Mi?rcoles, 02 de diciembre de 2015

“Los servicios de la CEP + OMP que esperan las iglesias jóvenes” ha sido realizada por Su Exc. Mons. Giampiero Gloder, presidente de la Pontificia Academia Eclesiástica

XIX Plenary – CEP 2015

November 30 – December 3, 2015 

Tema: Ecclesial Awareness and Missio ad gentes: The Service of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples at 50 Years since the Conciliar Document Ad Gentes. 

III Ponenza

Services that Young Churches expect from the C.E.P. and from the Pontifical Mission Societies

By His Excellency Most Rev. Giampiero Gloder


The topic that has been assigned to me for this Conference, “Services of the Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples expected by Young Churches”, is an invitation to reflect on certain aspects of the services offered by the Congregation, according to what has been expressed in the “Pastor Bonus”, so as to foment and improve them.

My discussion will be very simple and intends above all to gather the comments and suggestions that have emerged from the questionnaire sent to a certain number of Bishops, in order to bring out ideas and feedback that may help our Dicastery continue its task in an increasingly efficient way.

In “Evangelii gaudium”, Pope Francis invited the whole Church to conversion and to an openness towards a permanent self-reform in order to be truly and completely faithful to Jesus Christ and His mission (cfr. n. 6), and he pointed out the necessity that everything in the Church be “suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation” (n. 27). I believe that both the Congregation and the young Churches should enter into this perspective, with an attitude open to seeking the truth and to conversion, in order to become more luminous heralds of the message of the Gospel to all mankind.

The title of this Conference contains two correlated subjects: the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (CEP) and the young Churches. The focus of interest is the service that the young Churches expect from the Dicastery. 262 responses were received, although many were left blank in the section reserved to our topic. This could be interpreted either to affirm that the services provided by the Congregation are valued, useful, and appropriate, or to indicate a certain difficulty in providing suggestions for activities and services important to our Churches. I hope that from the following study useful elements emerge to encourage, confirm, and improve the work of the Dicastery.

There is no need for an in-depth analysis of the goal and the guiding principles of the Congregation. However, it may be useful to briefly recall certain elements.

When Pope Gregory XV, in 1622, founded the Missionary Dicastery, two specific goals were established. The first was the need to spread the faith, following some very precise principles: the separation from colonialism, so that the missions would be able to carry out exclusively ecclesial and spiritual activities; the freedom of the missionaries from political interference; the adequate formation of both the missionaries and the native clergy, with the goal of establishing local hierarchies; the adaptation to the culture and the local customs. The second goal was that of increasing the unity of the Church throughout the whole world.

I would say that the Vatican II Decree “Ad gentes”, whose 50th anniversary we celebrate, maintains the same dual perspective of promoting evangelization on a variety of levels and of communion, even after more than three centuries of development. It affirms that, “the proper purpose of this missionary activity is evangelization, and the planting of the Church (Plantatio Ecclesiae) among those peoples and groups where it has not yet taken root. Thus from the seed which is the word of God, particular autochthonous churches should be sufficiently established and should grow up all over the world, endowed with their own maturity and vital forces. Under a hierarchy of their own, together with the faithful people, and adequately fitted out with requisites for living a full Christian life, they should make their contribution to the good of the whole Church” (n. 6). The Second Vatican Council makes it clear that all missionary activity flows from the very nature of the Church, called to evangelize; it fosters unity and is fruit of the collegial work of all the local Churches.

In the Constitution “Pastor bonus”, of Pope John Paul II, we find additional elements of further study on the activity of our Dicastery, which can help us reflect on its function and on its service to the young Churches. The starting point is the ministry that the Successor of the Apostle Peter carries out in the Church.

The petrine ministry, or, as Pope Francis likes to call it, the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, is at the service of unity and of ecclesial communion for the diffusion of the Gospel. The emphasis is placed not only on the nature and on the primatial function of this ministry but also—as Pope Francis often stresses—on its collegial nature, which leads to the constant search of ways in which the collegiality and the papal primacy can be exercised concretely so as to favor the development of the ecclesial Community.

The Roman Curia is an instrument of these dynamics between the papal primacy and collegiality; it is an instrument that helps the Bishop of Rome carry out his service, assuring “the exercise of legitimate autonomies, yet in the indispensable respect of the essential unity of discipline, as well as that of faith, for which Christ prayed on the very eve of his passion” (John Paul II, Address to the Sacred Collage of Cardinals, 30 august 1978). There is an important role of knowledge, of listening, and of collaboration that the Roman Curia plays in relation to the local Churches to help the Bishop of Rome in his mission as guarantor of unity and of ecclesial communion.

“Pastor bonus” strongly emphasizes how the Roman Curia helps the Bishop of Rome to promote the mission entrusted to the Church, which is evangelization, according to Jesus’ mandate, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19). Pope Francis has highlighted it as the dynamism of “going forth” that God wants to provoke in the believer (cfr Ap. Ex. Evangelii Gaudium, 20) and to which we are all called, by means of a constant pastoral conversion.

With regard to these evangelizing and missionary dynamics, no one in the Church is separated from the others. Rather, this task implies a single body formed by all of its members, working together as a unit and at the same time collegially, enriched by the legitimate diversities. Pope Francis often exhorts us to practice this Catholic capacity harmonizing without extinguishing the richness found in the Church, which is fruit of the action of the Holy Spirit.

The CEP has been entrusted the task of helping the Bishop of Rome direct and coordinate throughout the world the work of the evangelization of the peoples, except the areas within the competence of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches (PB, 85), as well as promoting missionary cooperation, so that it may be increasingly evident and effective that the whole Church, by virtue of its very nature, is missionary, and so that the entire people of God may become aware of its missionary commitment, cooperating through prayer, the living testimony of faith, and financial support.

I believe that it is necessary here to mention some facts that may help understand the work carried out by the Dicastery. The CEP is responsible for 35% of all the ecclesiastical circumscriptions in the world distributed throughout the various continents; they are a total of 1,111 circumscriptions. These circumscriptions grow at a rapid pace. In fact, in the span of only a few years, more than 100 local Churches have been established, which is a positive sign of the vigor of the evangelization.

We must take into consideration that—according to the data collected in 2013—the Bishops (including the emeriti), numbered 2,100, the diocesan priests 67,060, the priests belonging to a religious order 40,970, the non-ordained, male religious 21,814, the women religious 247,858, and the catechists 787,476.

If we take a look at the area of formation, we see that in 2014 the CEP was subsidizing 339 major seminaries and 401 minor seminaries, with a total of 64,016 major seminarians and 78,568 minor.

In the area of missionary cooperation, the Dicastery, through the Pontifical Mission Societies, follows many projects that support the Church and its worship, as well as numerous educational projects; according to the data collected in 2014, this includes 31,558 kindergarten schools, 58,029 elementary and middle schools, and 24,136 high schools. In the field of sanitary assistance, this includes 2,507 hospitals, 42,036 dispensaries, 1,065 leper hospitals, and many other projects for development and progression.

Included in this area of missionary cooperation and formational assistance is also the esteemed work of the Pontifical Urbaniana University, the only University that is exclusively missionary, with 1,200 students and 115 professors; in addition to offering extensive formation, it also encourages reflections made in the field of theological research, spirituality, and missionary activity. There are 76 Theological Institutes and 26 Philosophical Institutes affiliated to this University, as well as 3 Institutes of Canon Law and 1 Institute of Missiology that are aggregated to it.

Additionally, in Rome there are Pontifical Colleges for the instruction and formation of priests with 360 students, the Urban College with 154 seminarians, the “Mater Ecclesiae” College with 130 religious Sisters, and the Saint Joseph College for 24 professors.

These numbers are not ends in themselves, but demonstrate the vast reality that is ascribed to the Dicastery and that collaborates with it to achieve the goal of evangelization and ecclesial communion, while highlighting how essential it is that the relationship between the local Churches, the Dicastery, and the Pontifical Mission Societies be constantly improving.

Let us move on to the questionnaire that was sent. The third section, on the services offered by the Dicastery and the Pontifical Mission Societies, examined 8 specific areas, to which is added some other element. Let us address them together so that they may serve to stimulate further discussion, analysis, and suggestions.

1. The first area concerns the provision – appointment of the Bishops. It should be pointed out that from the 262 Bishops who responded to this questionnaire, only 151 replied to this question.

What are the positive elements that came to light in regard to this area?

The first key word is consultation; there is an appreciation for how consultation is carried out in the Episcopal process. In particular, many have pointed out that this consultation is discreet and reserved, respectful towards the subjects and the candidates. It is one of the signs of ecclesial communion, of collaboration, and of the trust that the Holy See places in the local Church.

The second key word is confidentiality; the importance that the Pontifical Secret and the proper discretion be kept has been stressed; this is another case that implicates an act of trust towards those who are consulted, but that requires and calls for a sense of responsibility with regard to the people concerned and to the Church itself .

Another encouraging element is the acceptance of the appointment, seen as an act of faith and obedience to the Will of God on behalf of the candidate and of the Christian Community. It is the concrete testimony of ecclesial awareness and of the openness to what the Church asks. The Dicastery helps the community live in this perspective of faith and of ecclesial service.

A final positive element that was emphasized is that of prayer; the prayer that accompanies the formative process is important and significant in the journey of faith of an ecclesial community. It is a way in which the People of God can contribute to and participate in this process, and it is an act of faith in the action of the Holy Spirit in the selection and appointment of a new Shepherd. This is an important aspect that reminds us of how the Church belongs to God and not to us.

The weak points, or problematic aspects, can also be summarized in four points.

The first is: “pressures”; in other words, it has been accentuated that, in various ecclesial areas, still exist certain mindsets and ways of doing that manifest a tendency to exercise certain pressures on the Episcopal appointments. Such pressures are dictated by tribal and ethnic affiliations, by regionalism, and by forms of nepotism. It is certainly not an expression of communion and ecclesial unity that there are even defamatory and slanderous campaigns towards priests, with the aim of destroying their Episcopal candidacy. The same can be said in pointing out that there are priests who act with pretension both in regard to themselves and to others as ideal and suitable candidates for the episcopate. The CEP is cautious of these aspects, but it is important to mature at a local level to overcome certain mechanisms.

While noting the seriousness with which many maintain confidentiality in the consultations, a certain percentage has noted that there are violations of the Pontifical Secret due to indiscretion and to rumors that are spread and that are often the cause of difficulties and embarrassment.

Another negative point is the slowness with which the Episcopal processes often advance due to the difficulty in identifying valid and reliable informers who know the candidate, and because the response to the request of such information is often received with much delay. In this way, there are Dioceses in which the coming of a new Bishop is prolonged for long periods of time, with negative consequences from a pastoral point of view.

The fourth element is the discernment. Sometimes a certain lack of comprehensive knowledge of the reality of a local Church is made manifest. The lack of candidates who are judged worthy of the episcopate and suited for the Episcopal See in question is noted. The sincerity and honesty of the subjects cannot always be taken for granted. It is necessary that on these aspects there be an always increasing collaboration.

What suggestions emerge from the questionnaire?

The first point that should be highlighted concerns the informers. It has been suggested that the number of those consulted be further increased, extending the consultation to the Superiors of the religious Congregations present in the territory, to those who are responsible for the various pastoral services, and to the catechists. It is then asked to give priority to the opinion of the local Bishops, who are aware of the current situation of the territory and with which the new Bishop will have to collaborate.

The second element that has been insisted on concerns the profile of the new Bishop, which implies an attentive evaluation of the criteria of selection. Fidelity, missionary zeal, a paternal spirit, the willingness to collaborate with the religious and consecrated, the sense of ecclesial communion, poverty, and simplicity are particularly emphasized.

The suggestions that have emerged are not numerous, given that from the 151 who have responded, only 58 have made proposals.

 2. The second topic found in the questionnaire is the erection of new ecclesial circumscriptions.

This is also a delicate point important to the physiognomy of a local Church and of an ecclesial region. The Dicastery also carries out its service in this field.

The positive aspects are highlighted in three words: planning, distribution, and consultation.

It is noted that the erection of new ecclesial circumscriptions is studied and evaluated with attention, both at a local level and above all by the Dicastery, taking into account the various factors that justify its erection, such as the demographical growth of the local Church and the increase of vocations, the pastoral needs that emerge, the need for a more in-depth evangelization, the need for a pastoral work of greater proximity and closeness, and, lastly, the need to encourage a more widespread promotion of priestly and religious vocations.

The second point that has been brought up, although not by a high percentage of the responses, is that, normally, planning and careful study lead to the equitable distribution of the parishes and of the human and financial resources of the Diocese, so that the new circumscription can calmly keep developing and operate fruitfully.

Finally, it is pointed out that the consultation regarding the need to erect a new circumscription is quite broad on both a diocesan and national level. This makes it possible to act according to the real pastoral needs.

In the responses, the negative points have brought to light the different problems that must be faced in the process of creating a new circumscription and those that emerge successively.

First of all, the financing: despite the effort made to carry out an equal partition, new circumscriptions often find themselves in financial difficulties and with limited financial resources. This in regard to the situation that is created in the establishment of a new local Church, which is always a arduous task from a structural, human, and pastoral point of view. Therefore, it is good to always specify every detail with great precision.

At times, the creation of a new ecclesial reality can cause tensions, provoke divisions, awaken sentiments of tribalism and regionalism, or give rise to attitudes of protest and insubordination: these are elements that require patience and dialogue, and on which the good of the Church must always prevail.

Another negative point that has been noted is that at times, despite the efforts and the upright intention to maintain the focus on the pastoral aspects and on the good of the souls, the considerations of economic nature are those that often prevail and assume particular importance. In certain circumstances, there have been difficulties in obtaining land for the construction of new Cathedrals and facilities for the Curia, due to Government restrictions.

On this point regarding the erection of ecclesial circumscriptions, no suggestions were made to the Dicastery, and the number of responses on the positive and negative aspects was limited to around seventy.

3. The third point regarding the activity of the Congregation that is subject to reflection is that of the inter-diocesan Seminaries.

The number of responses given on this topic were also few in number, perhaps because it is a reality that does not exist in all areas.

A good number of responses have highlighted the importance of the positive relationship that the Dicastery maintains with the Episcopal Conference, and in particular with the Commission specific to the Clergy and the Seminaries, for the appointment of the Rector, in offering support in the progress of the Institution, and in encouraging visits to the Seminary as a form stimulation and accompaniment.

The regularity with which both ordinary and extraordinary subventions are granted and the aid provided by scholarships are both things that have also been judged positively. The leadership exercised by the Rector and the formers, fruit of their competence, is also appreciated. Generally, there is also a sound collaboration with the Religious Congregations for the formation of Seminarians.

Nonetheless, a certain percentage have pointed out that the subventions are at times insufficient so that the Seminaries suffer from the lack of funding. Some problems have also been indicated with regard to the formation of the educators and the scarce cultural preparation offered.

Some areas have also suffered a certain crisis of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, which has had an effect on both the number and the quality of the seminarians.

It has also been brought to our attention that the richness caused by the presence of a regional Seminary, such as a widening of one’s ecclesial horizons and the possibility of having a greater selection when searching for formers, is opposed by the risk of losing one’s own specific cultural identity.

The only suggestion that emerged in some of the responses is the possibility of promoting scholarships even for seminarians who do not study in Rome.

4. The fourth topic is the appointment and the role of the National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies.

A positive aspect that has been expressed in more than half of the responses that were received is the constructive collaboration between the Pontifical Mission Societies and the Ecclesial Circumscriptions, sign of a growing missionary awareness. This collaboration is perceived as something important to the ecclesial community in order to render effective the centrality of the task of evangelization. The missionary dimension is essential for the whole Church, and the Pontifical Mission Societies are a precious instrument to help this dimension grow in the local Churches. It is emphasized that, in the selection of the Director, there is a proper consultation concerning the local reality, so that the appointment is positively evaluated. The Directors show themselves capable, willing, and transparent even in the management and the distribution of aid. A good percentage of responses confirm that the Director should be a true motivator who keeps alive the missionary awareness in the local community, by his presence in the territory with visits, encounters, and various activities of formation.

It seems significant to me that, on this point, no negative points were highlighted and no suggestions were made for the improvement of neither the selection nor the specific activity of the Director, sign that his role as it is now is seen in a positive way.

5. The fifth question concerns the Institutes of Consecrated Life, the Societies of Apostolic Life, and the various aspects of their presence and collaboration.

Looking at the positive aspects, the percentage of responses that have emphasized the effective, good, and trusting collaboration of the members of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life with the Dioceses, as well as their participation in the life of an ecclesial circumscription, was very high. They are very important to the life of the Church, especially with regard to the permanent formation of the various classes of pastoral agents, and to the vocational animation. Many have commented that in the different circumscriptions there should be either a Diocesan Office or a Commission to follow and promote this collaboration in the task of evangelization, in a more specific manner; in some cases there is a Vicar ad hoc.

The relations with the ecclesial circumscription are generally regulated by specific agreements. The importance of the subsidies offered by the Pontifical Mission Societies, necessary to their ministry, is also emphasized.

Among the negative aspects, although in a low percentage of the responses, the struggle —in some cases— for an effective and peaceful collaboration still emerges, in which a certain indifference is found towards the diocesan life and the problems of the local Church, due to an accentuated preoccupation for one's own structures and activities. It is the persistence of a certain individualism, which is manifested by the refusal to take part in the activities offered by the Diocese or to follow the pastoral guidance of the local Church. There are always a few cases in which the lack of agreement is noted, or the presence of an agreement in which the parties involved have not reached a definitive agreement.

Few were the suggestions —only 5 responses—that stressed the need for adequate conventions and the implementation of the local pastoral guidelines, as well as a greater discernment, rigor, and sincerity concerning vocations.

6. The sixth point considers the important topic of the ongoing formation of clergy and laity, academic updating for professors, and the granting of scholarships.

The majority have highlighted the positive collaboration of the Dicastery with regard to both the formation in the Seminaries, as well as at the university level, and its support in the academic updating of the catechists, the Clergy, the religious, and the laity. The importance of its collaboration in the spiritual formation, especially through the Spiritual Exercises, has also been emphasized.

Many have pointed out the importance of the scholarships grated by the Congregation for studies within or outside the country; these permit a more exhaustive formation and provide the needed support to the educational facilities that would otherwise not be possible.

In fifty percent of the responses, dark points have also been noted. Particularly in reference to the difficulty that various ecclesial circumscriptions encounter in obtaining the sufficient means to promote and maintain a decent level of ongoing formation, due to the situation of poverty in many of the Dioceses. Some circumscriptions have poorly qualified or not sufficiently prepared formers as a result of this situation.

Other negative aspects that have been identified include the limited knowledge of the Bible, which is also a challenge when facing other denominations, the frequent moving of the faithful, which does not allow continuity in their formation, and, in some cases, the insufficient number of personnel.

From the nine responses that contain suggestions, it has been asked the Congregation to increase the number of scholarships, distributing them more equally, revising the criteria used in assigning them, taking into account the age of the student, and giving priority to the ecclesial circumscriptions with a greater number of Catholics.

7. With regard to the Visits ad limina Apostolorum, important moments in the direct contact between the various Bishops and the Congregation, a good percentage of the responses have highlighted their regularity as a positive factor: they are scheduled once every five years. These are an expression of communion with the Holy Father and the Universal Church; they reinforce unity as well as collegiality in the Church’s journey.

In this sense, encounters with the Holy Father and with the various Dicasteries are always useful, as well as visits to the tombs of the Apostles and to the Basilicas; many have expressed particular appreciation for the meeting with the Superiors of the CEP.

The task of preparing and sending on time the quinquennial reports that describe the situation of the Diocese and that permit the local Churches to give account of their situation is an arduous commitment. Precisely for this reason, it is also an opportunity for spiritual renewal and for the strengthening of faith and apostolic zeal. They are moreover valuable and necessary for the Dicastery’s awareness of the actual situation in each circumscription.

A negative aspect that emerged from the responses received is related to the fact that the Holy Father does not meet with the Bishops individually, but in groups; at times, even the meetings with some of the Dicasteries are neither well organized nor fruitful; sometimes, not enough time is dedicated to the Bishop’s interventions.

As to the frequency, it was noted that in recent years the scheduling of the Visits has not been regular.

What suggestions have emerged? The percentage of those who have offered proposals in this area is also rather low.

In the first place, the convenience of a prior consultation between the Bishops of an area in preparation for the Visit ad limina, to present the general key issues in addition to those specific to the areas in question, has been pointed out.

Then, emphasis has been placed on further encouraging the dialogue and the fraternal spirit in the meeting with the Heads of the Dicasteries, so as to feel sustained and aided in seeing and facing eventual problems.

Some would like there to be a more prolonged personal meeting with the Holy Father.

8. The last specific topic included in the questionnaire considered the financial report that has to be sent to the competent Institutions.

Generally, this is judged as something done frequently and regularly, with the adequate transparency that transmits the actual financial situation of the ecclesial circumscription.

It is useful for the administration to have manuals for the procedure and the accounting management, as well as finding financial experts for a transparent administration of the patrimony of the Diocese.

A low percentage of responses have pointed out certain negative aspects such as the lack or the reduction of the subsidies, the delay or irregularity in consigning financial reports, and the decrease of the collections in the Dioceses.

It has been proposed among the suggestions, to make available to the various ecclesial circumscriptions a form to be used as a model for the drafting of a financial report. Another proposal made was that of decentralization, so that some of the duties of the Pontifical Mission Societies may be entrusted to the Dioceses.

In the responses there are also references made to other aspects such as the important role of the Apostolic Nunciatures, which perform their ministry efficiently, and the difficulty encountered in the continuation of the administration of certain facilities left by the missionaries.

An annual report on the pastoral situation of the Diocese has also been suggested, as well as the fostering of a greater financial cooperation between the Dioceses.

I wanted to offer an overall view of the assessments, the observations, the evaluations, and the expectations that have emerged from the local Churches themselves, from the young Churches, on some important areas in the work and the service of the Congregation for the Evangelizing of Peoples and of the Pontifical Mission Societies.

I have perceived a general appreciation for the collaboration that exists between the Congregation and the local communities, but it is important that further confirmation and encouragement, as well as observations, suggestions, and proposals, emerge from this Assembly, so that the task carried out by the Congregation may serve to make more effective the missionary impulse that should be beneficial to everyone without exception, and that must stimulate every dimension of the Church, as requested by Pope Francis in “Evangelii gaudium” (n. 48).

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