Catholic World News

Cardinal Schönborn: Synod of Bishops recalls Council of Jerusalem

October 19, 2015

On October 17, participants in the synod on marriage and the family recalled the 50th anniversary of the institution of the Synod by Blessed Paul VI.

The commemoration included introductory remarks by Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, and addresses by five prelates who reflected on how the various synods over the years have affected the life of the Church in Europe, Africa, America, Asia, and Oceania.

The highlights of the day included a commemorative relatio by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna and a discourse by Pope Francis (see separate article).

In his 3,500-word address, Cardinal Schönborn noted that the Synod is intimately linked to the Second Vatican Council. The “reception, interpretation and application of the doctrines and the provisions” of each ecumenical council takes time: the work of the First Council of Nicaea (325) concluded in the teaching of the Second Council of Nicaea (787), and the Council of Trent, “the great council of reform,” took centuries to implement.

“The Synod of Bishops is a privileged place for the interpretation of the [Second Vatican] Council,” Cardinal Schönborn continued, as he recounted questions and criticisms of the purpose and method of the Synod. The prelate then turned to the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) as the “model for the method of Synod.”

This “first synod” was marked by “dramatic conflict”: similarly, bishops need to speak clearly and boldly and listen to one another attentively at synods, Cardinal Schönborn said. “Animated discussions” should not be feared.

While theological debate is important, the conflict at the Council of Jerusalem was solved when Peter made a decision. The others accepted Peter’s decision in silent humility, and then some of the apostles spoke of the works of God that they had witnessed. The Church then received the decision of the council with joy.

Cardinal Schönborn concluded by reflecting on three words: mission, witness, and discernment. Synods ought to assist the Church’s missionary dynamism, be places in which bishops speaks of what they have witnessed, and be a place of “common discernment of God’s will,” rather than a “consultative or deliberative vote.”

The ultimate outcome, he said, should not be a “lowest common denominator” compromise, but something “value added”: the Holy Spirit.

 


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  • Posted by: Minnesota Mary - Oct. 19, 2015 10:11 PM ET USA

    Quibbling about OT dietary laws and circumcision for Gentiles is a whole lot different than arguing about giving Holy Communion to sexually active GLBT people and heterosexuals in irregular second marriages outside of the Church. I wonder how Peter would have decided after listening to this synod? Pray that the Holy Spirit prevails in the outcome of this synod!