At the Mass in St Peter’s Basilica that concluded the assembly, Benedict XVI reminded the 253 bishops and cardinals in attendance of the urgency of evangelisation.
“In this Pauline Year, as I make my own the words of the Apostle, “Woe is to me, if I don't preach the gospel!” (Cor, 9:16), I wholeheartedly hope that in each community people will experience with greater conviction St Paul’s yearning as a vocation in the service of the Gospel for the world. At the start of the Synod I mentioned Jesus’ appeal that “the harvest is abundant” (Mt, 9:37), something we should never tire to respond to despite difficulties we may encounter.”
The Pontiff stressed that “so many people are searching, sometimes unbeknownst to them, to encounter Christ and his Gospel. So many people need to find in Him the meaning of life. Giving a clear and shared witness of a life experienced according to the Word of God, attested by Jesus, thus becomes an indispensable basis to check the mission of the Church.”
The Synod prepared 55 suggestions (propositions) which the Pontiff will use to write an apostolic exhortation, a conclusive document. They recognise that the Church needs to work harder to know the Bible, make it more familiar to the laity and clergy, understand it as basis to inculturate the evangelical message in the world’ s cultures, take care of liturgy and homily, etc.
The Pope said evangelisation needs greater commitment to the Bible. “A primary task of the Church at the start of this new millennium is first and foremost to be nurtured by the Word of God, to commit to the new evangelisation work.”
Among the dangers on which he sheds some light there is the “arbitrariness” with which the Bible is used, the ways it is interpreted outside of the understanding of the Church, subordinating it to ideologies and not the truth.
“Often meeting the Scriptures is not a ‘fact’ of the Church,” he said, “but when it is subject to subjectivism and arbitrariness, it needs a strong and credible pastoral promotion of the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures in order to announce, celebrate and live the Word in the Christian community, in dialogue with other cultures of our time, putting oneself in the service of the truth and not current ideologies and increasing the dialogue that God wants to have with all men (cf ibid., 21).”
A final point was made with regard to the liturgy, the venue where the Word of God resonates, which builds the Church . . . . In it the Bible appears as the book of a people for a people; a legacy, a testament for readers, so that through their life the story of salvation witnessed by the text can be implemented. Still there is vital relationship of mutual affiliation between people and book. The Bible remains a living book for the people who read it. The people cannot exist without the book, because it finds in it its raison d’être, vocation and identity.”
In concluding his homily, Benedict XVI entrusted “the fruits of this Synodal Assembly” to Mary. He also entrusted to her two important upcoming events, namely the 2nd Special Assembly of the Synod for Africa, which will take place in October of next year, and his trip next March to Cameroon and Angola. In Cameroon he will hand over the Instrumentum Laboris to African Bishops’ Conferences, and in Angola he will celebrate the 500th anniversary of evangelisation in that country.
Last but not least the Holt Father could not avoid mentioning China’s bishops, unable to come to Rome because of a ban by China’s Patriotic Association (PA).
According to our information the Pope had invited four mainland bishops but the PA, whose is also tasked with creating a national Church separate from Rome, set as a condition the presence among the four of Ma Ying Lin, patriotic bishop of Kunming, ordained in 2006 without the approval of the Holy See and in a situation of latae sententiae excommunication. The Vatican Press Office had originally said the absence of Chinese bishops was due to the fact that no deal was worked out with Chinese authorities.
Thus in greeting the attending bishops, Benedict XVI said: “A special thought goes to the bishops of mainland China who were not represented at the Synodal Assembly. I wish to act as their interpreter and thank God for their love for Christ, their communion with the Universal Church and their faithfulness to the Successor of the Apostle Peter. They are present in our prayers, together with all the faithful in their pastoral care. We call upon ‘the chief Shepherd’ (1 Pt, 5:4) to give them joy, strength and apostolic zeal to lead with wisdom and foresight the Catholic community in China, so dear to all.”