VATICAN CITY, JUNE 1, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Input from dioceses and religious congregations for the upcoming synod of bishops has been low, a Vatican aide revealed today.
The percentage of responses to the background paper and questionnaire sent out in 1998 was 56.75%, Cardinal Jean Pieter Schotte said at a Vatican press briefing.
The cardinal, who is the synod´s secretary-general, attributed the low rate to the busy Jubilee Year calendar and the fact that the last synod of this type was held seven years ago.
When presenting the synod´s working instrument today, Cardinal Schotte said that it covered “very current topics, such as the relation of bishops with the Petrine ministry, the role and importance of episcopal conferences, and the use of the synod in the government of the Church.” The recent extraordinary consistory of cardinals discussed the same topics.
Above all, the synod, which runs from Sept. 30 until Oct. 27, will study the question “What kind of bishop does the Church need in the third millennium?”
To help find an answer, the synod´s secretariat distributed a background paper and questionnaire in 1998 to get input from around the world. Responses from dioceses, bishops´ conferences and religious congregations led to the working document.
The document´s title captures its central topic: “The Bishop, Server of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World.”
“The binomial ´bishop-hope´ is the theme that unites all the chapters of the document,” Cardinal Schotte said.
The first chapter is entitled “A Ministry of Hope.” The document ends with a chapter on “Service of the Gospel for the Hope of the World.”
The cardinal revealed that the second chapter, “Mystery, Ministry and Spiritual Path of the Bishop,” was not included in the 1998 paper. It was added after many of the responses underlined the spiritual path of the bishop as the most important point for the synod to discuss.
The third chapter refers to the episcopate as “ministry of communion and mission of the universal Church.” The fourth, “The Bishop at the Service of His Church,” describes the qualities of the bishop of the third millennium. At 40 pages it is the longest, and most complex, chapter.
Some 240 bishops are expected at the synod. To date, 66 of 112 episcopal conferences have decided on their delegates. The conferences will likely send a total of 161 bishops to the synod.
In keeping with the norm, there will be six patriarchs, two Eastern-rite major archbishops, three Eastern-rite metropolitan archbishops, 10 members of the International Union of Superiors General, and 27 heads of Roman Curia organizations.
Cardinal Schotte noted that 14 heads of Vatican dicasteries — more than half — have changed since the last ordinary synod in 1994. “It cannot be said that the Curia is very static,” he joked.
Also on hand at the synod will be auditors, observers, experts, and delegates from other Christian churches.
John Paul II has named three presidents delegate for the synod: Cardinals Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops; Ivan Dias, archbishop of Bombay; and Bernard Agre, archbishop of Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Cardinal Edward Michael Egan, archbishop of New York, will be the general relator. All these were made cardinals in February.
The synod´s special secretary will be Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Oria, Italy.