Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Synod of Bishops: a delegation to Syria and a thought on small communities

At the beginning of this morning's session of the Synod of Bishops, an announcement was made of a delegation from the Synod to visit Damascus, Syria. I have italicised part of the text below because I think it expresses the collegial character of this action on the part of the Synod and the Holy See. This delegation represents a quite dramatic intervention of the Synod Fathers.
Most Holy Father,
Most Eminent and Most Excellent Synodal Fathers,
Dear brothers and sisters,
We cannot be mere spectators of a tragedy like the one that is unfolding in Syria: some of the interventions we have heard in the hall bear witness to this.
Certain that the solution to the crisis cannot be but political and thinking of the immense suffering of the population, the fate of the evacuees as well as the future of that nation, some of us suggested that our synodal assembly might express its solidarity.
The Holy Father has thus arranged for a delegation to make its way in the next few days to Damascus with the aim of expressing, in his name and in all our names:
our fraternal solidarity to the whole population, with a personal offering from the Synodal Fathers as well as from the Holy See;
our spiritual closeness to our Christian brothers and sisters;
our encouragement to all those who are involved in the search for an agreement that respects the rights and duties of all with particular attention to what is demanded by humanitarian law.

The delegation will be made up of:

Synodal Fathers:
- His Em. Card. Laurent Mosengwo Pasinya, Archbishop of Kinshasa;
- His Em. Card. Jean-Louis Tauran, President of Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue;
- His Em. Card. Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York;
- His Exc. Mons. Fabio Suescun Mutis, Military Ordinary of Colombia;
- His Exc. Mons. Joseph Nguyen Nang, Bishop of Phat Diem;

In addition to the Synodal Fathers quoted above, the following persons are part of the delegation:
- His Exc. Mons. Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State;
- Mons. Alberto Ortega, Official of the Secretariat of State.

It is expected that once the necessary formalities have been carried out with the Apostolic Nuncio and the local authorities, the Delegation will make its way to Damascus next week. In the meantime time we pray that reason and compassion might prevail. 
More than once in the last couple of days, interventions in the Synod hall have referred to the part that might be played in the new evangelisation by "small communities" in parishes. The "small communities" being referred to have been explicitly distinguished from those associated with new ecclesial movements and explicitly identified as having a relation to a parish community.

The summary of the intervention of the Archbishop of Dublin, for example, states:
The culture of individualism can be counteracted by the creation of a variety of new ecclesial communities, not just those of the ecclesial movements, but around our parishes, which will be the building blocks of the Eucharistic communities of the future.
And the summary of the intervention of the Anglican Bishop of Sheffield , one of the fraternal delegates, included the suggestion:
Third, I would encourage the Synod to reflect further on the formation of new ecclesial communities for the transmission of the faith to those who are no longer part of any church. For the last ten years, the Church of England has actively encouraged a new movement of mission aimed at beginning fresh expressions of the church, as a natural part of the ministry of parishes or groups of parishes or dioceses.
Such "small communities" within parishes are quite different in character if one considers a parish that is large in geographical area and in the developing rather than the developed world.  But it will be interesting to see whether or not the Synod will take up this idea.

My own immediate thought is to suggest that the problem faced by such "small communities" is that they will become an imposed structure rather than a response to a genuinely given charism, and that leadership in these communities will lack the appropriate intellectual and spiritual/ecclesial formation to effectively undertake the new evangelisation. Both aspects of this would be overcome within the framework of the charism and formation provided by an ecclesial movement.

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