Long after the bishops have expressed their diverse views, Pope Benedict XVI will have the last word in an authoritative document of reflections called a post-synodal apostolic exhortation. In the meantime, none of the participants has a better overview of the Vatican gathering, or of the questions it will examine, than Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington.
As the synod’s relator, Cardinal Wuerl has reviewed preliminary suggestions from bishops’ conferences around the world and synthesized them in a speech he will deliver in Latin at the first working session Oct. 8. The cardinal will address the assembly again 10 days later, once more in Latin, to summarize hundreds of speeches by his fellow bishops.
Initiated by Blessed John Paul II and eagerly embraced by his successor, the new evangelization is a project aimed at reviving Catholic faith in increasingly secular societies, especially the wealthiest Western nations.
For Cardinal Wuerl, it is also an opportunity to fulfill the goal for which Blessed John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council: a faithful presentation of Catholic teachings in a way “attractive to a very rapidly changing culture.”
It’s no mere coincidence, the cardinal said, that the synod overlaps with the 50th anniversary of the opening of the council, Oct. 11, which Pope Benedict has designated as the beginning of a special Year of Faith. Like Vatican II, the cardinal said, the synod will emphasize continuity with the church’s ancient traditions.
“There is a continuum of Catholic faith going all the way back to the creed, going all the way back to the apostles,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “That continuum is where we find the articulation of our faith.”
Although Vatican II was faithful to the church’s traditional doctrines, the cardinal said, implementation of the council’s teachings in the 1960s and 1970s coincided with a “current of secularism sweeping the Western world,” especially Europe. [More]