Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Called to the Aula

As plans continue apace for this fall's Synod of Bishops on the Word of God, the American delegation to the October 5-26 gathering has been revealed.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops will be represented by its president and vice-president -- respectively Chicago's Cardinal Francis George and Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson -- along with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington.

While nominations from the episcopal conferences were collected and sent to Rome over recent months, the Pope enjoys final word over the appointment of delegates.

The Stateside church's master catechist (and, come April, Pope Benedict's first American host), Wuerl's appointment makes him 2-for-2 as a delegate to synods during the current pontificate; as bishop of Pittsburgh, the DC prelate was named to the October 2005 Synod on the Eucharist before being transferred to the capital the following spring. DiNardo's first call to the "big dance" is just the latest Pope-backed profile-raiser for the reigning Churchman, a patristic scholar who received the American South's first-ever red hat at last November's consistory.

Just over three months after being elected the US bishops' second-in-command/ leader-in-waiting, Kicanas will likewise be making his debut in the Aula, while the fall Synod will be the fourth for the cardinal-president, who served as a top official of the 1997 meeting dedicated to the Americas. Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia and the USCCB's immediate past president, Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, were named the conference alternates.

In total, the 200-plus delegates for the three-week gathering will be comprised of bishop-representatives drawn from the national conferences, others chosen by papal appointment (including priests, religious and lay experts and observers); and the prefects and presidents of the Roman dicasteries, who enjoy membership on an ex officio basis.

In late January, B16 named Cardinal Marc Ouellet as the Synod's relator, or recording secretary. Still to come are the pontiff's choices of presidents-delegate -- the troika of red-hats who take turns leading the daily sessions. While the CDF prefect Cardinal William Levada will almost certainly be among the group as president of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, the identities of the other two are as yet unknown... at least, officially speaking.

The Pope is understood to be zeroing in on an Asian cardinal to fill one of the presiding slots, with the other expected to go to the college's only active member with a degree in the Scriptures -- Ghana's Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Cape Coast.

PHOTO: Max Rossi/CPP