The New Evangelization - Oceania


 

REPORT - Synod for Oceania

Jan Pieter Cardinal Schotte
General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops


Most Holy Father,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

Esteemed Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, I am pleased to make this report to all present on the preparation of this Special Assembly for Oceania of the Synod of Bishops.

Before directly treating the subject of the preparatory process, I would like to recall that this synodal assembly finds its origin in the series of continental or regional synods proposed by the Holy Father in his Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente. In this document, His Holiness, focusing on the global preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, explicitly declared his intention to convoke a Special Assembly for the region of Oceania and set forth one of its many characteristic features.

He wrote: "...for Oceania a Regional Synod could be useful. In this region there arises the question, among others, of the Aboriginal People, who in a unique way evoke aspects of human prehistory. In this Synod a matter not to be overlooked, together with other problems of the region, would be the encounter of Christianity with the most ancient forms of religion, profoundly marked by a monotheistic orientation."

In his apostolic visit to New Zealand in 1986, the words of His Holiness addressed to the bishops were almost prophetic in describing the underlying theological foundation of this synodal assembly: "this time of fraternal exchange gives us the opportunity to experience anew, with joy and gratitude, the bonds that unite us in Christ and in his Church: the bond of full ecclesial communion, the bond of episcopal consecration, the bond of hierarchical and collegial responsibility for the Church entrusted to our respective ministries. We are together in "the bonds of unity, charity and peace," which have characterized the relationship of the bishops of the world among themselves and with the Bishop of Rome since apostolic times (cf. Lumen gentium, 22)."

Similarly, his words to the bishops of Australia in that same year could well be used to describe the purpose of this synod: "...There exists between us a bond which expresses in a personal and collegial way the communion-the koinonia-that characterizes the entire life of the Church. ... Indeed it is to the Church that we too, 'successors of the Apostles...sent to continue throughout the ages the work of Christ (Christus Dominus, 2), must look if we are to understand the true meaning of our episcopal ministry. Ours is a mission of service to the ecclesial community and to the world. ... Together in the College of Bishops we share the ministry of fostering the unity of God's people in faith and charity. Together we are accountable to Christ for this responsibility of ours. In the communion of the Church the role of the bishop, as also the specific role of the Successor of Peter, is defined by the command and the power which Christ gave the Apostles and their successors to teach all nations, to sanctify them in the truth and to give them a shepherd's care (cf. Christus Dominus 2; Lumen gentium, 17, 7)."

The context of the Jubilee preparation is added by calling to mind His Holiness' words to the bishops of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands in 1995. He said: "The Church is 'God's building' (1 Cor 3:9), whose architect is Christ himself (cf. Mt 16:18). Her foundations, the ground of her durability and solidity, are Peter and the Apostles. We who by God's design have succeeded to the apostolic ministry are charged with sustaining and increasing the household of God in the Spirit (cf. Christus Dominus, 1-2). As servants of the Gospel, our principal task is to 'strive to excel in building up the Church' (1 Cor 14:12). To build up the Body of Christ in love entails both evangelization and a constant inner renewal of the Christian life. Our meeting...gives me the opportunity to encourage you in fulfilling the tasks which the Lord has laid on your shoulders. It enables me to urge you to work together in ever increasing fraternal solidarity for the good of the Church in this 'hour of grace' which we are living as we approach the third Christian millennium, 'that new springtime of Christian life which will be revealed by the Great Jubilee, if Christians are docile to the action of the Holy Spirit" (Tertio millennio adventiente, 18)."

And finally, His Holiness' words to the bishops in the Pacific, speaking of past accomplishments and the overriding task facing the Church in Oceania, can well be applied to the work which awaits us: "the Church is by nature missionary. In every age, she feels herself urged on by the words of our Saviour: 'Go therefore and make disciples of all nations' (Mt 28:19). The Church in Oceania eloquently shows the fruit of this evangelizing spirit. Evangelisation is the task of everyone in the Church, although the bishops have the specific role of overseeing its broad range of activities. You have laboured long and hard in proclaiming the Gospel. The Good News of Christ has been accepted in faith and gratitude, and the Church has been firmly planted in your midst. The next stage, which is no less urgent, is the consolidation and deepening of the faith. Ever more effective means must be sought to transmit to everyone, but especially to the young, the teachings of the Church and the moral values deriving from the Gospel."

Having used the Holy Father's own words in addressing some of the theological aspects of this Special Assembly, I now intend to treat in a practical manner the various stages in the process which have lead to the celebration of this Special Assembly for Oceania. These points will be treated in the following order:

I - THE BACKGROUND TO THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE SYNOD

II - THE PRE-SYNODAL COUNCIL OF THE GENERAL SECRETARIAT

III - THE CONVOCATION OF THE SYNOD

IV - THE MEMBERS OF THE SYNOD

V - THE SYNOD PROCESS AND THE PARTICULAR CHURCHES

VI - ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I - THE BACKGROUND TO THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE SYNOD

In a certain way, it can be said that the idea of a meeting of the bishops for Oceania to consider commonly shared pastoral problems was the fruit of a slow maturation process which began in the Second Vatican Council where collegiality was seen as not only an effective expression of the communion of the entire episcopate with the Successor of St. Peter but also a valuable tool in evangelization. This Ecumenical Council encouraged the bishops of the entire world to establish national and international bodies to consider the pastoral situation resulting from the new challenges posed at that time in contemporary civilization. In this post-conciliar spirit, four (4) episcopal conferences were established in Oceania: 1) the Conferentia Episcopalis Pacifici (C.E.PAC.), which came into being on 29 January 1974; 2) the New Zealand Catholic Bishops' Conference, which was officially established on 14 September 1974; 3) the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference, whose statutes were approved on 10 March 1979; and 4) the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, established on 31 May 1983.

On 28 July 1992, these four conferences formed the Federation of Catholic Bishops' Conferences of Oceania (F.C.B.C.O.). The four episcopal conferences meet in plenary assembly every four years, while the ongoing work of the Federation is handled by a Committee drawn from all four Conferences. The formation of the Federation in 1992 has already resulted in closer cooperation throughout the whole region and has increased a sense of unity and identity for the region of Oceania.

These beneficial experiences of ecclesial communion inspired the Holy Father to convoke this present meeting of the bishops of the region of Oceania which takes the form of a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Holy Father, all of us are deeply grateful for this opportunity to meet in communion and pastoral fellowship; at this time, we desire to renew once again our devotion to the Vicar of Christ and Successor of St. Peter.

II - PRE-SYNODAL COUNCIL OF THE GENERAL SECRETARIAT OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS

In the Spring, 1996, I travelled to Oceania to attend a preliminary series of meetings in the region in which the forthcoming special synodal assembly was discussed and where I benefitted from the observations of the bishops.

From 12-14 March, I participated in the Meeting of the Executive Committee of the Federation of Catholic Bishops' Conferences of Oceania (F.C.B.C.O.) in Nouméa, New Caledonia. In the interest of time and to avoid the difficulty of travelling to Rome for a meeting, the group, on that occasion, devoted a full day to the Special Assembly, discussing the results of the consultation process regarding a possible synod topic, formulating various topic choices for submission to the Holy Father, examining the question of possible members for the Pre-Synodal Council to be appointed by the Holy Father and making preliminary plans for coordinating the preparation process at the local level.

After this meeting, I flew to Australia, 19-20 March, to address the Central Commission of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference on the preparation of the Special Assembly, and later went to Fiji, 22-23 March, where I met with His Excellency, Most Rev. Petero MATACA, Archbishop of Suva, to update him on details concerning the Special Assembly, so that he could communicate the news to his fellow bishops in the Pacific Islands region.

After returning to Rome, I submitted the information to the Holy Father. Shortly thereafter, on 7 June 1996, according to accepted procedure, the Holy Father appointed the Pre-Synodal Council of the General Secretariat. The members of this Council were: His Eminence, Cardinal Thomas Stafford WILLIAMS, Archbishop of Wellington (New Zealand) and President of the Federation of Catholic Bishops' Conferences of Oceania (F.C.B.C.O); His Eminence, Cardinal Jozef TOMKO, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (Vatican City); His Eminence, Cardinal Edward Bede CLANCY, Archbishop of Sydney (Australia) and President of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference; His Eminence, Cardinal Edward Idris CASSIDY, President of the Council for Promoting Christian Unity (Vatican City); His Excellency, Most Rev. Petero MATACA, Archbishop of Suva (Fiji Islands); His Excellency, Most Rev. Michel-Marie-Bernard CALVET, S.M., Archbishop of Nouméa (New Caledonia) and President of the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific (C.E.PAC.); His Excellency, Most Rev. Anthony Sablan APURON, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Agaña (Guam); His Excellency, Most Rev. Karl HESSE, M.S.C., Archbishop of Rabaul (Papua New Guinea); His Excellency, Most Rev. Barry James HICKEY, Archbishop of Perth (Australia); His Excellency, Most Rev. Peter Joseph CONNORS, Titular Bishop of Temuniana and Auxiliary of Melbourne (Australia).

The Pre-Synodal Council held its First Meeting in the General Secretariat, 14-16 November 1996, during which the Council gave final form to the synod topic-later submitted to the Holy Father for his approval-and provided observations on an initial draft text of the Lineamenta. This document was a result of the collaborative efforts of the members of the Pre-Synodal Council, experts from various parts of the region of Oceania and the staff of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops.

On 24 May 1997, the Lineamenta, in the two official languages of the Special Assembly-English and French-was made public in the Holy See Press Office. Subsequently, various episcopal conferences, archdioceses, dioceses and other ecclesial bodies promoted a widespread distribution of the document in their respective areas through re-publishing the text as well as through utilizing the electronic media (Internet).

The Lineamenta document begins with a brief introductory presentation on the region of Oceania and its Peoples and offers initial reflections on the synod experience and its agenda on the Person of Christ as "the Way, the Truth and the Life" (Jn 14:6). The body of the Lineamenta text is divided into three major parts corresponding to the three divisions of the synod theme: "Walking his Way, Telling his Truth, Living his Life". These three parts are further subdivided into chapters. Part I, "Walking his Way" has two chapters, one treating the subject of missionaries in Oceania and another on the rich cultural heritage of the region. Both chapters treat the topic from an historical and present-day perspective. Part II, "Telling his Truth", has four chapters: chapter I, on the work of evangelization and present challenges within the Church, chapter II on ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, chapter III on the phenomenon of the sects and religious movements in Oceania, and chapter IV on issues of justice and peace. Part III, "Living the Life of Christ", is divided into five chapters, each treating practical aspects for the individual and community of actually living the life of Christ in the Church and in the world. Therefore, chapter I speaks of the sacraments; chapter II , human life and health; chapter III, marriage and the family; chapter IV, particular vocations and charisms; and chapter V, the building of communion and the ministry of communion. The Lineamenta presentation ends with a brief reflection on the Virgin Mary as Queen of Peace and Help of Christians, the titles preferred by the people of Oceania to invoke her. The Lineamenta document concludes with a series of 18 questions, meant for reflection and prayer and to be used in structuring the official responses.

Due to the relatively small number of bishops in the region (about 90), comprising 4 episcopal conferences, and taking into consideration the mail situation in the vast Pacific region, every active bishop in Oceania was asked to submit his response directly to the General Secretariat instead of to the episcopal conferences as was done for other synods, according to normal synodal procedure. The deadline for submissions was 1 February 1998.

To avoid the great expense for the Council's travelling to Rome and the extended absence of the members from their dioceses, the Second Meeting of the Pre-Synodal Council took place in Wellington (New Zealand), 26-28 August 1997, graciously and generously hosted by His Eminence, Cardinal Thomas Stafford WILLIAMS.

The meeting's agenda began with the members recounting the initial reactions to the publication of the Lineamenta and the various initiatives and programs which were in effect to ensure a proper diffusion of the document and a rich response to the questions. At the same time, the members discussed the criteria for participation at the Special Assembly which concluded in part with an agreement to request that all active bishops in the region of Oceania be invited to participate, thus foregoing any elections. Also discussed were plans to hold the Special Assembly in conjunction with the scheduled ad limina visits of the bishops', superiors and administrators from the region, so as to facilitate travel and co-ordinate diocesan responsibilities. In the final portion of the meeting the Council members were asked to suggest names of various persons for consideration as experts and auditors at the synodal gathering.

The Third Meeting of the Pre-Synodal Council took place on 10-12 March 1998 in the General Secretariat, Vatican City. One of the points on the agenda was the analysis and study of the responses to the questions in the Lineamenta and the discussion of the final draft of the Instrumentum laboris. Offering assistance in this work were experts who came from various parts of Oceania or who worked extensively in the region.

For purposes of study, the official responses to the Lineamenta questionnaire were categorized according to the episcopal conferences in Oceania resulting in the following:

Active bishops in Oceania:

Australia 18/32 56.25%

Pacific 11/17 64.7%

New Zealand 06/06 100%

Papua New Guinea/Solomon Islands 18/21 85.71%

Total regional response: 53/76 69.73%

Roman Curia 6/14 42.85%

Union of Superiors General 0/1 0 %

Total response: 59/91 64.83%

To provide a global view of the synodal assemblies, this figure was compared to the percentage of total response in other synodal assemblies:

3rd Ordinary General Assembly (1974) Evangelization 75.38 %

4th Ordinary General Assembly (1977) Catechesis 67.18 %

5th Ordinary General Assembly (1980) Family 50.37 %

6th Ordinary General Assembly (1983) Penance 42.75 %

7th Ordinary General Assembly (1987) Laity 59.85 %

8th Ordinary General Assembly (1990) Priestly Formation 63.94 %

1st Special Assembly for Europe (1991) Witnesses of Christ 82.61 %

Special Assembly for Africa (1994) Evangelizing Mission 94 %

9th Ordinary General Assembly (1994) Consecrated Life 68 %

Special Assembly for Lebanon (1995) Christ Our Hope 82.5%

Special Assembly for America (1997) Encounter with Christ 100%

Special Assembly for Asia (1998) Christ the Saviour 80%

Special Assembly for Oceania (1998) Christ and Oceania 69.73%

While keeping in mind the analytical presentation on the responses and their contents, the Council members discussed the final draft text of the Instrumentum laboris. Afterwards, they turned their attention to the immediate technical preparations for the Special Assembly in the study of the Vademecum or manual of synod procedure and the suggestion of points for consideration in the formulation of the Relatio ante disceptationem, the General Rapporteur's presentation on the synodal topic made during the synodal assembly. The work of the meeting was facilitated by the fact that a majority of those who were to be appointed by the Holy Father to exercise special roles during the synodal assembly were also Council members. Shortly after the meeting the following appointments were made public:

Presidents-Delegate

His Eminence, Cardinal Pio TAOFINU'U, S.M., Archbishop of Samoa-Apia (Samoa)

His Eminence, Cardinal Edward Idris CASSIDY, President, Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (Vatican City)

His Eminence, Cardinal Thomas Stafford WILLIAMS, Archbishop of Wellington (New Zealand)

General Rapporteur

His Excellency, Most Rev. Barry James HICKEY, Archbishop of Perth (Australia)

Special Secretary

His Excellency, Most Rev. Michel-Marie-Bernard CALVET, S.M., Archbishop of Nouméa (New Caledonia)

Commission for the Message

President: His Excellency, Most Rev. Karl HESSE, M.S.C., Archbishop of Rabaul (Papua New Guinea)

Vice-President: His Excellency, Most Rev. Petero MATACA, Archbishop of Suva (Fiji)

Commission for Information

President: His Excellency, Most Rev. Anthony Sablan APURON, O.F.M.Cap., Archbishop of Agaña (Guam)

Vice-President: His Excellency, Most Rev. Hubert COPPENRATH, Coadjutor Archbishop of Papeete, Tahiti (French Polynesia)

In conformity with the statutes of the Ordo Synodi (chap. VI, art. 10) the Commission for Controversies was established having the following members:

Commission for Controversies

President: His Eminence, Card. Edward Bede CLANCY, Archbishop of Sydney (Australia)

Members:

His Excellency, Most Rev. Michael MEIER, S.V.D., Archbishop of Mount Hagen (Papua New Guinea)

His Excellency, Most Rev. Lolesio FUAHEA, Bishop of Wallis e Futuna (Wallis and Futuna Islands)

In the past, this Commission has never been called upon to function due to the spirit of collegiality which has characterized synodal proceedings.

III - THE CONVOCATION OF THE SYNOD

After the Holy Father announced his intention to convoke the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Oceania, various stages of preparation followed, principally resulting in the two previously mentioned documents, i.e., the Lineamenta and the Instrumentum laboris.

The Holy Father's official act of convoking the Special Assembly and the setting of its actual dates, 22 November - 12 December, occurred in a private audience granted to me, the General Secretary, on 8 July 1998.

IV - MEMBERS OF THE SPECIAL ASSEMBLY

During a private audience granted to me on 25 October 1997, the Holy Father approved the criteria for participation for the Special Assembly for Oceania, which were sent by the General Secretariat to those concerned on 8 November 1997. These norms included the following categories of participants:

Members ex officio:

1) Given the relatively small number of bishops and episcopal conferences in the region of Oceania, all bishops were invited to participate as ex officio members, with the following stipulations:

- Since the 1983 Code of Canon Law does not consider emeriti bishops as members of episcopal conferences--unless given a task by the episcopal conference or the Holy See--and since many of them do not reside any longer in their former dioceses, the emeriti bishops of Oceania were not included in this category, and therefore are not participating at the Special Assembly. The emeritus status was determined as of the opening day of the Special Assembly.

- Since the membership of auxiliary bishops in episcopal conferences depends on each's statutes, the status of auxiliary bishops was determined in each episcopal conference, and if they were members of the conference, they were invited to participate. However, should an auxiliary be required to remain in a diocese for a grave reason, the ordinary could contact the General Secretariat which will submit the situation to the decision of the Holy Father.

The afore-mentioned permission was requested by the Ordinaries of Sydney and Melbourne (Australia). Therefore, His Excellency, Most Rev. David CREMIN, Titular Bishop of Cunga Féichin and Auxiliary of Sydney and His Excellency, Most Rev. Joseph O'CONNELL, Titular Bishop of Germanus and Auxiliary of Melbourne are not participating in this Special Assembly as synod fathers.

His Excellency, Most Rev. Joseph HITTI, Bishop of St. Maron of Sydney of the Maronites was granted permission by the Holy Father to be absent from synodal proceedings for reasons of health.

Since all active bishops in Oceania were invited to participate in virtue of their office, there was no need to treat under a separate category cardinals from the region of Oceania, members from the Oriental Churches in Oceania, and presidents of episcopal conferences, who in other continental synods received individual attention in determining criteria for participation at Special Assemblies.

2) General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops.

3) Because of the relatively small number of participants in this Special Assembly, I sought the collaboration of the Pre-Synodal Council members in selecting the members of the Roman Curia whom they felt should participate at the Special Assembly. After subsequent approval was received from the Holy Father, the following Heads of the Departments of the Roman Curia were included in the criteria for participation as ex officio members: Dean of the College of Cardinals, Secretariat of State, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Congregation for Bishops, Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Congregation for Clergy, Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Congregation for Catholic Education, Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Pontifical Council for the Family, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Pontifical Council for the Laity, Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, Pontifical Council for Social Communications, President of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State (16).

4) Heads of Ecclesiastical Territories in Oceania, i.e., the 3 priests having administrative jurisdiction in the area: missions sui juris: Funafuti (Tuvalu) and Tokelau (Tokelau), and the apostolic prefecture: Marshall Islands.

5) Diocesan Administrators, i.e., 3 canonically elected priests who exercise jurisdiction in a diocese while awaiting the appointment of a bishop: Armidale (Australia), Aitape and Bereina (Papua New Guinea).

Members ex electione:

No elections were required by the episcopal conferences since the approved criteria for participation included all active cardinals, archbishops and bishops in the region.

These same criteria, however, requested the election by the Union of Superiors General of six (6) priests belonging to clerical congregations of pontifical right, who, after ratification by the Holy Father, would participate as synod fathers.

Members ex nominatione pontificia:

Furthermore, since Ordo Synodi (art. 5, § 4) establishes that the Holy Father can appoint members for Special Assemblies ex nominatione pontificia, six (6) members from outside of Oceania were invited to participate.

Other Participants:

Also figured in the count of participants are nineteen (19) auditors (auditores) appointed by the Holy Father, who come from all areas of Church life and share with the bishops their concern for the good of the New People of God in Oceania. They bring to the discussion in the small groups their experiences of Church life, as well as the graces received from the Lord for the upbuilding of the Church. Participants in this category include: one (1) diocesan priest, four (4) priest religious, three (3) deacons, two (2) religious brothers, four (4) religious sisters, two (2) laymen, and three (3) laywomen.

At the same time, the Holy Father appointed fourteen (14) experts to assist the Rapporteur and Special Secretary in their responsibilities.

In collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Fraternal Delegates were also invited to represent the following Churches and ecclesial communities:

1) the Anglican Church in Aotearoa - New Zealand and Polynesia;

2) the Lutheran World Federation;

3) the Presbyterian Church in Australia;

4) the World Methodist Council.

[In French]

The categories mentioned above can be numerically broken down in the following manner:

I - Members ex officio

1. Active Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops from Oceania 82

2. Heads of Ecclesiastical Territories 3

3. Diocesan Administrators 3

4. General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops 1

5. Heads of the Departments of the Roman Curia 16

II - Members ex electione

Union of Superiors General 6

III - Members ex nominatione pontificia

Archbishops/Bishops 6

IV - Experts 14

V - Auditores .19

VI - Fraternal Delegates 4

According to the above-mentioned numbers, the total number of participants in the Special Assembly for Oceania is 154, which can be numerically broken down in still another manner:

Members

Members ex officio 105

Members ex electione 6

Members ex nominatione pontificia 6

Sub-total 117

Auditores and Experts

Auditores 19

Experts 14

Sub-total 33

Fraternal Delegates 4

TOTAL 154

V - THE SYNOD PROCESS AND THE PARTICULAR CHURCHES

According to synodal methodology, the good outcome of a synodal assembly depends in a great part on the active participation of the entire Church community at its various levels. It is for this reason that the General Secretariat, following the desire of the Holy Father, has continuously updated information on the progress of preparation for the synod, publishing Press Releases after each meeting of the Pre-Synodal Council and making public vital synodal documents, i.e., the Lineamenta on 24 May 1997, subsequently printed in L'Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English on 11 June 1997 and L'Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in French on 3 June 1997, and the Instrumentum laboris on 28 August 1998, later appearing in a special insert in L'Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 2 September 1998 and L'Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in French, 1 September 1998.

So as to ensure maximum diffusion of information, the synod documents have been made available at the Vatican web site on the Internet and through the Vatican Information Service (V.I.S.). Permission was given to episcopal conferences to authorize the re-publishing of these documents with the one condition that two copies of the new edition be sent to the General Secretariat. As a result, various conferences have published the above-mentioned documents and circulated them through various local web sites on the Internet.

In the episcopal conferences, but more particularly in dioceses, special activities were organized (study seminars, conferences, workshops, etc.), with an aim to generate responses to the questions of the Lineamenta, so that the drafting of the Instrumentum laboris might faithfully reflect local ecclesial experiences. Where the participation of persons and groups varied in the preparation of responses, it is possible to say with certainty that the entire Church in Oceania has been "in synod", i.e., praying in communion, reflecting and meditating in light of the Word of God on the priorities of the new evangelization at the approach of the Third Millennium. From the point of view of content, the responses indicate that they were carefully drafted, and, therefore, served as a rich contribution in the process of understanding the real situation of the Church in the Oceania.

At the same time, bearing in mind that a special assembly-although primarily pertaining to Church concerns in a determined region-is an event with implications for the whole Church, the General Secretariat sent both the Lineamenta and Instrumentum laboris to all episcopal conferences outside of Oceania. In this way, the entire Church is adequately informed in the matter and able to unite herself in prayer for the successful outcome of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Oceania.

One of the most interesting aspects in this preparation process, concluding today in the celebration of the Special Assembly, is manifested in the Instrumentum laboris. In other words, this document can be said truly to be summary assessment of the pastoral situation of the Church in Oceania. Emerging from the general treatment offered in this working document is a series of elements which confirm the providential intuition of the Holy Father in convoking this Special Assembly, e.g., pastoral care for the aborigines and tribal peoples, a desire to renew efforts in the program of a new evangelization towards the Third Millennium, the need to confront various social issues with the teachings of Christ, the recurring question of the Gospel and various cultures, etc. These are just a few of the many significant pastoral topics in Oceania which make this synodal assembly particular timely.

VI - AKNOWLEDGMENTS

I wish to express my deep gratitude to all the bishops who as members of the Pre-Synodal Council have collaborated with the General Secretariat in the various phases of preparation for this Special Assembly and who have generously offered their time, working with great competence in their service to the Church. I pray that the Lord might accept their efforts as an agreeable sacrifice for the successful outcome of this Assembly.

I extend special thanks to the Heads of the Departments of the Roman Curia for their continued collaboration in the work of the synod and the President of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State and the staff of the Governatorato for their willingness and generosity in supplying the needed technical support.

I also wish to acknowledge the dedicated work of the staff members of the General Secretariat, the assistants (priests, deacons and seminarians), those cooperating in the dissemination of information, the simultaneous translators, and all service personnel.

CONCLUSION

To conclude this presentation, I wish to highlight once again the topic of the Synod: Jesus Christ and the Peoples of Oceania: Walking His Way, Telling His Truth, Living His Life. Many men and women in this region are yearning for peace and harmony within themselves, among their relationships with others and with the world of creation. Our faith tells us that the elements which underlie a basic human search for meaning are only to be found in personally experiencing the risen Jesus Christ through the Church and her members. Our task as synod fathers is to do all in our power to lead others to the fulfilment of this longing which is in the depths of the human heart, so that walking together in this synod, the Church might, with increasing conviction, proclaim her Lord to all Peoples of Oceania by Walking His Way, Telling His truth and Living His Life.

Following the example of the Vicars of Christ in this century, we invoke in the task which lies ahead of us the maternal protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, "Queen of the Pacific", that is, Queen of Peace and Help of Christians, her preferred titles in Oceania, placing at her feet the work of the Synod which, with God's help, will bear abundant fruit in the region and in the whole Church. Trusting in her powerful intercession, we are now ready to commence this Special Assembly in the hope of being able to pursue with greater intensity the evangelizing mission of the Church in Oceania and to open new paths to bring Christ and his saving message to all peoples in the region.

In conclusion, we extend our gratitude to Your Holiness for convoking us here and, using this occasion, we, as members of the episcopal college, wish to acknowledge and renew our great affection for you as Peter in our midst.

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