The 15th General Congregation of the Synod of Bishops took place in the Vatican on Wednesday morning, marking the last session of speeches before the bishops gather in small language groups to start discussing propositions for the final synod document. Our special correspondent Philippa Hitchen was following the morning’s events.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, gave his second major speech to the bishops gathered from all corners of the globe to discuss ways of revitalising the faith and bringing people back to the Church.
The ‘Presentation after the Discussion’ as it’s officially called is given in Latin and draws together the many themes that have emerged from the first week and a half of speeches by bishops, religious and lay experts, plus representatives of other Christian Churches and communities. Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Russian Orthodox Department for external Church relations, was among six so called ‘fraternal delegates’ who addressed the synod on Tuesday, sharing experiences of evangelisation from their Orthodox, Baptist, Methodist and Anglican traditions.
Alongside the themes of inculturation, formation of the laity, the family, interfaith challenges or the witness of the martyrs, the urgency of ecumenism has been a constant refrain from bishops in different parts of the world. From the practical examples of the Focolare, St Egidio or Taize communities where young people gather to pray together, to the many countries where Christians of all denominations cooperate to promote charity, justice and peace, many speakers have underlined the ecumenical imperative for new evangelisation.
Half a century on from the Second Vatican Council, which so profoundly affected the Catholic Church’s relations with people of other Christian traditions, these ‘Siamese twins’ of ecumenism and evangelisation must remain a priority as we seek to be credible witnesses of Christ to the world. That’s the view of the Vatican’s top ecumenical spokesman, Cardinal Kurt Koch who heads of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.