May Consistory Aims to Reinforce Communion

So Says Auxiliary Bishop Fisichella of Rome

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ROME, FEB. 28, 2001 ( The May 21-24 extraordinary consistory of cardinals will address critical issues mentioned in the apostolic letter «Novo Millennio Ineunte,» including episcopal collegiality and unity with other Christian churches.

According to Rome´s Auxiliary Bishop Rino Fisichella, until recently a professor of fundamental theology, one of the keys to the consistory is in a phrase used by the Holy Father in the apostolic letter: «Communion must be cultivated and extended day by day and at every level in the structures of each Church´s life» (No. 45).

«Let´s not forget that, in practice, the College of Cardinals is equivalent to the Senate of ancient Rome,» said Bishop Fisichella. «Therefore, through the consistory, the Pope wishes to consult the cardinals, his closest collaborators, because he obviously thinks that there are some topics that must be evaluated and studied together.»

–Q: There are those who say that the consistory is in response to those who are requesting greater «democracy» and collegiality in the Church.

–Bishop Fisichella: The consistory is one of the principal instruments of collegiality, an aspect that has always been kept in mind by this pontificate, reflected in the frequent convocation of synods, including continental ones. However, there is, precisely, a direct answer to this point of view in «Novo Millennio Ineunte.»

–Q: What does it say?

–Bishop Fisichella: In the document the Pope speaks openly of a spirituality of communion that precedes, and is the foundation of, concrete forms of communion, allowing their «cultivation» and «expansion.»

The consistory is precisely in this line. In the first place, it seeks to «cultivate» collegiality in practice, as the bishops´ conferences and synods attest. However, it is also concerned with «expanding» the contribution of the cardinals in order to understand how the action of these structures of communion can be extended.

–Q: In this papal decision, to what degree has the success of the experience preceding 1994 influenced the later writing of the apostolic letter «Tertio Millennio Adveniente,» which served to prepare the Great Jubilee?

–Bishop Fisichella: Certainly, a methodology is again proposed here, which gave good results as regards the Holy Year. Thinking of the Jubilee event, in «Tertio Millennio Adveniente» the Pope was asking the local churches in a certain way to come to Rome.

With «Novo Millennio Ineunte,» John Paul II is asking the local Churches to take up the road again, reinforced by the Jubilee, but also to be capable of promoting the forms of the new evangelization, by responding to the challenges that each one finds in its own territory.

–Q: The main issue is «the study of the prospects of the Church for the third millennium,» as explained by Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls.

–Bishop Fisichella: Yes, because the letter paints a picture in which the local churches are called to offer concrete proposals that flow from the different needs of their territory. However, let´s not forget that there is a common horizon.

Above all, the Pope proposed the topic of holiness, then the hearing of the Word of God and the primacy of grace. He calls for emphasis on the importance of the «Dies Domini,» because Sunday pastoral teaching must be taken up again throughout the Church, [including] the sacrament of reconciliation, vocations and ministries.

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