EXCERPTS FROM THE BISHOP’S MESSAGE AT THE OPENING OF THE PLENARY SESSION OF THE SECOND SYNOD OF LUCENA
Most Rev. Emilio Z. Marquez, D.D.Bishop of LucenaMother of Good Counsel Chapel7 June 2004
This gathering is indeed crucial and of great significance to us since through it we are able to show the unity of our local Church. We have convoked this synod in order to have greater unity in the diocese, as well as for the collective study of matters that are related to our faith.
It is by means of this that the members of the local Church are united—the bishop, the clergy, the religious sisters, and the laity. Hence, I am filled with gratitude to all of you. I have witnessed how many of you collaborated and spent sleepless nights in preparing the InstrumentumLaboris or working papers.
On the one hand, the time allotted for this preparatory period was rather short. But I held on to the thought that this was already convoked in 1999, almost five years ago, although it never came to be realized. You can recall that Pope John XXIII first convoked the Second Vatican Council on January 25, 1959 at the Basilica of St. Paul. Unfortunately, the Holy Father died. Nevertheless, Pope Paul VI wanted to realize what the departed Holy Father had desired. Hence, the Second Vatican Council was accomplished. My line of thinking resembles this. Since this synod was already convoked, all that is left for me to do id to continue what has been started.
The First Synod of Lucena was held at the Fresh Air Hotel on April 24-27, 1979. It has only 162 delegates, while the number of parishes in the diocese then was 46. They held the first synod successfully. But Msgr. Oscar Leaño mentioned the circumstances that compelled us to pursue the holding of the second synod. First, the light that guided the first synod was the Code of Canon Law of 1917. The Code of Canon Law was revised in 1983. Afterwards, the First Plenary Council of the Philippines was held in 1950-1951.
Back then, only bishops composed the Second Vatican Council. In like manner, only bishops were summoned to the First Plenary Council of the Philippines. They held it at the Church of St. Augustine. But we have witnessed a great change. At the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, the laity were summoned. They participated in the discussions and prayers. It is important that the laity accompany us in this undertaking since it is you who truly make the Church alive. I originally thought of calling only the priests to the synod, but I promptly dismissed that idea since it is also necessary to consult the laity. And as we observed in the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, there were fewer priests—only about 100—while the laypeople numbered around 300. A similar thing is taking place in our midst. There are only few priests. The majority consists of the laity.
Another reason why we should gather again for the Synod II is the fact that we have reached this far. Our diocese has grown. In 1985, the Diocese of Gumaca was formed. Today we are increasing and the number of priests continues to increase—they are almost as many as those in the early years. Our faith-life has matured. The laypeople have become enthusiastic. And the priests were united in ensuring the realization of this synod. I witnessed that the priests were so earnest in accomplishing this. And in fact, we set the Synod II last April to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the First Synod. But the priests asked for more time for the preparatory period since the time for preparation was too short. I acceded to that suggestion because I saw the wisdom of their recommendation. Hence we decided to have two additional months for the preparatory phase. I also saw the diligence of and cooperation between the clergy and the laity. They really tried to make the InstrumentumLaboris or working papers of our synod.
This is truly of great importance to us. The objectives of a synod were mentioned here but for me, we ought to bear in mind that the unity mentioned by Ricardo Cardinal Vidal yesterday is the first thing that we have to achieve in the entire diocese. We also need to focus on what we often say that our Church must become the Church of the Poor. Likewise we have to bear in mind that our Church is truly ready to respond to the changes that we see in our midst.
Our present gathering is wonderful for the reason that what I had in mind was to hold our discussions at the Sentro Pastoral Auditorium. But the members of the steering committee resolved that we hold our discussions here, at the Mother of Good Counsel Chapel. You may recall that the Second Vatican Council was held at the Basilica of St. Peter. This turn of events is therefore significant.
For me, as bishop, the voice of the clergy as well as of the laity counts because I must not keep to myself the matters that pertain to the governance of our diocese. It is necessary that I have assistance. The priests are needed because once they refuse to help the bishop, the diocese will to achieve anything. Should the laity refuse to support the priests and the bishop, a parish can also achieve nothing. We need your sound counsels for the good of our diocese.
Similarly, we expect your presence at all our sessions because in the voting for the acts and decrees, our votes need to be counted carefully. I remember that at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), whenever 2/3 majority is needed, all must be seen clearly, with hands raised, so that they can be duly recognized. This also means that you as delegatesare being recognized since you will express your mind on the provisions that we will discuss.
Dearly beloved, I think this is the sum of our synod. You are important to us. You have a significant role that you should play in order to ensure the welfare of the diocese.
Lastly, we have to remember that we are here not for ourselves. We are here for the Church. We are thinking of the good of the Church, not our personal good, but the good of all. And in these, we need the inspiration and light of the Holy Spirit since in our prayer we utter, “If God is not with us as we build our home, our human efforts will be in vain.” We need God to be with us because we are only collaborating with Jesus Christ in the continuation of his work for the salvation of those under our care.
Thank you very much!