10/03/2008, 00.00
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Synod: 253 bishops from around the world but none from China

Sunday the Synod Assembly opens in the sign of the Pauline Year. The Ecumenical Patriarch, and for the first time, a rabbi are expected to address the gathering. Forty-one Synod Fathers are from Asia.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The 12th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops opens this Sunday with a solemn Mass celebrated by Benedict XVI. Dedicated to “The Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church”, it brings together 253 bishops from the Churches of the world, except those from Communist China, Vatican Press Office Head Fr Federico Lombardi said today at a press conference. “It was clear that there would be no agreement [with Beijing] and they [Chinese bishops] won't come,” he said “because the conditions weren’t there.”

There will be however, as delegates directly appointed by Benedict XVI, Card Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, archbishop of Hong Kong, Mgr José Lai Hung-seng, archbishop of Macau as well as a Taiwanese bishop, Mgr Peter Liu Cheng-chung.

The bishops will take part in activities scheduled to last until 26 October “to reflect”, said Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, “on the Word of God, on its central role in the life of the Church and on its dynamism which encourages Christians in mission to announce in words and deeds the Good News and the presence in our midst of the Risen Lord Jesus.”

For the first time the Synod will open in the St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls Basilica, not in the Vatican, because of the ongoing Pauline Year. and this will not be the only reference to the Apostle to the Nations.

In the Synod Hall on 18 October, the Holy Father Benedict XVI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I will preside at first Vespers. Each will then pronounce an address on the subject of the Word of God, with particular reference to the Pauline Year.

This will be the first time the Ecumenical Patriarch addresses the Synod Fathers. “He will bring the greetings of Orthodox Churches that the Apostle to the Nations founded before going to Rome where he suffered martyrdom,” Archbishop Eterovic said.

The Synod will be ecumenically important for fraternal delegates from ten Churches and ecclesial communities will attend.

Representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate will be present along with others from the Patriarchates of Moscow, Serbia and Romania, from the Orthodox Church of Greece and the Armenian Apostolic Church, as well as from the Anglican Communion, the World Lutheran Federation, the Church of the Disciples of Christ and the World Council of Churches.

The Synod Fathers will represent 13 sui iuris Eastern Catholic Churches, 113 Bishops’ conferences, 25 dicasteries of the Roman Curia and the Union of Superiors General.

Of the 253 Synod Fathers 51 are from Africa, 62 from America, 41 from Asia, 90 from Europe and 9 from Oceania. Of these 173 were elected (72.3 per cent), 38 participate ex officio (15 per cent), 32 were appointed by the Pope (12.6 per cent) and 10 were elected by the Union of Superiors General (4 per cent).

Forty-one experts and 37 auditors from 21 and 26 countries respectively will also be in attendance, including six women experts and 19 women auditors, one more than the men.

The Synod Three will also receive three special papal guests. The first one is Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen of Haifa, Israel, who on 6 October will address the assembly on how the Jewish people reads and interprets Sacred Scripture. As such it will be the first time that a rabbi, and a non-Christian, has addressed the Synod Fathers.

The other special guests are Rev A Miller Milloy, secretary general of the United Bible Societies, and Frère Alois, prior of the Taizé Community.

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