By Kris Dmytrenko

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 19, 2008 ( Participants in the world Synod of Bishops on the Word of God are now focusing their efforts on discussing Cardinal Marc Ouellet's synthesis of the assembly to date, offering both high praise and mild criticism.

The synod's relator-general released Wednesday the "relatio post disceptationem" (report after the discussion), a summary of over 230 five-minute presentations made by synod fathers and fraternal delegates.

The archbishop of Quebec's 40-page address included 19 discussion questions that guide the bishops and auditors within the "circuli minores" (12 language-based small groups). During the week's subsequent small groups and free discussion hours, synod members began answering these questions while also commenting on the report itself.

"It was a very comprehensive and illuminating report," said Cardinal James Francis Stafford, penitentiary major. The former Denver archbishop told ZENIT that he was pleased he could continue discussing it within Anglicus B, the language group for which he was elected moderator.

"It will give us an opportunity to learn more about the cardinal's point of view," he continued. "And they also give us an opportunity to speak about what is lacking."

Specifically, Cardinal Stafford said that he had hoped for reference to "the heart of the Gospel [being] the mercy of God and the forgiveness of sins." He further suggested the synod tackle challenges to "proclaim[ing] the Word of God with deep conviction" in a climate of moral relativism, especially with reference to sexual ethics.


Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, recently elected as a member of the synod's Commission for Information, maintained that the "relatio post disceptationem" contained most of the themes raised by the synod fathers.

"The bishops [...] are responding very positively toward it," commented the Ottawa prelate. "I think Cardinal Ouellet did a masterful job pulling all things together."

Archbishop Prendergast acknowledged that the relator-general excluded some details in his synthesis due to the number and variety of the interventions.

"Some of the bishops, when they looked at it themselves, said, 'Well, exactly the nuance that I had wasn't there, so could you add this and could you add that.'"

He pointed out that, beyond the text itself, Cardinal Ouellet's presentation was also memorable for the human quality of its presentation.

"It was a touching moment," recalled the archbishop. He said Cardinal Ouellet became "very emotional" while discussing the power of the Word of God. "I think that the synod fathers were quite aware that this is something that is very dear to his heart."

The discussion group phase of the synod leads to the final propositions, upon which synod participants will vote before they are given to Benedict XVI. While the Holy Father is later expected to write a post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Archbishop Nikola Eterović says that he has already influenced the proceedings.

In addition to homilies at the opening Eucharistic celebration and the memorial Mass for Pope Pius XII, the Pontiff addressed the synodal assembly with an unscripted speech during the Oct. 14 morning session. The Pope's evaluation of historical-critical exegesis was later reflected in the "relatio post disceptationem."

"He explained how one has to read integrally the holy Scriptures," summarized Archbishop Eterović, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops. "The historical-critical method is necessary, certainly, and one has to integrate this with the spiritual reading of the Bible in the great and living Tradition of the Church.

"This is very important not only for specialists, but for the faithful and all people of goodwill."