Synod of Bishops…

…judges Francis’ idea on renouncing our own culture to benefit the refugees

  • A secular mentality can also be detected in the matter of religion, gradually leading people to moral relativism or religious indifference

Indeed, in the piety of the people of America there are oftentimes many elements at odds with Christianity. These elements occasionally lead to a syncretism constructed on the basis of popular beliefs, or, in some cases, they cause believers to become disoriented and easily led astray by sects or para-religious movements. […] A secular mentality can also be detected in the matter of religion. Such an attitude is gradually leading people to moral relativism or religious indifference. […] The increasing religious indifference leads to the loss of the sense of God and of His holiness, which, in turn, is translated into a loss of a sense of the sacred, of mystery and of the capacity for wonder. These are human dispositions which predispose a person to dialogue and to an encounter with God. Such indifference almost inevitably leads to a false moral autonomy and a secularistic life-style which excludes God. (Synod of Bishops. Lineamenta, Special Assembly for America, no 18–19, August 1, 1996)

…judges Francis’ idea on renouncing our own culture to receive the refugees

  • Syncretism and religious indifference lead to the loss of the sense of God and of His holiness

Indeed, in the piety of the people of America there are oftentimes many elements at odds with Christianity. These elements occasionally lead to a syncretism constructed on the basis of popular beliefs, or, in some cases, they cause believers to become disoriented and easily led astray by sects or para-religious movements. […] The increasing religious indifference leads to the loss of the sense of God and of His holiness, which, in turn, is translated into a loss of a sense of the sacred, of mystery and of the capacity for wonder. These are human dispositions which predispose a person to dialogue and to an encounter with God. Such indifference almost inevitably leads to a false moral autonomy and a secularistic life-style which excludes God. (Synod of Bishops. Lineamenta of the Special assembly for America, no. 18-19, August 1, 1996)

…judges Francis’ idea on switching Christ for interconfessionalism

  • After the encounter with Jesus, everything is different as a result of metanoia, conversion

This encounter with Jesus, through his Spirit, is the Father’s great gift to humanity. We are prepared for this encounter through the action of grace in us. In such an encounter, we feel an attraction which leads to our transformation, causing us to see new dimensions to who we are and making us partakers of divine life (cf. 2Pet 1:4). After this encounter, everything is different as a result of metanoia, that is, the state of conversion strongly urged by Jesus himself (cf. Mk 1:15). (Synod of Bishops. XIII Ordinary General Assembly, The new evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith, Instrumentum Laboris, no. 19, 2012)

…judges Francis’ idea on God judging us by loving us

  • After the encounter with Jesus everything is different as a result of metanoia

This encounter with Jesus […] After this encounter, everything is different as a result of metanoia, that is, the state of conversion strongly urged by Jesus himself (cf. Mk 1:15). […] This encounter equips us to do new things and witness to the transformation of our lives in the works of conversion as announced by the prophets (cf. Jer 3:6 ff; Ez 36:24-36). (Synod of Bishops. XIII Ordinary general Assembly, The new evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith, Instrumentum Laboris, no. 19, May 27, 2012)

…judges Francis’ idea on proclaiming the Gospel

  • The transmission of the faith must be firmly anchored in her living Tradition

The Second Vatican Council and the new evangelization are also recurring themes in the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI. In 2005, in his Christmas greetings to the members of the Roman Curia – coinciding with the fortieth anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council – he said, a ‘hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture’, must be counteracted by a ‘hermeneutic of reform’, of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us. […] Therefore, as some responses to the Lineamenta point out, the previously mentioned words of Pope Benedict XVI, in keeping with his predecessors, can serve as a reliable guide in addressing the subject of the transmission of the faith in the new evangelization, in a Church cognisant of the challenges of today’s world, but firmly anchored in her living Tradition, of which the Second Vatican Council is a part. (Synod of Bishops. XIII Ordinary general assembly, The new evangelization, the transmission of the Christian Faith, Instrumentum Laboris, no. 14, June 19, 2012)

…judges Francis’ idea that Koran is a book of peace

  • The situation of Christians in Arab countries

In Iraq, the war has unleashed evil forces within the country, religious confessions and political movements, making all Iraqis victims. However, because Christians represent the smallest and weakest part of Iraqi communities, they are among the principal victims, with world politics taking no notice. In Lebanon, Christians are deeply divided at a political and confessional level, without a commonly acceptable plan of action. In Egypt, the rise of political Islam, on the one hand, and the disengagement of Christians from civil society on the other, lead to intolerance, inequality and injustice in their lives. Moreover, this Islamisation also penetrates families through the media and school, leading to an unconscious change in attitudes which is Islamic in character. In many countries, authoritarianism or dictatorships force the population – Christians included – to bear everything in silence so as to safeguard what is essential. In Turkey, the idea of ‘secularity’ is currently posing more problems for full religious freedom in the country. This situation of Christians in various Arab countries has been described in paragraph 13 of the Catholic Patriarchs’ 10th Pastoral Letter (2009). Its conclusion disapproves a defeatist attitude: ‘Confronted by these different realities, some remain strong in their faith and their commitment in society, sharing common sacrifices and contributing to the overall social plan. Others, in contrast, are discouraged and have lost all confidence in their society and in its capacity to accord them the same equal status as other citizens, leading to their abandoning all engagement, withdrawing into their Churches and institutions, and living in isolation and devoid of interaction with society’ (Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East, 10th Pastoral Letter on Arab Christians Facing Today’s Challenges: ‘God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us’ (Rom 5:5), General Secretariat, Bkerké, 2009, § 13 ff). (Synod of Bishops. Special Assembly for the Middle East, Lineamenta, no. 19 – 21, December 8, 2009)

  • Conversions of Christians to Islam under pressure, to free themselves from the obligations of non-Muslims

In the Middle East, freedom of religion customarily means freedom of worship and not freedom of conscience, i.e., the freedom to change one’s religion for belief in another. Generally speaking, religion in the Middle East is a social and even a national choice, and not an individual one. To change religion is perceived as betraying a society, culture and nation, founded largely on a religious tradition.

Conversion is seen as the fruit of a proselytism with personal interests attached and not arising from authentic religious conviction. Oftentimes, the conversion of Jews and Muslims is forbidden by State laws. Christians, though also subjected to pressure and opposition from families and tribes – even if less severely – remain free to change their religion. Many times, the conversion of Christians results not from religious conviction but personal interests or under pressure from Muslim proselytism, particularly to be relieved from obligations related to family difficulties. (Synod of Bishops. Special Assembly for the Middle East, Lineamenta, no. 22 – 23, December 8, 2009)

  • Imposition of an Islamic lifestyle within society

In their previous Pastoral Letter, the Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East said: ‘The rise of political Islam, from the 1970’s onwards, is a prominent phenomenon which affects the region and the situation of Christians in the Arab world. This political Islam includes different religious currents which seek to impose an Islamic way of life on Arab, Turkish and Iranian societies and on all those who live in them, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. For them, the cause of all ills is the neglect of Islam. The solution is therefore a return to original Islam. Hence the slogan: Islam is the answer… In pursuit of this goal, some do not hesitate to resort to violence’ (Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East, 10th Pastoral Letter on Arab Christians Facing Today’s Challenges: ‘God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us’ (Rom 5:5), General Secretariat, Bkerké, 2009, § 7). (Synod of Bishops. Special Assembly for the Middle East, Lineamenta, no. 24, December 8, 2009)

  • Exploitation of immigrant workers in the Middle East

Hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers come to the Middle East from the world over: Africans, from Ethiopia and those primarily from Sudan, and Asians, especially from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and India. Generally speaking, these immigrants are women engaged in work as domestic servants so they can give their children an education and a better life. Oftentimes, these women (and men also) are subject to social injustice, exploitation and sexual abuse, either by the State which receives them, the agencies which provide passage for them or their employers. (Synod of Bishops. Special Assembly for the Middle East, Lineamenta, no. 28, December 8, 2009)

  • Muslims frequently mix religion and politics, putting Christians in a precarious situation of being considered as non-citizens

Relations between Christians and Muslims have to be based on two principles. On the one hand, both must be seen to be citizens of the same country and homeland, sharing the same language and culture, not to mention the same fortunes and misfortunes of our countries. On the other, Christians must see themselves as members of the society in which they live and working on its behalf as witnesses of Christ and the Gospel. Oftentimes, relations can be difficult, mainly because Muslims frequently mix religion and politics, putting Christians in a precarious situation of being considered as non-citizens. (Synod of Bishops. Special Assembly for the Middle East, Lineamenta, no. 68, December 8, 2009)

  • Application of Shariah law is discrimination and a violation of a person’s human rights: with the rise of Islamism, incidents against Christians are increasing almost everywhere

With the exception of Turkey, secularism is not a part of Islam. Normally, Islam is the State religion. The principal source of legislation is Islam, inspired by Shariah law. For personal law (family and inheritance in some countries), there are particular regulations for Christian communities whose ecclesiastical tribunals are recognised and their decisions enacted. The constitutions of every country affirms the equality of citizens before the State. Religious education is compulsory in private and public schools, but is not always guaranteed for Christians. Certain countries are Islamic States, where Shariah law is applied in both private and public life, including the lives of non-Muslims, which always constitutes discrimination and, therefore, a violation of a person’s human rights. Religious freedom and freedom of conscience are foreign to a Muslim mentality, which recognises freedom of worship, but does not permit the profession of a religion other than Islam, still less the abandonment of Islam. With the rise of Islamism, incidents against Christians are increasing almost everywhere. (Synod of Bishops. Special Assembly for the Middle East, Lineamenta, no. 83-84, December 8, 2009)

…judges Francis’ criteria for the nomination of Bishops

  • The Bishop is responsible for proclaiming and bearing witness

The Bishop is Doctor veritatis and magister fidei. First of all he is responsible for proclaiming and bearing witness, proclamation and witness of hope for the world, in particular for the poor. Hence his commitment of holiness, which he builds day after day ‘inside’ the joy and fatigue of the pastoral ministry, in praying intimacy with his Lord, always faithful to the Gospel, also when situations are difficult, courageous defender of the Truth. (Synodus Episcoporum, Bulletin of the Commission for information of the X Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, 30 September-27 October 2001)

  • The episcopal insignia are symbols of the nobility of the bishop’s vocation

The ring is the symbol of faithfulness, through integrity of faith and purity of life, towards the Church whom he must watch over as the Spouse of Christ. The miter recalls episcopal holiness and the crown of glory which the Chief Shepherd will confer on his faithful servants. The crosier is the symbol of the office of the Good Shepherd, who watches over and leads with care the flock entrusted to him by the Holy Spirit . The pallium, […] woven from wool and decorated with crosses, it is a sign of the Bishop, identified with Christ the Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep and who bears the lost sheep on his shoulders. Moreover, it stands for his care of all, especially those who have wandered from the flock. This significance receives support in both Eastern and Western tradition. The cross which the Bishop wears around his neck is a powerful sign of his belonging to Christ, his confession of faith in him and the constant power which he draws from the Lord’s cross through the gift of life (Gal 6:14). (Synod of Bishops, Instrumentum Laboris of the 10th Assembly, no. 41, June 1, 2001)

  • The episcopal insignia are symbols of the nobility of the bishop’s vocation

The ring is the symbol of faithfulness, through integrity of faith and purity of life, towards the Church whom he must watch over as the Spouse of Christ. The miter recalls episcopal holiness and the crown of glory which the Chief Shepherd will confer on his faithful servants. The crosier is the symbol of the office of the Good Shepherd, who watches over and leads with care the flock entrusted to him by the Holy Spirit . The pallium, […] woven from wool and decorated with crosses, it is a sign of the Bishop, identified with Christ the Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep and who bears the lost sheep on his shoulders. Moreover, it stands for his care of all, especially those who have wandered from the flock. This significance receives support in both Eastern and Western tradition. The cross which the Bishop wears around his neck is a powerful sign of his belonging to Christ, his confession of faith in him and the constant power which he draws from the Lord’s cross through the gift of life (Gal 6:14). (Synod of Bishops, Instrumentum Laboris of the 10th Assembly, no. 41, June 1, 2001)

…judges Francis’ idea comparing Catechesis with Yoga and Zen

  • Catechesis is an adequate response to the growing influence of sects and new religious movements

In many ways, the sects and the new religious movements with their growing influence are a challenge to the Church. An adequate response to this challenge needs to include an initial proclamation of the Gospel to individuals as well as a catechesis of the Church’s members, both of which relate to local experiences and desires, and concentrate on fundamental truths rather than secondary theories. (Synod of Bishops. Special assembly for Oceania, Lineamenta, Ch. 2, no. 24, September 26, 1997)

…judges Francis’ idea on ‘good vibes

  • Among the sects there is a current of thought known as ‘New Age’ that is silently leaving its mark on culture

In addition to the groups identified as religious movements and sects, the responses also speak of the existence of a current of thought known by the name of ‘New Age,’ which is rapidly spreading in the entire hemisphere and has the proportions of a world-wide phenomenon. This philosophy, departing from relativism, proposes overcoming the problematic of the person as a subject through an ecstatic return to a kind of cosmic dance, while offering, at the same time, a totally anti-rationalistic model of religion, a modern ‘mystique’, according to which God is not a person who is distinguished from the world, but rather a spiritual energy which permeates the whole (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Conference to the Presidents of the Episcopal Commissions of Latin America – L’Osservatore Romano: Weekly English Edition, 6/11/1996). In this perspective, a personal encounter with God is simply unthinkable. Even more incomprehensible is the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God. For this reason, the responses express a deep concern with the ‘New Age’ phenomenon, which is negatively affecting the religious identity of America, and more specifically the Christian and Catholic faith. This movement is a ‘contender’ whose features cannot be seen clearly, since it cannot be placed in a defined category of a sect or a group, but is rather a way of thinking which spreads as an intellectual and spiritual current, silently leaving its mark on culture and many of its expressions. (Synod of Bishops, Special Assembly for America, Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: the way to Conversion, Community and Solidarity in America, Instrumentum Laboris, no. 47, September 1, 1997)

  • Syncretism causes believers to become disoriented and easily led astray by sects or para-religious movements

Indeed, in the piety of the people of America there are oftentimes many elements at odds with Christianity. These elements occasionally lead to a syncretism constructed on the basis of popular beliefs, or, in some cases, they cause believers to become disoriented and easily led astray by sects or para-religious movements. […] The increasing religious indifference leads to the loss of the sense of God and of His holiness, which, in turn, is translated into a loss of a sense of the sacred, of mystery and of the capacity for wonder. These are human dispositions which predispose a person to dialogue and to an encounter with God. Such indifference almost inevitably leads to a false moral autonomy and a secularistic life-style which excludes God. (Synod of Bishops, Special Assembly for America, Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: the Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America, no. 18-19, Lineamenta, August 1, 1996)

  • Sects undermine the religious unity of the Catholic people

Indeed, religious sects and pseudo-spiritual movements are undermining the religious and cultural unity of the Catholic people of America. Through the use of abundant economic and technical resources, they proselytize in a manner which often manipulates consciences. In Latin America these sects frequently attack the identity of a nation, an identity which is closely linked to the Catholic faith. In the area of religious formation, this constitutes another challenge for the Church in America. (Synod of Bishops, Special Assembly for America, Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: the Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America, no. 61, Lineamenta, August 1, 1996)

  • Sects aggressively preach against the Catholic Church

In general, the religious movements and sects aggressively preach against the Catholic Church. Moreover, they direct their campaigns of proselytism towards the marginalized of society, immigrants, prisoners, the sick in hospitals and generally towards all who live on the periphery of the big cities, where the presence of the Catholic Church sometimes is not very strong. Some propagators of the sects interpret the Bible in a fundamentalist way, providing pat answers to people who find themselves in situations of great uncertainty. They organize groups for the study of the Bible, give speeches in town-squares and invite people to frequent the sect’s places of cult. In general, the sects appeal to people’s emotions and superficial sensitivities in order to develop their propaganda activities. In many groups coordinated by these movements, the physical cure of the sick is prayed for and alms are distributed to attract people. Lured by these tactics, many Catholics in recent years have abandoned the practice of their faith to enter the religious movements and the sects. (Synod of Bishops, Special Assembly for America, Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: the way to Conversion, Community and Solidarity in America, Instrumentum Laboris, no. 46, September 1, 1997)

  • Suggestions regarding how to respond to the challenge posed by the New Age

There are many suggestions regarding how to respond to the challenge posed by the religious movements, sects and other currents such as ‘New Age’. In the IV General Conference of the Latin American Bishops, a series of specific measures were proposed which, in a certain way, have already begun to be put into practice in various parts of the hemisphere, for example: improving formation through catechesis; greater attention to liturgical celebrations, especially in the preparation of the homily; greater collaboration between priests and laity so as to bring about a more personalized evangelization (especially in the family and among young people); purification and promotion of popular piety, more emphasis on those aspects most identified with the Catholic Church (Eucharistic devotion, Marian piety, communion with the Roman Pontiff and with the local bishop), etc. In general, there is unanimous consensus as to the opportuneness of strengthening the Catholic community at all levels by renewing the structures of communion and mission, as well as maintaining a living faith in Jesus Christ through meditation and reflection on the Word of God, prayer (personal and communal), the practice of the sacraments (especially the Eucharist) and popular devotion. An effective instrument in overcoming these challenges is the collaboration of bishops among themselves (at the level of bishops’ conferences and regional meetings of metropolitan archbishops with their respective suffragant bishops) so as to develop an organic pastoral plan on this subject, which can have concrete results in an effective joint-action. (Synod of Bishops, Special Assembly for America, Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: the way to Conversion, Community and Solidarity in America, Instrumentum Laboris, no. 48, September 1, 1997)

  • When there is a plethora of masters, gurus, sects: we must recall constantly for people that salvation is only in the name of Jesus

As in the time of Saint Paul in the areopagus of Athens or in the Roman forum, there is also today an abundance of idols and divinities, a plethora of masters, gurus, sects, obscure movements and secular wisdom, all of which promise people a sure plan for happiness and a utopia. In light of this situation, it is essential to recall constantly for people that ‘there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12), except the name of Jesus of Nazareth. The salvation which Christ’s way offers is fundamental and universal, because it forgives and wipes away the sins of all those who receive it with a sincere heart (cf. Lk 1:77; 3:3; 4:18; 24:47; Acts 2:38; 5:31; 10:43; 13:38; 26:17-18). (Synod of Bishops, Special Assembly for America, Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: the Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America, no. 10-11, Lineamenta, August 1, 1996)

…judges Francis’ idea on the origin of the Psalms

  • The Psalms illustrate the divine-human character of Sacred Scripture.

Though deeply important for the entire Church, the Liturgy of the Hours has particular significance in the consecrated life. The Liturgy of the Hours is particularly adapt in a formation to prayer, primarily because the Psalms best illustrate the divine-human character of Sacred Scripture. The Psalms are the school of prayer, where the person who sings or recites them learns to hear, interiorize and interpret the Word of God.
— In addition to receiving the Word of God in personal and communal prayer, all Christians have the unavoidable responsibility to receive it in liturgical prayer. This requires a new outlook towards Sacred Scripture. (Synod of Bishops. XII Ordinary General Assembly: The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the ChurchInstrumentum laboris, ch. V, no. 34, May 11, 2008)

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