third synod that Francis has convened after the 2014 and 2015 synods on the family. As he did previously he also chose the theme for the 2018 synod.

The very first meeting of the synod began at 4:30 this afternoon with talks by the Holy Father, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, head of the Synod of Bishops, and Cardinal Sérgio da Rocha of Brasilia, Relator General of the just-begin synod. (photos vaticannews)

Cardinal Baldisseri, who also organized the 2014-2015 synods on the family, began his 4900-word talk by noting, “It is appropriate here to recall that the Holy Father has affirmed right from the start of the pathway to the synod, that the Church “wishes to place herself as a listener to the voices to the sensitivities, to the faith and even the doubts and criticisms of young people. Therefore we must first of all listen to the young people but also – and it is for this reason we are gathered here – we must answer their challenges with the hearts of pastors, through appropriate proposals and the good advice of the Holy Father.

Cardinal Baldiseri also spoke of the just-released Apostolic Constitution Episcopalis communio, written by the Pope and published on September 15. He noted this was a long path of revision of the institution of the Synod and in particular of the Synod methodology. In fact, there were many new elements in that document.

Cardinal Baldiserri noted that present at this 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops are 267 synod fathers, 8 fraternal delegates, 23 experts and 49 auditors for a total of 347, to which we must add Pope Francis.

The cardinal referred to four different events and elements that led up to the synod that began today. He noted the online questionnaire, saying there were 221,000 contacts, of whom 100,500 young people who answered all of the proposed questions: 58,000 girls and 42,500 boys. Almost 51,000 participants, corresponding to 50.6%, turned out to be young people between the ages of 16 and 19.

He then mentioned one very significant data: the country from which we got the greatest number of answers to the questionnaire was Uganda with more than 16,000 completed answers.

Baldisseri then outlined the other pre-synod elements: the international seminar on the condition of youth today that took place in September 2017, the pre-synod meeting with 300 young people from March 19 to the 24th, 2018 in the Vatican with the Pope, and last, but certainly not least, the Instrumentum laboris, the working document of the synod,

He said “in the 25 workdays of the synod that begins today, we have before us the instrumentum laboris which not only constitutes the point of departure for reflection and debate but the base text for the elaboration of the final document which at the end of the synod works will bring together the results reached by this synodal body.”

The secretary general went on to say that, after these first presentations, the synod Fathers will start to speaking, doing so in the order in which their request to speak, via a synod form they had to fill out, arrived in Rome. Basicall they are scheduled to speak only once in these 25 days, although the cardinal said there will be periods, usually lasting an hour, for free interventions. Because of the number of speakers, time will be limited to four minutes.

He also explained that participants will also work in small groups called circuli minores: these will gather people by language.

In the end, the speeches of the synod Fathers, the collective works of the language groups and the reports of the language groups will be gathered and synthesized into a text which will constitute an integrated development of the instrumentum laboris.

WHAT IS THE REAL ROLE OF THE 2018 SYNOD INSTRUMENTUM LABORIS?

Reading Cardinal Baldisseri’s remarks, a lot of questions arose in my mind about the overarching importance that he gives to the synod’s Instrumentum laboris, or working document. I cannot deny it is indeed an important document, without which no synod has ever proceeded.

The Instrumentum laboris is born from responses to the Lineamenta, an outline of the future synod topic and focus that is composed by the secretariat general of the Synod of Bishops and sent to all Episcopal conferences, Oriental or Eastern Catholic Churches, offices of the Roman Curia and the Union of Superiors General before the start of the assembly. Responses are sent back to Rome and studied, evaluated and analyzed by synod personnel.

The Instrumentum laboris is drafted from this input, read and approved by the Pope and sent to the bishops called to the synod. The bishops may then make their own changes, suggestions and contributions. The final document is usually released to the public, always in Italian.

The instrumentum laboris is not necessarily an indicator of what the conclusions of a synod will be,but can give an idea of the general consensus in the Church on the subject of discussion.

Reading Cardinal Baldisseri’s words, it does sound like the Instrumentum laboris for this 2018 synod is the be all and end all for the synod: “…we have before us the instrumentum laboris which not only constitutes the point of departure for reflection and debate but the base text for the elaboration of the final document which at the end of the synod works will bring together the results reached by this synodal body.”

Will synod Fathers actually be able to change, delete, etc what they do not like and add or otherwise contribute at the end of the synod the elements they found to be the principal focus and talking points of the participants?

Since its publication on May 8, 2018, this document has been heartily criticized for what it contains and what it does not contain

Robert Royal, president of the Faith and Reason Institute in Washington, D.C said in a piece dated October 3 for “The Catholic Thing”: “I am in Rome for the Synod on “Young People, Faith, and Vocational Discernment,” which begins today. I’ll be here, Deo Volente, essentially the whole month of October. It’s an inopportune time for such an event: the abuse crisis – and the involvement in that crisis of several bishops participating in the synod – have damaged the Church’s credibility with young people. The “Working Document” (Instrumentum Laboris) is cumbersome and deeply flawed – more sociology than theology – as our friends Archbishop Chaput and George Weigel have argued. And the “Instrumentum” betrays signs of wanting to move the Church more in the direction of secular culture rather than moving the culture in the direction of the Church. But the show goes on. The Catholic Thing will be bringing you regular synod reports (daily, if warranted) from Rome, as well as our regular columns during October. This is a crucial moment: Oremus pro invicem”

He also noted that, “Just yesterday, Cardinal Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, questioned the “loyalty and honesty” of Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput. After the tumultuous 2015 Synod on the Family, Chaput was elected to the Council of the Synod of Bishops (basically the planning committee) with the most votes for any single candidate by the bishops of the whole world. His recent offense? Substantial criticisms of the Working Document intended to guide the month’s proceedings.”

Read on for Abp. Chaput’s analysis:

Rome, Italy, Sep 29, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA).- In an op-ed column published Saturday, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia has restated his concerns about the upcoming synod of bishops on young adults, faith and vocational discernment, set to begin Oct. 3.

The column was published in the Italian newspaper Il Foglio.

According to Chaput, after the Pennsylvania statewide grand jury report, and abuse problems in Chile, Germany and elsewhere, “the Church is in turmoil.”

“In this turbulent environment, the Holy See will host a world synod of bishops, October 3-28, in Rome. Keyed to the theme of ‘young people, faith, and vocational discernment,’ a more ironic, and more difficult, confluence of bad facts at a bad time for the meeting can hardly be imagined.”

The archbishop explained that, “this does not mean the synod need fail in its work. Francis’ personal appeal and the good will it can engender remain strong.”

“This is why many young priests, like those who wrote an open letter to delegates of the impending synod earlier this month, see an opportunity in the synod’s subject matter. As they make clear, the synod’s success depends on a profound confidence in the Word of God and the mission of the Church, despite the sins of her leaders.”

“It’s in the light of their faith, and the faith of other young men and women like them, that the synod’s instrumentum laboris or ‘working document,’ needs to be reviewed and revised. As it stands, the text is strong in the social sciences, but much less so in its call to belief, conversion, and mission,” Chaput wrote.

Citing a recently published theological reflection, Chaput lamented within the document “‘serious theological concerns…including: a false understanding of the conscience and its role in the moral life;’ a ‘false dichotomy proposed between truth and freedom,’ a ‘pervasive focus on socio-cultural elements, to the exclusion of deeper religious and moral issues,’ an ‘absence of the hope of the Gospel,’ and an ‘insufficient treatment of the abuse scandal.’”

“Comments like these sound harsh,” Chaput admits, “but they are not wholly unwarranted. A synod that deals with issues of sexuality and young people should also deal — honestly and thoroughly — with the roots of a clergy sexual abuse disaster involving minors.”

“Neither the Pope nor the Church is served – particularly in a time of humiliation and crisis – by an overdose of sentiment, accommodation, and sociology. Faith demands more than that,” Chaput, who is a delegate to the synod, concluded.

Il Foglio – The Sheet- was founded in 1996 by Italian journalist and agnostic intellectual Giuliano Ferrara. Despite its limited circulation of 47,000, the newspaper is regarded as one of Italy’s most independent and influential voices in matters of politics, culture and religion.

Click here to read entire Abp. Chaput piece in First Things: https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2018/09/thoughts-on-the-instrumentum-laboris

AN OVERVIEW OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS – YOUNG PEOPLE, THE FAITH AND THE DISCERNMNT OF VOCATION – APPROACHING THE SYNOD WITH OPEN HEARTS AND MINDS – FIVE BISHOPS WHO COULD MOVE THE SYNOD

I offer several pieces on the synod of bishops – an overview of synods, a look at the upcoming gathering for young people that opens tomorrow, a piece by vaticannews correspondent Linda Bordoni and a sage analysis by Ed Condon for Catholic News Agency.

I find Condon’s comments very interesting especially because I covered the 2014 and 2015 synods on the family, during which (and also afterwards) there were many reports that the agenda and the observations and commentaries made by synod fathers leading to the final papal document, “Amoris Laetitia” had been “hijacked” by a small group of people. And some are already asking: will there be a repeat?

His insight into five bishops suggests there will be those who can help balance the equation, that is, distance it from a potential “hijacking.”

You may remember this article in the National Catholic Register by Edward Pentin: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/evidence-emerges-of-an-engineered-synod

And Pentin’s Kindle book: “The Rigging of a Vatican Synod: An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family.”

Let’s pray the rosary daily, as Pope Francis has asked us, and put synod work high on the list of prayer intentions!

AN OVERVIEW OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS

The Synod of Bishops was created by Pope Paul VI in response to the wishes of the Fathers of Vatican Council II to maintain the positive and collegial spirit engendered by the Council. It was formally instituted on September 15, 1965, during the last session, with the Motu proprio “Apostolica Sollicitudo.”

Even before the Second Vatican Council the idea was growing for a structure that might provide the bishops with the means to assist the Pope in a manner to be determined, in his governing of the universal Church.
However, it was Pope Paul VI who gave force to these ideas going back to when he was Archbishop Montini of Milan. In a talk commemorating the death of Pope John XXIII, he made reference to an “ongoing collaboration of the episcopate that is not yet in effect, which would remain personal and unitive, but given the responsibility of governing the whole Church.”

After his election as Pope he kept returning to the concept of collaboration within the episcopal body—the bishops in union with the successor of Saint Peter—in a talk he gave to the Roman Curia on September 21, 1963, at the opening of the second session of the Second Vatican Council on September 29, 1963) and again at its closing (December 4, 1963).

With its root in two Greek words – “syn” meaning together, and “hodos” meaning road or way, a synod is thus a “coming together,” a meeting or assembly at which bishops and the Holy Father gather to discuss problems or issues relative to the universal Church or, on occasion, to particular Churches.

Pope John Paul II referred to the Synod as “a particularly fruitful expression and instrument of the collegiality of bishops”

The synod is normally a consultative body but the Holy Father may confer deliberative powers on it. Its structure and organization are regulated by Canons 342-348, which describe it as “directly under the authority of the Roman Pontiff whose duty it is” to convoke a synod, assign the agenda, designate members or ratify those already elected and, when he desires, preside over the assembly.

The synod holds three types of sessions: general ordinary sessions deal with matters concerning the entire Church; general extraordinary sessions deal with matters “which require a speedy solution”; special sessions are called to handle matters regarding specific Churches or regions.

The first secretary general of the Synod of Bishops was Polish Archbishop Wladyslaw Rubin, whom Pope John Paul II made a cardinal in 1979. The First General Assembly was held from September 29 to October 29, 1967. On March 23, 1970, Paul VI created a permanent general secretariat in the Synod of Bishops.

YOUNG PEOPLE, THE FAITH AND THE DISCERNMNT OF VOCATION

Tomorrow, Wednesday, October 3, will be a big day here at the Vatican for it is the opening of the 15th ordinary general assembly of the synod bishops since it was instituted in 1965 by Blessed Pope Paul VI following Vatican Council II. In fact, Paul VI will be canonized on October 14 during this year’s synod.

As always, the 2018 synod will open with a Mass presided over by the Holy Father. Just weeks ago, on September 15, the Vatican presented Pope Francis’ Apostolic Constitution Episcopalis communio, on the structure of the Synod of Bishops. It had a number of new elements, one of which establishes that the final document of a synod assembly, drafted and approved by a special commission, can be considered part of the ordinary magisterium – that is, the official teaching of the Church – if it receives a particular level of papal approval.

What is a synod? The Code of Canon law defines it as “a group of bishops who have been chosen from different regions of the world and meet together at fixed times to foster closer unity between the Roman Pontiff and bishops,… and to consider questions pertaining to the activity of the Church in the world.”

The theme chosen by Pope Francis for the 2018 synod is “Young People, the Faith and the Discernment of Vocation.” It will be one of the longest in the history of synods at 25 days, ending on October 28.

We see that the theme in many ways shows a continuum with the two October synods in 2014 and 2015 on the family, as well as with Francis’ Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia.”

An early Vatican communiqué on this year’s synod said the theme “aims to accompany young people on their way of life towards maturity so that, through a process of discernment, they can discover their life’s plan and realize it with joy.”

Saturday, October 6, starting at 5 pm, there will be a meeting of young people with Pope Francis and the synod Fathers in the Paul VI hall. Intended to allow “young people to offer concrete experiences about their life in study and work, their feelings, their future and their vocational choice,” it will feature testimonies, musical interludes and artistic performances, and will focus on three themes: the search for identity, relationships, and life as service and gift.

“Young people are particularly invited, and we hope they will be numerous in order to make their voice and their warmth heard by the Synod Assembly,” said Vatican statement. The Congregation for Catholic Education is organizing the event.

According to its preparatory document, the synod’s purpose is to reflect on the Church’s call “to accompany all young people, without exception, towards the joy of love.”

APPROACHING THE SYNOD WITH OPEN HEARTS AND MINDS

(vaticannews.va – Linda Bordoni) Pope Francis will celebrate the opening Mass for the Synod of Bishops on “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment” on Wednesday morning in St. Peter’s Basilica. Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops briefed the media on Synod proceedings and goals at a press conference on Monday morning.

A Synod of Bishops is a crucial moment in the life of the Church. It is a time for it to reflect on its current status and look to its future, a time to adjust to a world in the throes of change and to set itself new goals and adopt new idioms so as not to lose its footing and risk becoming irrelevant.

All that is especially true in the case of the Synod taking place here in the Vatican throughout the month of October, because it focuses on the very people who will make or break it in the future: young people.

Apostolic Constitution
At a press conference at the Holy See Press office on Monday morning, Cardinal Baldisseri carefully explained Synod procedures pointing out that a new Apostolic Constitution signed – significantly – by the Pope just two weeks ago, strengthens the involvement of the “People of God” and further promotes dialogue and collaboration between bishops and between bishops and the Pope.

Final document
This, he said will give even more clout to the final document Synod Fathers are called to produce, after listening to the interventions of the Synod Fathers themselves and of the so-called 49 auditors, of whom 36 are young people chosen to represent their peers from the five continents.

Bishops from China
All in all some 300 cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and lay experts will be taking part, and for the very first time since Paul VI established the Synod of Bishops in 1965 to collaborate with the Pope, discuss topics and make recommendations, two bishops from mainland China have been able to accept the invitation thanks to last month’s landmark agreement between the Holy See and Beijing.

Communicating the Synod
As for communicating to the world what is going on inside the Synod Hall, the Dicastery for Communication will be on hand with reports, videos, daily multi-language briefings and lots of social media activity including a special #synod2018 hash tag on twitter.

Clerical sex abuse crisis
Asked whether the latest revelations regarding widespread clerical sex abuse may have spawned a climate of distrust and anger which could lead to a breakdown in communication between young people and the Church, Baldisseri said he is confident the Synod will provide a golden opportunity for exchange on this critical issue as well.

Pope Francis
Pope Francis himself is expected to be present for many – if not all – the Synod sessions, but in a clear sign he it does not want it to be seen as a closed-doors event for a few privileged invitees, he has asked hundreds of young people to join him and synod participants on Saturday in the Vatican audience hall for an evening of music and some lively exchange.

The Church wants to do its part
The Church, Baldisseri highlighted again and again, wants to do its part in walking with its people, and that, he said, is what we intend to do in this Synod “with open eyes and ears, but also with open hearts and minds” accepting the challenges put to the Church through the “restlessness of young people”.

FIVE BISHOPS WHO COULD MOVE THE SYNOD

Vatican City, Oct 1, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- By Ed Condon.

This week the Synod of Bishops begins its fifteenth ordinary general session, convoked to discuss the themes of young people, the faith, and vocational discernment. The session will take place over three weeks, from October 3-28, and include bishops and other delegates gathered from around the world.

The bishops who will attend do so either by virtue of their office (as is the case for many curial prelates), through election by the local bishops’ conference or the synod’s previous session, or because they were specially appointed by the pope.

In total, more than 300 hundred participants will gather in Rome, including clerics and religious, as well as 49 auditors, among them 36 young people from the five continents.

The U.S. delegation was publicly confirmed in July. Elected to represent the American bishops were Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and president of the USCCB; Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, the conference’s vice-president; Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, chair of the USCCB committee on marriage, family, and youth; Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, who also sits on the committee; and Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles.

In addition to these, Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago and Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark as delegates.

Cardinal Tobin subsequently announced he would not travel to Rome, saying he could not afford to be absent from Newark for the several weeks covered by the synod, and citing revelations concerning sexual abuse in the archdiocese over the summer, which he called a “crisis that continues to unfold.”

The working document that will form the basis for the synod’s deliberations was released in May. Drawing on responses gathered from local Churches and young people as part of the synod’s preparatory phase, the document outlined a number of themes for discussion during the general session. These include vocational discernment and the transmission of the faith, but also how the Church can better engage with young people on issues such as sexuality and gender, social justice themes including racism, migration, and economic exclusion, and the place of young people as “leaders” in their communities.

Some bishops, including Chaput, have questioned the appropriateness of continuing with the synod as planned in the wake of the sexual abuse crises which have rocked the Church in the last few months. In an op-ed published Sept. 29, Chaput noted that a meeting on young people and vocational discernment in the midst of clerical abuse scandals was poorly timed.

“A more ironic, and more difficult, confluence of bad facts at a bad time for the meeting can hardly be imagined,” he wrote.

Many concerns have also been raised that the synod itself might be pressured to focus disproportionately on so-called LGBT issues, much as the last synod, held on the family, was seen as fixating on the pastoral care of the divorced and civilly remarried.

Like all sessions, the synod will produce a final document treating the themes discussed. Traditionally, the pope issues a document of his own in response to the synod’s deliberations, called an apostolic exhortation. Recently, Pope Francis approved changes to the way the synod functions, creating the explicit possibility that he could adopt the final document as his own and incorporate it into the ordinary papal magisterium.

Looking ahead to the synod sessions, a number of bishops and cardinals from around the world are expected to figure heavily in the deliberations.

Possibly the two most influential figures will be Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri and Cardinal Sergio da Rocha.

Baldisseri is the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops and has had a central role in the synod’s preparations, and he will help manage the day-to-day progress of the meetings. He has been in charge of the synod’s permanent secretariat in Rome since 2013.

During the last synod session in 2015, on the family, Baldisseri came under criticism for attempting to steer the process and content of the discussions and final document. A letter signed by 13 cardinals, including Cardinal DiNardo, was handed to the pope the day the session began complaining about shortcomings in the working document to be discussed, and of attempts to foist an agenda on the bishops before they had begun discussions.

On Oct. 1, Baldisseri publicly criticized Archbishop Chaput for raising concerns about the working document ahead of this month’s session. Chaput, who as a member of the synod’s ordinary council was involved in the preparation of the instrumentum laboris, published a theological critique of the working document Sept. 21 prepared by an anonymous theologian.

The critique highlighted “a pervasive focus on socio-cultural elements” in the working document “to the exclusion of deeper religious and moral issues.” It also said the text relegated the Church’s essential teaching function and authority in favor of a passive posture of “listening” and “dialogue.”

Baldisseri said he could not understand Chaput’s criticisms, or the need to make them publicly. Instead, the cardinal said, concerns should have been raised privately and could have been included in the document “with calm.”

Cardinal Sergio da Rocha is the Archbishop of Brasilia. In November of last year, Pope Francis named him as the relator-general of the synod, charged with outlining the synod’s themes at the beginning of the session, and summarizing the contributions of members throughout the synod’s progress. He will also play a key role in drafting the text of the synod’s final document which will be put to members for a vote.

Cardinal da Rocha has played an active role in public life in his native Brazil, chairing a debate between the country’s presidential candidates, and publicly condemning the legalization of abortion in response to the Zika virus outbreak. Da Roche was also a member of the planning committee for the 2015 synod on the family.

Another potentially crucial figure at this month’s session will be Cardinal Wilfred Napier Fox, Archbishop of Durban.

Cardinal Napier was also an active participant in the 2014-2015 sessions, where he played a vocal role in opposing what were seen by many as attempts to push through plans to admit the divorced and civilly remarried to Communion over the majority-consensus of the synod fathers.

During the last synod, Pope Francis asked Napier to join the group charged with drafting the synod’s relatio, or final document, citing concerns that the Churches in Africa and Oceania were under-represented.

During the drafting meetings, Napier recalled that he objected to the inclusion of language about same-sex couples in the section on marriage, noting that the Church does not recognize such unions to be marriages at all, and that the proposed text undermined efforts by bishops in African countries to oppose the recognition of same-sex unions as marriage.

Despite his opposition, he said, the drafting committee “just carried on discussing how the proposition should be phrased in Italian.” According to an account given by Napier, the drafting committee, led by Cardinal Baldisseri, continued to ignore his objections, prompting an angry intervention in support of him by Washington archbishop, Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

As an outspoken defender of the Church’s teaching on life issues and a frequent presence on Twitter, and given his previous criticisms of the synod process being overly managed, many are looking to Cardinal Napier as a potential voice for synod members, and a force for “fair play” in how the final document is drafted.

Another bishop-attendee predicted to play an influential role is Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki of Poznan, president of the Polish bishops’ conference. Gądecki has shown himself to be an adept leader of the bishops of one of Europe’s most conservative, and sometimes combative episcopal conferences.

During a period in which European countries have struggled to form a common approach to the issues of increased political integration and the migrant crisis, which still dominate large parts of political debate, Gądecki authored a document contrasting the “dangers of nationalism” with the “beauties of patriotism.”

Similarly, the pastoral guidelines issued by the Polish bishops’ conference on the implementation of Amoris laetitia were widely seen as a thoughtful via media.

Emphasizing Pope Francis’’priorities like better and longer marriage formation for couples, before and after the wedding, the document stressed the need for pastoral accompaniment for couples in irregular unions, while underscoring the Church’s discipline with regards to reception of Communion.

Often seen as an agent of compromise, but unflinching on matters of doctrine, Gądecki could well emerge during the synod as a constructive force in reconciling those looking for a change of pastoral tone with others concerned with protecting the integrity of the Church’s teaching and discipline.

A final synod father likely to make an impression is Cardinal Louis Raphaël I Sako, Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon and Archbishop of Baghdad. In addition to choosing him as the first voting cardinal from the Chaldean Church, Pope Francis has asked the head of the Church in Iraq to serve as one of the synod’s four presiding delegates, charged with leading the sessions.

A tireless advocate for persecuted Christians, especially in the Middle East, Sako will provide a global perspective for the synod’s deliberations and could well serve as a vocal corrective should proceedings begin to turn too closely around what are seen as European and North American concerns.

Formed by his own experiences in Iraq and by the sufferings of Christians in that country, Sako frequently references the Christian call to heroic witness and martyrdom, something which may well feature in discussions of how the Church best expresses unpopular truths in the modern world.

Before being submitted for consideration by the pope, the synod’s final document will be voted on my members, with a two-thirds majority needed to include an item, and only a simple majority needed to strike an item.

Given the express possibility that Pope Francis may adopt the final text as a magisterial document of his own, the debate amongst delegates over the final wording could prove even more contentious than the last meeting of the synod in 2015. In such a case, figures like Baldesseri, da Rocha, Napier, Gądecki, and Sako could well prove decisive in forging not just a final document, but the support needed to pass its provisions.