“I do not pray for them (disciples) alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their word, that all may be one as you, Father, are in me, and I in you; I pray that they may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” (Jn. 17/20-21)
You’re Excellencies. . . .
We are the assembled today with the comforting feeling that the Spirit of the Lord is with us not only because He promised that wherever two or three are gathered in his name He shall be there in their midst, but also because in his desire to keep us in one fold under one shepherd as sign of the triune Unity, he prayed and continues to pray to the Father for our unity and our perseverance in the unity. We are met as a local Church, one among the many local churches composing the one, universal Church which is a sacrament of salvation for all men, and a sign of our unity with God and among ourselves who were renewed in Christ. We are met with the consciousness that we all are members of the One Body of Christ, each with own respective role to play in this building up of the Body of Christ, and each with his own corresponding responsibility in the discharge of his respective role.
In this context the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Vatican II clearly declares: “Christ the Lord, high priest taken from among men (Heb. 5/1-5) made the new people a kingdom of priests to God, his Father (Apoc. 1/6; 6:9-10). The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, that through all the works of Christian men they may offer spiritual sacrifices and proclaim the perfection of him who has called them out of darkness into his marvelous light. (cf. I Pet. 2:4-10) Though they differ essentially and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are none in the one priesthood of Christ. The ministerial priesthood are none the less ordered one to another; each in its proper way shares in the one priesthood of Christ. The ministerial priest, by the sacred power that he has, forms the rules and priestly people; in the person of Christ he effects the Eucharistic Sacrifices and offers it to God in the name of all the people. The faithful indeed, by virtue of their royal priesthood, participate in the offering of the Eucharist. They exercise that priesthood, too, by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, abnegation and active charity. (LG, 10)
St. Paul in his profound and yet down to earth illustration proclaims this same doctrine this way: “The body is one and has many members, but all members, many though they are, are one body; and so it is with Christ. It was in one Spirit that all of us, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, were baptized into one body. All of us have been given to drink of the one Spirit. Now the body is not one member, it is many. If the foot should say, because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body, would it then no longer belong to the body? As it is, God has set each member of the body in the place the wanted it to be. If all the members were alike, where would the body be? There are, indeed, many different members, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand. I do not need you, anymore that the head can say to the feet, “I do not need you’ even those members of the body which seem less important are in fact indispensable.” (I Cor. 12/12-22)
The following words of St. Paul appear to be addressed more to us than to the early Christians in Corinth of the Paulinian era: “You, then, are the body of Christ. Every one of you is a member of it. Furthermore, God has set up in the Church first apostles, second prophets, third teacher, then miracle workers, healers, assistants, administrators and those who speak in tongues,. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teacher? Do all work miracles, or have the gift of healing? Do all speak in tongues, all have the gift of interpretation of tongues?” (I Cor. 12/27-30)
We meet today, 14 years after the end of Vatican II where the bishops of the world together with the bishop of Rome and successor of St. Peter under the guidance of the Holy Spirit proclaimed to the Church and to the world a new consciousness of the divine mystery of the Church and her human mission in the world. That ecumenical Synod of the Church clearly and loudly proclaimed a new dimension in the relationship that should prevail among those who compose the one Body of Christ, the dialogal consultation harnessing the charisms and gifts that come from God for the edification of the Church. The role of the whole Hierarchy, that of priests and those consecrated to the evangelical counsels as well as those of the laity were unhesitatingly proclaimed with an invitation to all to take his proper role in this common task of building Christ’s body on earth. The complexity of the pastoral problems of our times, the rapid changes in the ethical and moral attitudes and values of people not excluding Christians, the unceasing pressures caused by economic and cultural adaptations with scarce regard for moral religious values, all contribute to convince us that indeed this new consciousness of the Church and of her collegial responsibility is where the Spirit really has been guiding us.
I rejoice most sincerely this new consciousness in the Church, particularly in this dialogal approach to our apostolic collaboration. The best light that a bishop may have could be inadequate for an efficient and wise pastoral leadership on the one hand, and untapped on the other hand if this dialogal collaboration were not adopted.
Holy Scripture, the constant teaching of the Church’s Magisterium and the constant practice of the Church leave no doubt of course with regards to the exclusive right and duty of the bishops to shepherd his diocesan flock. Lumen Gentium, (No. 27) of Vatican II says: “The bishops as vicars and legates of Christ, govern the particular churches assign to them by their counsels, exhortation and example, but over and above the also by the authority and sacred power which indeed they exercise exclusively for the spiritual development of their flock in truth and in holiness, keeping in mind that he who is greater should become as the lesser, and he who is the leader as servant. This power, which they exercise personally in exercise is ultimately controlled by the supreme authority of the Church and can be confined within certain limits should the usefulness of the Church and the faithful require that. In virtue of this power bishops have a sacred right and duty before the Lord of legislating for and of passing judgment on their subject, as well as of regulating everything that concerns the good order of divine worship and of the apostolate. “This declaration needs no further elaboration except to point out that this exclude doing and procuring everything possible to govern wisely, efficiently and pastorally using precisely God’s wise distribution of his charisms and gifts among the clergy, the religions and the laity.
This collaboration among the clergy, the religious and the laity both in the planning and actual apostolate has been our consistent policy and practice from the beginning of our assumption of office. However, I had always looked forward to the celebration of a diocesan undertaking like this Synod to put flesh into this spirit of ecclesial collaboration in accordance with conciliar and papal teaching and guidelines. For the bishops of the world manifested their wish during Vatican II to revive synod and other councils when they said: “This sacred ecumenical Synod expresses it earnest hope that these venerable institutions – synods and councils – may flourish with renewed vigor so that the growth of religion and the maintenance of discipline in the various churches may increasingly be more effectively provided for in accordance with the needs of times.” (CD, no. 36)
Similarly, Pope John Paul II in his first Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis issued last March 4, 1979, (no. 5) says: “Referring also to the centuries old tradition of the Church, attention should be directed to the activity of the various diocesan, provincial and national Synods. It was the Council’s idea, an idea consistently put into practice by Paul VI, that structures of this kind, (synods) with their centuries of trial by the Church, and the other forms of collegial collaboration by bishops, such as the metropolitan structure – not to mention each individual diocese – should pulsate in full awareness of their own identity, and at the same time, of their own originality within the university of the Church. . . . That spirit has extended also to the laity, not only strengthening the already existing organizations for lay apostolate but also creating new ones that often have a different outline and excellent dynamism. Further-more, lay people conscious of their responsibility for the Church have willingly committed themselves to collaborating with the Pastors and with the representatives of the Institute of consecrated life, in the spheres of the Diocesan Synods and of the Pastoral Councils in the parishes and dioceses.”
The proposed Code of Canon Law urges the celebration of diocesan synods every ten years and admonishes that if just reasons suggest postponing its celebration in every diocese, this should not exceed twenty years. It is with sincere joy that we are holding this synod in accordance with the spirit generated at Vatican II and incorporated in the proposed Code of Canon Law. A little over two years ago, I had the joy of working with our clergy, religious and al committees have responded with significant responsibility by studying the drafts we sent to them and for more than one year this study went on among the 46 parishes of this diocese. These took the form and idea of parish workshops and their recommendations were reexamined by the diocesan commission and according to a rigid process of evaluation corresponding recommendations and proposals had been prepared for the final deliberation in our assemblies during these grace-filled days. It is my fervent hope that using the light taken from the Council documents and the implementing documents emanating from the Holy See and guided by the evaluation made of the feed-backs coming from the parishes, our discussions conducted in prayerful sharing will result in precious proposal and synodal recommendations that will be the basis of our Pastoral Plan for the next ten years or until our next Synod.
The lay members of this Synod whose presence we joyfully welcome into this first Synod of our diocese will be initiated something which is the past they did not enjoy. The diocesan Structures and Bodies needed for the administration of a diocese, the Presbyteral Community of clerics starting with vocation into the priesthood, their flowering and culmination into ordination to the priesthood, its role in the mission of the Church, the multifarious relationship with the emerging from the work of the priests including its relationship with the bishops, among themselves and with the religious and the laity, all these were off-limits until lately to the discussion, much less decision of religious and laity. These are part of our synodal discussions. I am quite sure that the chapter dealing on the role of the religious and the laity in the diocese are no longer unfamiliar subjects for our laity. I expect sustained interest in this.
I expect greater light and much wisdom will come from this Synod in the examination of the three dimensions of the apostolate deriving from our share in the priesthood of Christ which is he mission of the Church, the threefold office of the Prophet, Priest and King. Much light has been shed since the Vatican II on this three areas of the apostolate but I wish to focus attention on what our present Holy Father, John Paul II, recently wrote about this in his letter to the priests of the world dated 9th of this present month and year (Apr. 1979). He wrote: “The mission of the People of God is carried out through the sharing in the office and mission of Jesus mission and office of Prophet, Priest and King. If we analyze carefully the conciliar texts, it is obvious that one should speak of triple dimension of Christ’s service and mission, rather than of three different functions. In fact, these function are closely linked to one another. Consequently it is from this threefold unity that our sharing in Christ’s mission and office takes its origin.” (Op. cit. no. 3) True enough, what we are trying to attain is to form Christians whose enlightened faith prompts their worship (lex credenda, lex suplicandi) and motivates them to serve God, (homo credens, homo serviens), in fine Christians who worship and serve God and love one another because of their living faith. This is the kind of Christians we want to form our diocesan community as we approach the end of this century. These are the Christians we want to shop to and convince the world that there is no other way of rebuilding a fragmented world except on the foundation of truth, justice and love. It is the brotherly loved inspired by a living faith in one God who is the father of all men that can reestablish the community of men and of nation. Finally, we certainly believe that this Synod with the help of Holy Spirit and our openness to his guidance will be a big help in our effort to formulate a pastoral plan which will build a fervently united Christian community in our diocese. But we should beware of the temptation to think that because we have had our Synod everything will go well. The post-synodal challenge will be the real test of how successful and fruitful this Synod will be. We must ask our Lord to obtain for all of us the firm determination to follow through our synodal resolutions. In this resolve we look to the future with hope and optimism. As we approach the end of second millennium and Church radiant with living faith and interiorly energized in love of God and of one another.