Saturday, October 04, 2008

A Synodal Broadcast... of Biblical Proportions

Tomorrow morning in St Paul's Outside the Walls, the Pope will celebrate the opening Mass for the 12th Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, this time meeting on "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church."

The second synod of B16's pontificate -- and the first plotted out under his watch (2005's Synod on the Eucharist was largely inherited from John Paul II) -- the three week gathering's been described as a "synod of novelties": major addresses will be given by a rabbi and the patriarch of Constantinople, a record number of women and lay leaders will be present, and delegates will have even less time (five minutes, down from eight) for their interventions, even if it's to facilitate Papa Ratzi's preference for more open discussion as each day's sessions wind down.

Yet of them all, the event's most prominent aspect won't be taking place before the 300 invitees inside the Aula, but on the slightly more accessible channels of the RAI, Italy's state television. Beginning tomorrow with the Pope's reading of the first chapter of Genesis, no less than 1,300 politicians, athletes, celebrities and clerics from the various branches of Christianity, joined by a contingent of Jewish and Muslim luminaries, will take turns reading the Scriptures, cover-to-cover, for a national audience.

Beamed from Rome's Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, the initiative -- titled "Bible Day and Night" -- is slated to last through the week; 139 hours, without interruptions, all told. While the city's Chief Rabbi Riccardo de Segni was initially slated to echo the pontiff's Genesis reading in Hebrew from his outpost at the main synagogue, he pulled out on finding that it wasn't to be the case. Even so, the Israeli ambassador to the Holy See Mordechai Lewy will participate early on, as will Andrea Boccelli, the prior of Bose Enzo Bianchi, Rome's Mayor Gianni Alemanno, several former Italian presidents, a host of cardinals and, just after the Pope, the Moscow patriarchate's EU delegate and a Protestant clergywoman, the Oscar-winning thespian/comic Roberto Benigni. The readings scheduled to pause after every handful of chapters for a musical interlude, the planned selections -- performed live by on-site soloists or choirs -- range from Latin motets and Hebrew chants to "Amazing Grace" and "Wade in the Water."

Two American prelates will appear during the week: a delegate to the Synod, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston is scheduled to chip in early Tuesday with part of Kings 1, and the prefect of the CDF Cardinal William Levada -- one of the meeting's rotating presidents -- will read the 20th chapter of John's Gospel on Friday evening. But in what the Curial crowd likely sees as the most appropriate choice of all, the Bible's last chapter -- Apocalypse 22 -- will be read on Saturday afternoon by the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone SDB.

Slated to begin at 7pm local time tomorrow (1700GMT; 1pm Eastern) the first and final hours of the "Bible-thon" will be shown on the flagship RAI Uno, with most of the rest on the network's "Edu" channel... however, only Uno's available by livestream.

(SVILUPPO: A livestream link for the entire week's reading is up and running.)

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In other Synod Eve drops, Monday's tone-setter talk by the gathering's secretary (also a "Bible-thon" participant), the Canadian primate Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec, has been previewed... and before departing DC to take a delegate's seat for the second Synod running, Archbishop Donald Wuerl offered some impressions in an interview with his weekly.

PHOTO: L'Osservatore Romano