Movement We Are Church (IMWAC) und
European Network Church on the Move (EN)
Press Statement 22 Oktober 1999
The Bishops did not take advantage of the opportunity offered by the Synod
The International Movement We Are Church (IMWAC) und the European Network Church on the Move (EN) express their disappointment with the results and especially the procedures of the Second Special Bishops' Synod for Europe that will come to an end in Rome on 23 October 1999. Nothing published thus far lives up more than marginally to the claim by those in charge that the Roman Catholic Church is the "source of hope for Europe." Thus, the apprehension has proved to be well founded that this bishops' synod would disappoint those who had hoped -- in keeping with the understanding of church in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council -- that the synod was intended to facilitate open dialogue and to provide a significant complementary addition to papal leadership.
Already in the preparatory phase of this synod that had initially been planned as the crowning event to conclude a series of continental synods shortly before the symbolically significant transition into the new millennium, the various church reform groups in Europe deplored the lack of broad involvement of local parishes in the dialogue -- an involvement that had even been demanded by the Vatican -- and called -- without success -- for such dialogue. The bishops only slowly and cautiously reacted to the attempts at dialogue and petitions on the part of lay groups in the various countries. The request to admit one female and one male representative for each country as auditors was simply ignored by the Secretary of the synod, Cardinal Jan Pieter Schotte.
This ultimately led to a bishops' synod "behind closed doors" on a continent in which walls have tumbled and that supports the ideals of liberty. For even when the bishops' statements were published for the media and on the Internet those publications were generally summaries and abbreviated distortions, incomprehensible to the people of God [literally: people of the church].
However, we welcome the fact that -- in contrast to the previous synod in 1991 -- a conflict with the Orthodox churches was avoided during this synod -- surely due to the blessings of the Catholic relief work of Renovabis. On the other hand, rapprochement to the Orthodox Church should not lead to an increased separation from the churches shaped by the Reformation, as projected quite irresponsibly by Cardinal Meisner from Cologne, one of the three synod presidents. The ecumenical and interreligious initiative to further spiritual and moral development in the Balkans proposed by Angelo Massafra, OFM, Archbishop of Skodre, however, is a sign of hope. In this context the absence of Muslim guests or observers at this synod is even more incomprehensible.
Since the issues of faith and the communication of faith addressed during the synod concern not only the pope and the bishops but the entire people of God, the International Movement We Are Church and the European Network Church on the Move conducted a "Forum of European Catholics" at Santa Severa near Rome from 7 to 10 October 1999. The collaboration of 120 delegates from eleven European countries, with support of guests from the Americas, a "Synod of the People of God," that is, a "Shadow Synod," made it clear that the call for a spiritual and structural renewal of the Roman Catholic Church can now also be heard in countries shaped by Latin culture.
The Santa Severa Statement, "Give Hope to Europe!" was delivered to the Vatican and subsequently, to the individual diocesan bishops on 11 October 1999, the 37th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. In this way the International Movement We Are Church und the European Network Church on the Move demonstrate that now as before they are open to dialogue on all levels of our church.
The charge by Dr. Reinhard Marx, Auxiliary Bishop of Paderborn that church reform groups are only concerned with structural issues is vacuous, since the statement issued by the "synod of the People of God" points to the very signs of hope that are so painfully absent from the bishops' synod. Nevertheless, structural issues are highly significant, as can be seen in the longstanding and legitimate criticism of current Roman policies of centralized administration by renowned theologians, bishops, and cardinals.
"Wir sind Kirche"
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