Final Report of 1985
The Church, in the Word of God,Celebrates the Mysteries of Christfor the Salvation of the World
Second Extraordinary Synod
The Final Report of the 1985 Extraordinary Synod
I. Central Theme of this Synod: Celebration, Verification, Promotion of Vatican II
1. Spiritual experience of this Synod
At the conclusion of this second Extraordinary Synod we must first of all give great thanks to the benevolence of God, who deigned to lead the Sovereign Pontiff to convoke this Synod. We are also grateful to the Holy Father John Paul II, who called us to this twentieth anniversary celebration of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council. The Synod has been for us an occasion which has allowed us once again to experience communion in the one Spirit, in the one faith and hope, and in the one Catholic Church, as well as in the unanimous will to translate the Council into the practice and life of the Church. We likewise have participated in one another's joys and hopes, as well as in the sufferings and anguish too often undergone by the Church throughout the world.
2. Attainment of the Synod's aim
The end for which this Synod was convoked was the celebration, verification and promotion of Vatican Council II. With grateful hearts, we feel that we have truly obtained this fruit, with God's assistance. Unanimously we have celebrated the Second Vatican Council as a grace of God and a gift of the Holy Spirit, from which have come forth many spiritual fruits for the universal Church and the particular Churches, as well as for the men of our time. Unanimously and joyfully we also verify that the Council is a legitimate and valid expression and interpretation of the deposit of faith as it is found in Sacred Scripture and in the living tradition of the Church. Therefore we are determined to progress further along the path indicated to us by the Council. There has been full consensus among us regarding the need to further promote the knowledge and application of the Council, both in its letter and in its spirit. In this way new progress will be achieved in the reception of the Council, that is, in its spiritual interiorization and practical application.
3. Lights and shadows in the reception of the Council
The large majority of the faithful received the Second Vatican Council with zeal; a few, here and there, showed resistance to it. There is no doubt, therefore, that the Council was embraced with heartfelt adherence, because the Holy Spirit was prompting his Church to do so. Moreover, even outside the Catholic Church many people paid careful attention to the Second Vatican Council.
Nonetheless, although great fruits have been obtained from the council, we have at the same time recognized, with great sincerity, deficiencies and difficulties in the acceptance of the Council. In truth, there certainly have also been shadows in the post-council period, in part due to an incomplete understanding and application of the Council, in Part to other causes. However, in no way can it be affirmed that everything which took place after the Council was caused by the Council.
In a particular way, the question must be posed as to why, in the so-called First World, following a doctrine of the Church which has been so extensively and profoundly explained, quite often a certain estrangement is manifested towards the Church, even though in this area of the world the fruits of the Council abound Instead, where the Church is oppressed by totalitarian ideologies or where the Church raises her voice against social injustices, she seems to be accepted in a more positive way.
Yet it cannot be denied that even in such places not all the faithful full;; and totally identify with the Church and her primary mission.
4. External and internal causes of the difficulties
In many areas of the world the Church lacks the material means and the personnel for carrying out her mission. To this must be added the fact that not infrequently the Church is forcibly impeded from exercising her mission. In the wealthy nations we see the constant growth of an ideology characterized by pride in technical advances and a certain immanentism that leads to the idolatry of material goods (so-called consumerism) From this can follow a certain blindness to spiritual realities and values. In addition, we cannot deny the existence in society of forces capable of great influence which act with a certain hostile spirit towards the Church. All of these things manifest the work of the prince of this world and of the mystery of iniquity even in our day.
Among the internal causes, there must be noted a partial and selective reading of the Council, as well as a superficial interpretation of its doctrine in one sense or another. On the one hand, there have been disappointments because we have been too hesitant in the application of the true doctrine of the Council. On the other hand, because of a partial reading of the Council, a unilateral presentation of the Church as a purely institutional structure devoid of her Mystery has been made. We are probably not immune from all responsibility for the fact that especially the young critically consider the Church a pure institution. Have we not perhaps favored this opinion in them by speaking too much of the renewal of the Church's external structures and too little of God and of Christ? From time to time there has also been a lack of the discernment of spirits, with the failure to correctly distinguish between a legitimate openness of the Council to the world and the acceptance of a secularize world's mentality and order of values.
5. A deeper reception of the Council
These and other deficiencies show the need for a deeper reception of the Council. And this requires four successive phases: a deeper and more extensive knowledge of the Council, its interior assimilation, its loving reaffirmation and its implementation. Only interior assimilation and practical implementation can make the conciliar documents alive and life-giving.
The theological interpretation of the conciliar doctrine must show attention to all the documents, in themselves and in their close inter-relationship, in such a way that the integral meaning of the Council's affirmations–often very complex–might be understood and expressed. Special attention must be paid to the four major Constitutions of the Council, which contain the interpretative key for the other Decrees and Declarations. It is not licit to separate the pastoral character from the doctrinal vigor of the documents. In the same way, it is not legitimate to separate the spirit and the letter of the Council. Moreover, the Council must be understood in continuity with the great tradition of the Church, and at the same time we must receive light from the Council's own doctrine for today's Church and the men of our time. The Church is one and the same throughout all the councils.
It is suggested that a pastoral program be implemented in the particular Churches for the years to come, having as its objectives a new, more extensive and deeper knowledge and reception of the Council. This can be attained above all through a new diffusion of the documents themselves, through the publication of studies that explain the documents and bring them closer to the understanding of the faithful. The conciliar doctrine must be proposed in a suitable and continued way by means of conferences and courses in the permanent formation of priests and seminarians, in the formation of men and women religious, and also in the catechesis of adults. Diocesan Synods and other ecclesial conferences can be very useful for the application of the Council. The opportune use of the means of social communication (mass media) is recommended. For a correct understanding and implementation of the Council's doctrine, great help will be had from the reading and the practical implementation of what is found in the various Apostolic Exhortations, which are, as it were, the fruit of the Ordinary Synods held in the beginning of 1969.
II Particular Themes of the Synod
The Mystery of the Church
1. Secularism and Signs of Return to the Sacred
The brief twenty-year period that separates us from the conclusion of the Council has brought with it accelerated changes in history. In this sense, the signs of our times do not exactly coincide, in some points, with those of the time of the Council. From among these, special attention must be paid to the Phenomenon of secularism. Without any doubt the Council has affirmed the legitimate autonomy of temporal realities (cf. GS 36 and elsewhere). In this sense, a correctly understood secularization must be admitted. But we are speaking of something totally different from the secularism that consists of an autonomist vision of man and the world, one which leaves aside the dimension of mystery, indeed neglects and denies it. This immanentism is a reduction of the integral Vision of man, a reduction which leads not to his true liberation but to a new idolatry, to the slavery of ideologies, to life in reductive and often oppressive structures of this world.
Despite secularism, signs of a return to the sacred also exist. Today in fact, there are signs of a new hunger and thirst for the transcendent and divine. In order to favor this return to the sacred and to overcome secularism we must open the way to the dimension of the divine or of mystery and offer the preambles of faith to mankind today. Because, as the Council affirms, man is a question to himself and only God can give him the full and ultimate answer (cf. GS 21) Does not the spread of sects perhaps lead us to ask whether we have sometimes failed to sufficiently manifest the sense of the sacred?
2. The Mystery of God through Jesus in the Holy Spirit
The primary mission of the Church, under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, is to preach and to witness to the good and joyful news of the election, the mercy and charity of God which manifest themselves in salvation history, which through Jesus Christ reach their culmination in the fullness of time and which communicate and offer salvation to man by virtue of the Holy Spirit. Christ is the light of humanity! The Church proclaiming the Gospel, must see to it that this light clearly shines out from her countenance (cf. LG) The Church makes herself more credible if she speaks less of herself and ever more preaches Christ Crucified (cf. 1 Cor 22) and witnesses with her own life. In this way the Church is sacrament, that is, sign and instrument of communion with God and also of communion and reconciliation of men with one another. The message of the Church, as described in the Second Vatican Council, is Trinitarian and Christocentric.
Because Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the new Adam he at once manifests the mystery of God and the mystery of man and his exalted vocation (cf. GS 22). The Son of God became man in order to make men children of God. Through this familiarity with God, man is raised to a most high dignity. Therefore, when the Church preaches Christ she announces salvation to mankind.
3. The Mystery of the Church
The whole importance of the Church derives from her connection with Christ. The Council has described the Church in diverse ways: as the people of God, the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit, the family of God. These descriptions of the Church complete one another and must be understood in the light of the Mystery of Christ or of the Church in Christ. We cannot replace a false unilateral vision of the Church as purely hierarchical with a new sociological conception which is also unilateral. Jesus Christ is ever present in his Church and lives in her as risen. From the Church's connection with Christ we clearly understand the eschatological character of the Church herself (cf. LG 7) In this way the pilgrim Church on earth is the messianic people (cf. LG 9) that already anticipates in itself its future reality as a new creation. Yet she remains a holy Church that has sinners in her midst, that must ever be purified, and that moves amidst the persecutions of this world and the consolations of God, towards the future kingdom (cf. LG 8) In this sense there are always present within the Church the mystery of the Cross and the mystery of the resurrection.
4. The universal vocation to holiness
Because the Church in Christ is mystery, she must be considered a sign and instrument of holiness. For this reason the Council proclaimed the vocation of all the faithful to holiness (cf. LG 5). The call to holiness is an invitation to an intimate conversion of heart and to participate in the life of God, One and Triune, and this signifies and surpasses the realization of man's every desire. In our day above all, when so many people feel an interior void and spiritual crisis, the Church must preserve and energetically promote the sense of penance, prayer, adoration, sacrifice, self-giving, charity and justice.
Men and women saints have always been founts and origins of renewal in the most difficult circumstances throughout the Church's history. Today we have tremendous need of saints, for whom we must assiduously Implore God. The Institutes of consecrated life through the profession of the evangelical counsels must be conscious of their special mission in today's Church, and we must encourage them in that mission. The apostolic movements and the new movements of spirituality are the bearers of great hope, if they properly remain in ecclesial communion. All the laity must perform their role in the Church in their daily occupations such as the family, the workplace, secular activities and leisure time so as to permeate and transform the world with the light and life of Christ. Popular devotion, rightly understood and practiced, is very useful in nourishing the holiness of the people. It therefore merits greater attention on the part of pastors.
The Blessed Virgin Mary, who is our mother in the order of grace (cf. LG 61), is an example for all Christians of holiness and of total response to God's call (LG chaps. 8).
Today it is extremely necessary that the Pastors of the Church excel in the witness of holiness. It is necessary already in seminaries and religious houses to give a formation that educates the candidates not only intellectually but also spiritually; they must be seriously introduced to a daily spiritual life (prayer, meditation, the reading of the Bible, the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist) According to what is expressed by the Decree Presbyterorum Ordinis, they should be prepared for the priestly ministry in such a way that they find nourishment for their spiritual life in pastoral activity itself (cf. PO 16) Thus, in the exercise of the ministry they will also be capable of offering the faithful the correct counsel for their spiritual lives. The true renewal of the Institutes of consecrated life must be favoured in every way. But the spirituality of the laity, founded on baptism, must also be promoted. In the first place, it is necessary to promote conjugal spirituality, which is based on the sacrament of marriage and is of great importance for the transmission of the faith to future generations.
Sources of the life for the Church
The Word of God
Scripture, tradition, magisterium
Hearing the word of God with reverence, the Church has the mission of proclaiming it with faith (cf. DV 1) Consequently, the preaching of the Gospel is among the principal duties of the Church, and especially of the bishops, and today it takes on the greatest importance (cf. LG 25) In this context is seen the importance of the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, which has been too neglected, but which Paul VI nonetheless reproposed in a more profound and timely way in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi.For this Constitution, too, it is necessary to avoid a partial reading. In particular, the exegesis of the original meaning of Sacred Scripture most highly recommended by the Council, (cf. DV 12) cannot be separated from the living tradition of the Church (cf. DV 10).The false opposition between doctrinal and pastoral responsibilities must be avoided and overcome. In fact, the true intent of pastoral work consists in actualizing and making concrete the truth of salvation, which is in itself valid for all times. As true pastors, the bishops must point out the right way to the flock, strengthen the faith of the flock, keep dangers away from it.
The mystery of divine life that the Church brings to all peoples to participate in must be proclaimed. The Church is missionary by her very nature (cf. AG 2) Thus the bishops are not only teachers of the faithful but heralds of the faith which leads new disciples to Christ (cf. LG 25) Evangelization is the first duty not only of the bishops but also of priests and deacons, indeed, of all Christians. Everywhere on earth today the transmission to the young of the faith and the moral values deriving from the Gospel is in danger. Often, knowledge of the faith and the acceptance of the moral order are reduced to the minimum. Therefore, a new effort in evangelization and in integral and systematic catechesis is required.Evangelization does not regard only the missions in the common sense of the word, that is, ad Gentes. The evangelization of non-believers in fact presupposes the self-evangelization of the baptized and also in a certain sense, of deacons, priests and bishops. Evangelization takes place through witnesses. The witness gives his testimony not only with words, but also with his life. We must not forget that in Greek the word for testimony is martyrium. In this respect, the more ancient Churches can learn much from the new Churches, from their dynamism, from their life and testimony even unto the shedding of their blood for the faith.
The relationship between the magisterium of the Bishops and theologians
Theology, according to the well-known description of St. Anselm, is faith seeking understanding. Since all Christians must account for the hope that is in them (cf. 1 Pt 3:15), theology is specifically necessary to the life of the Church today. With joy we recognize what has been done by theologians to elaborate the documents of Vatican Council II and to help towards their faithful interpretation and fruitful application in the post-conciliar period. But on the other hand, we regret that the theological discussions of our day have sometimes occasioned confusion among the faithful. Thus, communication and a reciprocal dialogue between the bishops and theologians are necessary for the building up of the faith and its deeper comprehension.
Very many have expressed the desire that a catechism or compendium of all Catholic doctrine regarding both faith and morals be composed, that it might be, as it were, a point of reference for the catechisms or compendiums that are prepared in the various regions. The presentation of doctrine must be biblical and liturgical. It must be sound doctrine suited to the present life of Christians. The formation of candidates to the priesthood must be looked after in a particular way. In it, the philosophical formation and the manner of teaching theology proposed by the Decree Optatam Totius n.16 merit attention. It is recommended that the manuals, besides offering an exposition of sound theology in a scientific and pedagogical manner, be permeated by a true sense of the Church.
The sacred liturgy
1. Internal renewal of the liturgy
The liturgical renewal is the most visible fruit of the whole conciliar effort. Even if there have been some difficulties, it has generally been received joyfully and fruitfully by the faithful. The liturgical renewal cannot be limited to ceremonies, rites, texts, etc. The active participation so happily increased after the Council does not consist only in external activity, but above all in interior and spiritual participation, in living and fruitful participation in the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ (cf. SC 11). It is evident that the liturgy must favour the sense of the sacred and make it shine forth. It must be permeated by the spirit of reverence, adoration and glory of God.
The Bishops should not merely correct abuses but should also clearly explain to everyone the theological foundation of the sacramental discipline and of the liturgy.
Catecheses must once again become paths leading into liturgical life (mystagogical catecheses), as was the case in the Church's beginnings.
Future priests should learn liturgical life in a practical way and know liturgical theology as well.
C. The Church as communion
I. The meaning of communion
The ecclesiology of communion is the central and fundamental idea of the Council's documents. Koinonia/communion, founded on the Sacred Scripture, have been held in great honor in the early Church and in the Oriental Churches to this day. Thus, much was done by the Second Vatican Council so that the Church as communion might be more clearly understood and concretely incorporated into life. What does the complex word communion mean? Fundamentally it is a matter of communion with God through Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit. This communion is had in the Word of God and in the sacraments. Baptism is the door and the foundation of communion in the Church. The Eucharist is the source and the culmination of the whole Christian life (cf. LG 11) The communion of the eucharistic Body of Christ signifies and produces, that is, builds up, the intimate communion of all the faithful in the Body of Christ which is the Church (1 Cor. 10:16).
For this reason, the ecclesiology of communion cannot be reduced to purely organizational questions or to problems which simply relate to powers. Still, the ecclesiology of communion is also the foundation for order in the Church, and especially for a correct relationship between unity and pluriformity in the Church.
2. Unity and pluriformity in the Church
Just as we believe in one God alone and one mediator, Jesus Christ, in one Spirit, so we have but one baptism and one Eucharist with which the unity and the uniqueness of the Church are signified and built up This is of great importance especially today, because the Church, in as much as she is one and unique, is as a sacrament a sign and instrument of unity and of reconciliation, of peace among men, nations, classes and peoples. In the unity of the faith and the sacraments and in the hierarchical unity, especially with the centre of unity given to us by Christ in the service of refer, the Church is that messianic people of which the Constitution Lumen Gentium speaks (n. 9) In this way, ecclesial communion with Peter and his successors IS not an obstacle but the anticipation and prophetic sign of a fuller unity. On the other hand, the one and unique spirit works with many and varied spiritual gifts and charisma (1 Cor. 12:4ff), the one Eucharist is celebrated in various places For this reason, the unique and universal Church is truly present in all the particular Churches (CD 11), and these are formed in the image of the universal Church in such a way that the one and unique Catholic Church exists in and through the particular Churches (LG 23). Here we have the true theological principal of variety and pluriformity in unity but it is necessary to distinguish pluriformity from pure pluralism. When pluriformity is true richness and carries with it fullness, this is true catholicity. The pluralism of fundamentally opposed positions instead leads to dissolution, destruction and the loss of identity.