Synod looks for signs of hope
The return of Archbishop George Pell from the Synod of Bishops was accompanied by the news that he had been appointed to the post-synod council drafting the Pope’s apostolic message. He spoke to Chris Hook about the Rome synod meeting.
A number of bishops “are looking for signs of hope rather than signs of the times”, the Archbishop of Sydney, Archbishop George Pell, said of the recently concluded Synod of Bishops in Rome.
This was because “there are a number of signs, especially after September 11, of grim things which lie ahead,” he said.
Archbishop Pell is one of three prelates from Oceania elected to the 12-member post-synod council charged with the task of drafting the apostolic exhortation (message) based on the 67 propositions arising from the synod.
He said propositions emanating from the synod were an endorsement and continuation of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.
Many of the propositions concern the role and duties of the bishop but Archbishop Pell said that hope was also a theme, as was a Western trend to religion without rules.
“I think you could say that a number of bishops are looking for signs of hope rather than signs of the times as there are a number of signs, especially after September 11, of grim things which lie ahead,” he said.
“I think the overwhelming priority was to see the bishops being concerned to preach Jesus Christ.
“You might say, ‘well that’s what bishops are for’, but there were a number of really interesting things said there about how in the Western world we want religion without rules, which some people call spirituality.
“I think you might see the synod as a basic endorsement of the direction of the Second Vatican Council with its emphasis on the papacy and collegiality and the leadership of the bishops with and under Peter.
“Undoubtedly, there will be continuing development in the way the synod itself works, and there will be continuing development and dialogue about the inter-relationship between the Roman Curia and the bishops’ conferences, and also the working of bishops’ conferences and regional conferences.
“These things have been in steady, slow and continual change since the Second Vatican Council and that will certainly continue,” said Archbishop Pell.
Some bishops had called for the principle of subsidiarity to be applied to Church governance, but Archbishop Pell said the Roman Curia had changed since Vatican II.
Previously most members of the Curia were Italian and devoted their whole lives to the Curia’s work, but many now came from a variety of backgrounds and had substantial pastoral experience before taking a role in Rome.
Bishops often deferred controversial issues to Rome of necessity, he said, but sometimes there was a temptation to send hard questions to Rome to avoid local derision.
“So there are two sides to this question, and Rome would be only too happy in many cases to see (difficult decisions) dealt with locally rather than taking up time.”
There had also been a substantial increase in the number of church bodies since Vatican II, he said.
“When I was in Melbourne (Dr Pell was Archbishop of Melbourne before he moved to Sydney), there were more people employed in the Melbourne education office than in the Roman Curia,” Archbishop Pell said.
He said the post-synod council would sit until the next synod in about three years. Three meetings had been scheduled for next year and the exhortation would probably take 12 to 18 months to complete.