VATICAN CITY, MAY 21, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The extraordinary consistory of cardinals opened today with a marathon of addresses on the challenges facing the Church.
CNN said the 155 cardinals in attendance made it the largest-ever gathering of its kind. Other cardinals could not attend because of age or illness.
John Paul II attended the morning and afternoon sessions, and addressed the consistory briefly at the beginning.
Nigerian Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, former prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, moderated the first session and went to the heart of the issue at this sixth consistory of John Paul II´s pontificate.
He spoke about the “most suitable ways” to implement the topics discussed in the apostolic letter “Novo Millennio Ineunte,” with which the Pope closed the Jubilee year in January.
The Holy Father spoke next. He said the purpose of the consistory is to focus “on the priority missionary objectives” of the Church and the means to reach them.
The morning addresses began with an evaluation of the Holy Year by its two principal organizers, Basque-French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray and Italian Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, who were on the Vatican Jubilee Committee.
Cardinal Etchegaray noted a number of successes but said the great disappointment of the year was that the Holy Father´s wish for a “pan-Christian” meeting went unfulfilled. The meeting of various Christian churches and confessions never materialized because of the opposition of some churches. The cardinal acknowledged that the quest for Christian unity “puts our hope to a hard test.”
Yet, Cardinal Sepe said, “The Jubilee in Rome, the Holy Land, and the local churches has shown the face of a living and youthful Church. … [S]he is more prepared than ever to face the new challenges of the third millennium.”
The afternoon sessions were opened by Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger. More addresses are planned for Tuesday. On Wednesday the cardinals will divide into working groups, to address the proposals made in the general assembly.