Saturday, September 06, 2008

Filling Out the Aula

In another sign of the Vatican's gradual return to life from its August hiatus, this morning saw the release of Pope's slate of delegates, experts and observers for next month's Synod of Bishops on the Word. The appointees join those prelates already elected by their respective episcopal conferences, and the heads of the Roman dicasteries who enjoy ex officio seats for the global gatherings.

While the top story from the release is that a record six of the 41 experts at the 5-26 October meet-up are women -- among them Missionary Servant of the Blessed Trinity Sr Sara Butler, a professor of dogmatic theology at Dunwoodie and member of the Holy See's International Theological Commission -- some other notable names dot the list. From the top, among them are the lone biblical scholar among the cardinal-electors, Ghana's Peter Appiah Turkson, Cardinals George Pell of Sydney, Joachim Meisner of Cologne, the Honduran Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga SDB and Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, along with Archbishops John Onaiyekan of Abuja, a Scripturalist and president of the Nigerian bishops, and the Brazilian Raymundo Assis of Aparecida, the president of the Latin American mega-conference CELAM.

(Closer to home, back in February it was announced that the Stateside bench had filled its allotted four seats with its president and veep, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago and Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, along with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington.)

Alongside all this, two other items of note stick out: first, a decade after the Stateside crowd and the Romans engaged in a trans-Pond skirmish after Archbishop-emeritus John Quinn of San Francisco was rejected as an elected US delegate to the 1997 Synod for America due to his retired status, B16 shown progressively fewer qualms over naming superannuated prelates to his synods. For the last gathering in 2005 (dedicated to the Eucharist), the pontiff tapped the former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez as one of his slate, and this time around the line-up features no fewer than three red-clad retirees: the dean of the "papal senate" (and former Secretary of State) Angelo Sodano, the archpriest of St Paul's Andrea Cordero Lanza de Montezemolo, and the Belgian Jesuit Albert Vanhoye, the famed scholar of the Letter to the Hebrews (and longtime Ratzinger collaborator) who was given the red hat at this pontificate's first consistory in 2006.

Second, next month's meeting will find the lay-dominated "new movements" especially well-represented. Among others called to the Aula today were the Neocatechumenal Way co-founder Kiko Arguello, Sant'Egidio's Andrea Riccardi, Peru's Luis Figari of the Sodalitium Vitae, Brazil's Lauro Filho of the Shalom community, and Maria Voce, the recently-elected successor of Chiara Lubich as head of the global Focolare movement. For all that, though -- and the many religious superiors-general present on the slate -- Benedict sent another little gift the way of his favorite movement.

While the lower appointments were made by the Synod Secretariat and approved by the Apartment, those whom the Pope himself named as Synod Fathers (full members) were cardinals or senior bishops... with two significant exceptions. Unsurprisingly, the first is the "Black Pope" Adolfo Nicolás, the recently-elected Jesuit Father-General, but yet again, the other is Fr Julian Carrón -- the head of Comunione e Liberazione, the "school of community" which, by Joseph Ratzinger's own admission, "changed [his] life." The successor to the movement's founder Msgr Luigi Giussani -- whose funeral was preached by then-Cardinal Ratzinger just six weeks before his ascent to Peter's chair -- Carrón was also an appointed member of the 2005 synod. (That the conspirary theorists not be disappointed, though, the prelate-head of Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echeverria, likewise made the top-level cut.)

In tandem with today's list, expected to drop in the coming weeks are another set of high-level curial changes... which, given early reports, could just be the most high-octane yet.

For more on that and everything else, stay tuned.

PHOTO: Max Rossi/Reuters