Vatican Diary / Presences, absences, surprises of the upcoming synod
Who’s in and who’s out among the synod fathers personally selected by Pope Francis. Among the excluded is Cardinal Antonelli. Belgium and Greece strangely overrepresented. The new work schedule, this time without a midpoint wrap-up
by Sandro Magister
[ Emphasis in red type by Abyssum ]
VATICAN CITY, September 17, 2015 – A few days before his journey to Cuba and the United States, Pope Francis completed with 45 names of his own choosing the list of participants at the synod on the family that will open on October 4:
The synod will last for three weeks. And Francis has already revealed – in an interview with Aura Vistas Miguel of the Portuguese Rádio Renascença – that “each week there will be a discussion of one chapter” of the three into which the preparatory document is subdivided:
> Instrumentum laboris
So this time there will be no “Relatio post disceptationem” halfway through the work, after a first phase of free discussion about everything, as in the synod of October 2014:
Nor will there be a final message this time, seeing that there is no longer as in the past a commission charged with writing one. Last year this commission was headed by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi and the rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina, Víctor Manuel Fernández. This latter, a close associate of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, is one of the 45 personally chosen by the pope, but no longer with any particular role.
Nor is there any longer, as at the synods prior to 2014, a commission to resolve conflicts.
Secretary general Lorenzo Baldisseri, special secretary Bruno Forte, relator general Péter Erdõ, and the four presidents delegate André Vingt-Trois, Antonio G. Tagle, Raymundo Damasceno Assis, and Wilfried Fox Napier, are the same as in 2014.
But compared to the previous session there are big changes in those participating in the synod as representatives of their respective episcopal conferences. Their names had already been made known in recent months, in order of voting and also with an indication of the runners-up. Four of these have replaced the elected, in the delegations from Croatia, Guinea, Cuba, and Mexico.
Then there are those who will take part in the synod for reasons of office, namely the heads of the various Eastern Catholic Churches and the heads of dicasteries of the Roman curia.
No longer among these, having lost their positions, are cardinals Zenon Grocholewski and Raymond Leo Burke. And the latter is an especially blatant absence. Burke was and is one of the most resolute defenders of the traditional doctrine and pastoral care of marriage. The pope sent him into forced retirement after the synod of 2014, and has now made a point of not including him among the 45 synod fathers chosen at his discretion.
Who are quite a few more than the 26 of last year. Francis has fished some of the new ones out from among the runners-up of the voting in the episcopal conferences. This is the case, for example, of the New Zealander John Atcherley Dew, whom he made a cardinal, and of Blase J. Cupich of the United States, whom he promoted as archbishop of Chicago, both active members of the progressive wing.
One more whom the pope has fished out from among the runners-up is the bishop of Ghent, Lucas Van Looy. With whom the synod representatives of the tiny and decrepit Belgian Church increase to three, all prominent exponents of the progressive wing and opponents of their primate, archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels André Léonard, whom Pope Bergoglio has never wanted to make a cardinal and now has not even included among the synod fathers of his appointment.
The other two representatives of the Belgian Church at the synod are the bishop of Antwerp, John Jozef Bonny, for years a close collaborator of Cardinal Walter Kasper and pushed ever farther in a reformist direction, and the octogenarian cardinal Godfried Danneels, personally appointed by Bergoglio, whose election he decisively supported from outside the Sistine Chapel in 2013.
Another overrepresented national Church is that of Greece, a country in which there are very few Catholics.
To representative elect Fragkiskos Papamanolis, bishop emeritus of Syros, the pope has decided to add Ioannis Spiteris, archbishop of Corfu, Zakynthos, and Cefalonia, the very islands where in the 16th century the Council of Trent, according to the questionable judgment of “La Civiltà Cattolica,” admitted remarriage for Catholics as well as for the Orthodox:
The runners-up in the various countries also included leading personalities of the conservative wing, like Salvatore J. Cordileone in the United States, Ignatius Ayau Kaigama in Nigeria, Olivier de Germay in France, Héctor Rubén Aguer in Argentina, José Antonio Eguren Anselmi in Argentina, Klaus Küng in Austria, Juan Antonio Reig Plá in Spain.
Francis has not selected any of these among the synod fathers of his appointment.
But the most glaring absence on the list of the 45 may be that of Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, an authority on the subject examined at the synod, for five years the president of the pontifical council for the family and the organizer of the two world meetings that preceded the one soon to be held in Philadelphia: in Mexico City in 2009, and in Milan in 2012.
In recent months, Antonelli has repeatedly warned about the debasement of the sacrament of marriage that in his judgment would be produced by some of the reformist proposals:
But evidently he has made no inroads with the pope, who has preferred to appoint another veteran on the subject, but much more accommodating, Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, recently charged by Francis with studying the newly announced Vatican congregation for “laity, family, and life.”
In addition to Antonelli, seventeen other cardinals have recently spoken out in defense of the traditional doctrine and pastoral care of marriage, in two multi-author books released this month in several languages:
> Now seventeen Anti-Kasper Cardinals (31.8.2015)
But only six of these will take part in the synod, and only two of these at the pope’s invitation: cardinals Carlo Caffarra, of Italy, and Philippe N. Ouédraogo, of Burkina Faso.
Of the others, three will enter the assembly by right of office through the positions that they occupy: the Guinean Robert Sarah, the Indian Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, and the Ethiopian Berhaneyesus D. Souraphiel. And one because he has been elected by the bishops of his country: the Venezuelan Jorge Urosa Savino.
In addition to the synod fathers, dozens of persons without voting rights will attend the upcoming assembly, as assistants of the special secretary, as guests, as delegates of the non-Catholic Christian Churches.
Among the 23 assistants of Archbishop Bruno Forte, only six were also at the previous session of the synod: the fathers Bruno Esposito, Maurizio Gronchi, Sabatino Majorano, and Georges Henry Ruyssen, and the spouses Francesco and Giuseppina Miano.
All of the others are new. And for the first time they include at least one representative of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, incredibly kept out until now: vice-president José Granados.
The guests are also more numerous than before, and almost all of them are freshly appointed. They include Lucetta Scaraffia, a former professor of contemporary history at the University of Rome La Sapienza and the coordinator of “Donne chiesa mondo,” the monthly supplement of “L’Osservatore Romano.”
And then there is the Coptic priest Garas Boulos Garas Bishay, pastor of Virgin Mary Queen of Peace, the parish in Sharm el-Sheikh that was rebuilt thanks to the support of Suzanne Thabat, the crypto-Catholic wife of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.