Card. Bergoglio Gives his Reading of Synod of Bishops
Sept 12, 2004
The 250 participants in the Rome synod on the role of a bishop have been told they may not discuss a revision of the synod procedures. The need for such a reform had been raised powerfully by Cardinal Godfried Danneels and several other bishops, but last week the Argentinian Archbishop of Buenos Aires enforced what appeared to be the Vatican line.
(The Tablet, 20 October 2001) The Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio SJ, the relator or rapporteur charged with making the relatio post disceptationem (the report winding up the separate eight-minute speeches by bishops in the synod hall), said ”an in-depth discussion on this theme exceeds the specific limits of this synod.” He suggested that the issue should “perhaps be tackled elsewhere and with adequate preparation.”
Criticism of the synod – which the Pope has called “a valid and efficient instrument of collegiality” has intensified over the past few years. However, the permanent body’s secretary general, Cardinal Jan Schotte, has continued to defend present methods, claiming that no one has offered any viable alternatives. The relatio, in turn, defends the secretary general. “We can say that there exists a general consensus on the validity of this institution”, asserts Bergoglio’s report.
The Jesuit Archbishop of Buenos Aires offered his confrères a subjective reading of the bishops’ speeches, clearly indicating which views should and should not be discussed. It was the first clear sign of Vatican attempts to dilute some of the participants’ concerns and to influence the outcome of the month-long meeting. At a press conference to unveil the report, however, Cardinal Bernard Agré, Archbishop of Abidjan in the Ivory Coast, said the bishops were free to discuss whatever they wished.
It was unclear who had drafted Bergoglio’s paper, though it is thought quite likely that Cardinal Edward Egan, Arch-bishop of New York, was at least a co-author. Egan, the synod assembly’s recording secretary, was originally charged with the task of writing the relatio. However, Pope John Paul II handed the duty to Bergoglio when the Archbishop of New York had to return to his diocese to preside at a memorial service for the victims of last month’s terrorist attack.
The Argentinian cardinal acknowledged the assistance of the secretary general, his staff, and the experts ”who have helped us...in gathering all the interventions and summarising them in this report.”
The relatio virtually ignores or cuts down many of the bishops’ strongest criticisms on the centralisation of authority in the Church. For example, about 20 per cent of the bishops stressed the need to address the 'imbalance' between papal primacy and collegiality. The Bergoglio report ignores this. And in a New York Times article on 10 October Cardinal Egan is reported as saying that the topic had not emerged as one of the recurring themes. He said it would not appear in the final report to the Pope.