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Catholic Culture News

The Final Report of the 1985 Extraordinary Synod

by Synod of Bishops


Conclusions of the 1985 Extraordinary Synod, convoked by Pope John Paul II for the twentieth anniversary of Vatican II, in order to celebrate, verify and promote the Council.

Publisher & Date

Vatican, 1985

The Church, in the Word of God, celebrates the mysteries of the Christ for the salvation of the world.

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 payed 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 fully 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.

6. Suggestions

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

A. 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. G5 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).

5. Suggestions

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.

B. Sources of the life for the Church

a) The Word of God

1. 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.

2. Evangelization

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.

3. 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.

4. Suggestions

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.

b. 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.

2. Suggestions

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.

3. The Oriental Churches

In terms of this aspect of communion, the Catholic Church today holds in great esteem the institutions, liturgical rites, ecclesiastical traditions and discipline of Christian life of the Oriental Churches, because they are resplendent in their venerable antiquity and because in them is present the tradition of the Apostles through the Fathers (OE 1). In them, dating back to ancient times, the patriarchal institution is in effect, an institution which was recognized by the first ecumenical councils (OE 7). It should also be added that the Oriental Churches have given testimony with the death and the blood of their martyrs for Christ and his Church

4. Collegiality

The ecclesiology of communion provides the sacramental foundation of collegiality. Therefore the theology of collegiality is much more extensive than its mere juridical aspect. The collegial spirit is broader than effective collegiality understood in an exclusively juridical way. The collegial spirit is the soul of the collaboration between the bishops on the regional, national and international levels. Collegial action in the strict sense implies the activity of the whole college, together with its head, over the entire Church Its maximum expression is found in an ecumenical council. In the whole theological question regarding the relationship between primacy and the college of bishops a distinction cannot be made between the Roman Pontiff and the bishops considered collectively, but between the Roman Pontiff alone and the Roman Pontiff together with the bishops (LG expl. note 3), because the college exists with its "head" and never without him, the subject of supreme and full power in the whole Church (LG 22)

From this first collegiality understood in the strict sense one must distinguish the diverse partial realizations, which are authentically sign and instrument of the collegial spirit: the Synod of Bishops, the Episcopal Conferences, the Roman Curia, the "ad limina visits etc. All of these actualizations cannot be directly deduced from the theological principle of collegiality; but they are regulated by ecclesial law. Nonetheless, all of these other forms, like the pastoral journeys of the Supreme Pontiff, are a service of great importance for the whole college of bishops together with the Pope, and also for the individual bishops whom the Holy Spirit has made guardians in the Church of God (Acts 20:28).

5. The episcopal conferences

The collegial spirit has a concrete application in the episcopal conferences (LG 23). No one can doubt their pastoral utility, indeed their necessity in the present situation. In the episcopal conferences the bishops of a nation or a territory jointly exercise their pastoral service (CD 38; CIC can. 447).

In their manner of proceeding, episcopal conferences must keep in mind the good of the Church, that is, the service of unity and the inalienable responsibility of each bishop in relation to the universal Church and the particular Church.

6. Participation and co-responsibility in the Church

Because the Church is communion there must be participation and co-responsibility at all of her levels. This general principle must be understood in diverse ways in diverse areas.

Between a bishop and his presbyterate there exists a relationship founded on the sacrament of Orders. Thus priests in a certain way make the bishop present in the individual local assemblies of the faithful, and assume and exercise in part in their daily work his tasks and his solicitude (LG 28) Consequently, friendly relations and full trust must exist between bishops and their priests.

Bishops feel themselves linked in gratitude to their priests, who in the post-conciliar period have played a great part in implementing the Council (OT 1) and they wish to be close with all their strength to their priests and to give them help and support in their often difficult work, especially in parishes.

Finally, the spirit of collaboration with deacons and between the bishop and the religious who are active in his particular Church must be favoured. In addition, from Vatican II has positively come a new style of collaboration between the laity and clerics. The spirit of willingness with which many lay persons put themselves at the service of the Church is to be numbered among the best fruits of the Council. In this is experienced the fact that we are all the Church.

In recent years there has often been discussion regarding the vocation and the mission of women. May the Church do its utmost so that they might be able to express, in the service of the Church, their own gifts, and to play a greater part in the various fields of the Church's apostolate (cf. AA 9) May pastors gratefully accept and promote the collaboration of women in ecclesial activity. The Council calls the young the hope of the Church (GE 2). This extraordinary Synod addressed young people with special love and great confidence and expects great things from their generous dedication. It exhorts them that they might embrace and dynamically continue the heritage of the Council, assuming their role in the mission of the Church. Because the Church is communion, the new "basic communities", if they truly live in unity with the Church, are a true expression of communion and a means for the construction of a more profound communion. They are thus cause for great hope for the life of the Church (EN 58).

7. Ecumenical Communion

Basing itself on the ecclesiology of communion, the Catholic Church at the time of the Second Vatican Council fully assumed her ecumenical responsibility. After these twenty years we can affirm that ecumenism has inscribed itself deeply and indelibly in the consciousness of the Church. We bishops ardently desire that the incomplete communion already existing with the non-Catholic Churches and communities might, with the grace of God, come to the point of full communion.

Ecumenical dialogue must be carried out in diverse ways at the diverse levels of the Church, whether by the universal Church, the particular Churches or concrete local organizations. The dialogue must be spiritual and theological. The ecumenical movement is particularly favoured by mutual prayer. Dialogue is authentic and fruitful if it presents the truth with love and fidelity towards the Church In this way ecumenical dialogue causes the Church to be seen more clearly as a sacrament of unity. The communion between Catholics and other Christians, although incomplete, summons everyone to collaborate in the numerous fields and thus makes possible a certain common witness to the salvific love of God for the world, so in need of salvation.

8. Suggestions

a) Because the new Code of Canon Law, happily promulgated, is of great help to the Latin Church in the application of the Council, the desire is expressed that the Oriental codification be completed as quickly as possible.

b) Since the episcopal conferences are so useful, indeed necessary, in the present-day pastoral work of the Church, it is hoped that the study of their theological "status" and above all the problem of their doctrinal authority might be made explicit in a deeper and more extensive way, keeping in mind what is written in the Conciliar Decree "Christus Dominus" n. 38 and in the Code of Canon Law can. 447 and 753.

c) It is recommended that a study be made to examine whether the principle of subsidiarily in use in human society can be applied to the Church, and to what degree and in what sense such an application can and should be made (cf. Pius XII, AAS 38, 1946, p. 144).

D. The mission of the Church in the world

1. Importance of the Constitution "Gaudium et Spes"

The Church as communion is a sacrament for the salvation of the world. Therefore the authorities in the Church have been placed there by Christ for the salvation of the world In this context we affirm the great importance and timeliness of the Pastoral Constitution "Gaudium et Spes". At the same time, however, we perceive that the signs of our time are in part different from the time of the Council, with greater problems and anguish. Today, in fact, everywhere in the world we witness an increase in hunger, oppression, injustice and war, sufferings, terrorism and other forms of violence of every sort. This requires a new and more profound theological reflection in order to interpret these signs in the light of the Gospel.

2. Theology of the Cross

It seems to us that in the present-day difficulties God wishes to teach us more deeply the value, the importance and the centrality of the cross of Jesus Christ. Therefore the relationship between human history and salvation is to be explained in the light of the paschal mystery. Certainly the theology of the cross does not at all exclude the theology of the creation and incarnation, but, as is clear, it presupposes it. When we Christians speak of the cross, we do not deserve to be labeled pessimists, but rather found ourselves upon the realism of Christian hope.

3. "Aggiornamento"

From this paschal perspective, which affirms the unity of the cross and the resurrection, the true and false meaning of so-called "aggiornamento" is discovered. An easy accommodation that could lead to the secularization of the Church is to be excluded. Also excluded is an immobile closing in upon itself of the community of the faithful. Affirmed instead is a missionary openness for the integral salvation of the world. Through this all truly human values not only are accepted but energetically defended the dignity of the human person, fundamental human rights, peace, freedom from oppression' poverty and injustice. But integral salvation is obtained only it these human realities are purified and further elevated through grace and familiarity with God, through Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit.

4. Inculturation

From this perspective we also find the theological principle for the problem of inculturation. Because the Church is communion, which joins diversity and unity in being present throughout the world, it takes from every culture all that it encounters of positive value. Yet inculturation is different from a simple external adaptation, because it means the intimate transformation of authentic cultural values through their integration in Christianity in the various human cultures.

The separation of Gospel and culture was defined by Paul VI as "the drama of our age, as it was for other ages. It is therefore necessary to make every effort towards a generous evangelization of culture, more precisely of cultures. They must be regenerated through the encounter with the good news. But this encounter will not be brought about if the good news is not proclaimed (EN 20)."

5. Dialogue with non-Christian religious and non-believers

The Second Vatican Council affirmed that the Catholic Church refuses nothing of what is true and holy in non-Christian religions. Indeed, it exhorted Catholics to recognize, preserve and promote a l good spiritual and moral-as well as socio-cultural-values that they find in their midst all of this with prudence and charity, through dialogue and collaboration with the faithful of other religions, giving testimony to the Christian faith and life (NAE 2) The Council also affirmed that God does not deny the possibility of salvation to anyone of good will (LG 16).

The concrete possibilities of dialogue in the various regions depend on many concrete circumstances. All of this is also true for dialogue with non-believers. Dialogue must not be opposed to mission. Authentic dialogue tends to bring the human person to open up and communicate his inferiority to the one with whom he is speaking. Moreover, all Christians have received from Christ the mission to make all people disciples of Christ (MT 28:18). In this sense God can use the dialogue between Christians and non-Christians and between Christians and non-believers as a pathway for communicating the fullness of grace.

6. Preferential option for the poor and human promotion

Following the Second Vatican Council the Church became more aware of her mission in the service of the poor, the oppressed and the outcast. In this preferential option, which must not be understood as exclusive, the true spirit of the Gospel shines forth. Jesus Christ declared the poor blessed (MT 5:3; Lk 6:20) and he himself wished to be poor for us (2 Cor 8:9).

Besides material poverty there is a lack of liberty and of spiritual forms of poverty, and it is particularly grave when religious liberty is suppressed by force.

The Church must prophetically denounce every form of poverty and oppression, and everywhere defend and promote the fundamental and inalienable rights of the human person. This is above all the case where it is a question of defending human life from the time of its very beginning, of protecting it from aggressors in every circumstance and of effectively promoting it in every respect.

The Synod expresses its communion with those brothers and sisters who suffer persecution because of their faith and who suffer for the promotion of justice, the Synod lifts up prayers to God for them.

The salvific mission of the Church in relation to the world must be understood as an integral whole. Though it is spiritual, the mission of the Church involves human promotion even in its temporal aspects. For this reason the mission of the Church cannot be reduced to a monism, no matter how the latter is understood. In this mission there is certainly a clear distinction-but not a separation-between the natural and the supernatural aspects. This duality is not a dualism. It is thus necessary to put aside the false and useless oppositions between, for example, the Church's spiritual mission and "diaconia" for the world.

7. Suggestions

Since the world is in continual evolution, it is necessary to analyze continually the signs of the times, in order that the Gospel proclamation might be more clearly heard and that the activity of the Church for the salvation of the world might become more intense and efficacious. In this context we ought once again to consider what is, and how to put into practice:

a) the theology of the cross and the paschal mystery in the preaching, the sacraments and life of the Church of our day

b) the theory and practice of inculturation, as well as the dialogue with non-Christian religions and with non-believers;

c) the social doctrine of the Church as it relates to human promotion in ever new situations.

At the conclusion of this gathering the Synod, from the depths of our hearts, gives thanks to God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit for the greatest grace of this century, that is, the Second Vatican Council. It likewise gives thanks to God for the spiritual experience of this twentieth anniversary celebration, which has filled our hearts with joy and hope, even in the midst of the problems and sufferings of our day. As with the Apostles in the Cenacle with Mary the Holy Spirit has suggested to us what he wishes to say to the church in her journey towards the third millenium.

We bishops, all of us, together with Peter and under his guidance, have strived to comprehend more deeply the Second Vatican Council and to implement it correctly in the Church That has been our objective during this Synod. We have celebrated and verified the Council, and we commit ourselves to its promotion. The message of the Second Vatican Council has already been welcomed with great accord by the whole Church, and it remains the "Magna Charta" for the future.

Finally, may there come in our day that "new Pentecost" of which Pope John XXIII had already spoken and which we, with all of the faithful, await from the Holy Spirit. May the Spirit, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, ensure that, in these last days of our century, The Church in the Word of God might celebrate the mysteries of Christ for the salvation of the world."

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