How Should Pope, Bishops and Episcopal Conference Relate?

Synod Addresses Topic of Collegiality

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 2, 2001 ( What is the role of episcopal conferences? Can the synod have a life of its own, independent of the Pope? And what is the relation between the local Churches and the Roman Curia?

These are among the questions addressed during the first two days of the sessions of the Synod of Bishops.

On Monday afternoon and then this morning, three bishops gave answers to these questions to an audience of 247 Synod Fathers.

The importance of the synod

Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Moscow said, "Time reveals that the train of the world community might go by without the participation of the Church, if the joint action of the bishops and works of the synod are not intensified."

The apostolic administrator of Northern European Russia of the Latins requested the renewal of the synodal methodology.

"It is necessary to limit the personal interventions of the participants in the auditorium debate, [and to] extend the time of study of the working groups," Archbishop Kondrusiewicz said.

Likewise, he suggested that the bishops "learn from the experience of the synods of the Eastern Churches, which make concrete decisions, with greater cooperation and confidence between the local Churches and the Roman Curia, as well as increasing the competence of the episcopal conferences, in agreement with the Vatican dicasteries and Peter's ministry."

More collegiality

The topic of collegiality was addressed today by Archbishop Ruiz Navas of Portoviejo, president of the Ecuadorean bishops' conference.

He stressed that "episcopal collegiality is the most authentic form to administer the episcopal ministry, with the condition that it is always with Peter's Successor."

"Significant steps have been taken in this connection with the internationalization of the College of Cardinals, the Roman Curia, the creation of the episcopal conferences, and of the Latin American bishops' council (CELAM) itself," Archbishop Ruiz Navas added. "However, there are also difficulties."

He explained that, although the power of episcopal conferences is reduced in the doctrinal field, they should be given greater weight, in response to the initiative launched by the Pope in "Novo Millennio Ineunte," the programmatic letter which called for more room for collegiality.

We must "always be next to Peter's ministry and in relation with Peter," the Ecuadorean archbishop said. "However, much remains to be done. Efforts are being made to change the interpretation made of the episcopal conferences and their power, without by so doing denying or minimizing communion."

For example, in connection with the synod, Archbishop Ruiz Navas requested that the appointment of officers of the episcopal conferences should not require further ratification by the Holy Father.

The archbishop also requested that the assembly publish a final document with the conclusions, and not just a simple message, as is generally the case. The postsynodal exhortation, in fact, is written by the Pope.

Recovering episcopal authority

Cardinal Joachim Meisner, archbishop of Cologne, holds the opposite point of view.

Addressing the assembly, he said: "The crisis of faith in the Church is an expression of a wider crisis in culture, and also the consequence of a sort of self-secularization, which is the responsibility of members and bodies of the Church including, for example, those who exercise the episcopal ministry.

"Not a few bishops, in fact, fail to realize the seriousness of the situation. Others see the tendencies of separation in the faith as fruitful tensions that could lead in the future to a new synthesis, and they see their ministry as that of a moderator among various opposing positions."

The German cardinal continued: "This understanding of the episcopal ministry is so widespread that the episcopate suffers from a loss of authority, which comes from the outside and which, involuntarily, favors renunciation of authority from within.

"Consequently, the pastoral ministry of the bishop is minimized, reduced to human concern for the faithful, polite understanding and recognition of charisma present among the faithful. This leads to misunderstanding of the essence of the ministry, which implies clear and unequivocal duties to govern, including the element of jurisdiction."

Highlighting the urgency of the situation, Cardinal Meisner stressed the need for "strong and authoritative witness from bishops."

"The bishop," he insisted, "is not a pious private believer, he is a public witness. He must face the problems of the day from the Church's point of view, not only to save himself, but also to defend the faith, correct errors, and deepen knowledge of the truth. He cannot ignore the effective situation of the faith in society, he must render witness to the faith, also taking into consideration the risks and dangers."

Stressing the importance of the issues, and the original role of the bishop in his diocese, who neither historically nor canonically is subject to the episcopal conferences but only to communion with the Pope, Cardinal Meisner said that the "'potesta' of the bishop, who must be a 'witness to the faith,' lies not in preaching."

"He must make doctrinal judgments, which come first of all from the 'potesta' to govern and call for regulation, rectification and judgment concerning the doctrine of the faith," the cardinal said. "'Potesta testandi' reaches its fullness in 'potestas iudicandi.'

"This means that bishops are called not only to witness to the faith, to nourish it and care for it; they must also judge it, discipline it, and impose it in its correct form. This they must do not autonomously or independently, but in unity with the universal jurisdiction of the Supreme Pontiff."

Lastly, Cardinal Meisner said that in "this light, in the discussion on the faith, the bishop must be able to judge, in the ambit of his diocese and in keeping with the universal teaching of the faith, what is true and what is not. On the basis of this ability of judgment operated by the Spirit, the bishop may offer his Church a service of judicial enlightenment regarding the faith. Hence the statement: 'Where there is the bishop, there too is the Church.'"

Cardinal Meisner's address this morning was the only one that elicited applause from much of the assembly.

Zenit - The World Seen From Rome
2. oktober 2001

av Webmaster publisert 03.10.2001, sist endret 03.10.2001 - 10:07