Appointment of Experts to the General Synod of Bishops XIII
From Missionary Catholic Ireland: One!
(An edited version of this was recently published by The Scottish Catholic Observer.)
For the last quarter of the 19th Century and most of the 20th, the missionary activity of the Catholic Church — the “Old Evangelisation”, as it were — was inextricably linked to Catholic Ireland; and for much of the latter century this included the diaspora settled in the three countries of Great Britain. Indeed, during that century, the alma mater of your humble but esteemed scrivener here, Our Lady’s High School, Motherwell, produced more priests than any other school in Great Britain, and perhaps even Ireland itself. One ended up in the Sacred College of Cardinals, but most went on the missions.
It was, then, somewhat of a surprise that when Archbishop Nikola Eterović, the Croatian Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, announced the names of the 45 Adiutores Secretarii Specialis (or Experts) approved by Pope Benedict to assist the Fathers of General Synod XIII on “The New Evangelisation for the Transmission of the Christian Faith”, only one was an Irishman: Rev Professor Dr Éamonn Conway.
Fr Conway, a priest of the Archdiocese of Tuam, is Head of Theology and Religious Studies at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick. Formerly President of the European Society for Catholic Theology, he is currently President of the International Network for Societies of Catholic Theology, which has the delightful acronym INSeCT.
Only two experts have been recruited from Great Britain; both of them are lay, and it may surprise some that 50% of them is a woman. This is Dr. Caroline Farey, a Professor at the Maryvale Institute, Birmingham, where she directs the BA programme in Applied Theology for Catechesis. She also lectures in Philosophy at St Mary’s College, Oscott, Seminary of the Archdiocese of Birmingham, where she teaches Metaphysics, Epistemology, and on St Thomas Aquinas.
The other British expert has also been tapped from the Maryvale Institute, its Deputy Director, Professor Petroc Willey. Encouraged by Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna (who is likely to enter the next conclave as papabile despite a recent little local difficulty) in 2008 Dr Willey co-authored (with Professor Barbara Morgan and Fr. Pierre de Cointet) “Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Craft of Catechesis”.
The Maryville Institute is entirely independent of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Doubtless most of that hierarchy will be amazed that none of their own experts have been recruited by the Holy Father and Archbishop Eterović. But will they be able to read the runes?
Of course, although Scotland provides no Experts specifically for the General Synod, we do have several very gifted priests working in the Vatican who may be called upon to contribute their various gifts in different ways during the three weeks of the Synod (October 7-28). Principal among these is Monsignor Leo Cushley, and he can expect to be particularly busy. As Head, caposezione — I know, it sounds a bit Mafia-ish — of the English Language Section of the Secretariat of State he is the Holy Father’s English Language Interpreter. And when the Pope has no prior call on his services, he is also the Cardinal Secretary of State’s, Cardinal Bertone’s, interpreter. And there are going to be an awful lot of English speaking prelates (and others) meeting with both in coming weeks. (Not to mention the fact that his other many duties and responsibilities won’t go away for the month of October.)
Mgr Gerard McKay, a judge of the Roman Rota, has for some considerable time now been a consultor to the Vox Clara Committee which produced the new English translation of the Roman Missal. This, of course, underpins the New Evangelisation in the Anglophone Catholic Church. And as an official of the Doctrine Section of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Mgr Patrick Burke may have much to ponder in coming weeks.
As to the remaining 42 experts appointed to the Synod, 18 have been recruited from within Italy, although four of these are non-Italians (two Spanish, one Serbian and one Nigerian), 6 from the rest of Europe, 6 from North America (five from the USA and one from Canada), 3 from Latin America, 6 from Africa and 3 from Asia.
Ten of the 45 Experts are female, seven religious and three laywomen. Unsurprisingly, neither of the two American nuns is associated with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the USA Green Party at prayer.
Of the 35 male Experts, one of the Italian appointees ensures that for three weeks in October there will be Four Popes of Rome. To add to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, the real Pope, as regular readers will know, there is the Red Pope, currently His Eminence Fernando Filoni, Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples (Propaganda Fide as was before a certain Paul Joseph Goebbels got propaganda a bad name) and the Black Pope, Fr Adolfo Nicolás, Superior General (though usually called the Father General) of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits).
Joining this holy trinity (as opposed to THE Holy Trinity) will be Professor Rodolfo Pope, Professor of Art History and Aesthetics at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome.
Another of the male Experts is a priest to whom Holy Family Parish, Mossend, can lay part claim. Fr Marko Ivan Rupnik is a Slovenian, a Jesuit, an expert in missiology, a theologian and an artist. More specifically, he is a theologian artist in the great mosaic tradition of Eastern iconography. In September 1991 he was appointed Director of the newly established Centro Aletti, Rome, by its founder, Fr Clarence Gallagher SJ, the Rector of the Pontifical Oriental Institute Rome, another alumnus of Our Lady’s High School and, to quote himself “a wee guy from the Clydesdale Road”.
Our surprise at the dearth of experts from the Irish Church and its diaspora — to Fr Conway can be probably be added the entire North American contingent (a Butler, a Driscoll, a Martin, a Miller, a Peters and a Goulding) and possibly the Englishwoman — is perhaps explained by the first paragraph of the Introduction to an INSeCT colloquium held at De Paul University, Chicago, June 14-16, 2011. This read:
“The Rapidly Changing Global Context: In the past fifty years the world population of Catholics has doubled. At the same time, the centre of gravity in the Catholic world has shifted from Western Europe to the Southern Hemisphere. The largest concentrations of Catholics live today in Brazil, the Philippines, and Mexico. Even more remarkably, the Vatican Yearbook reports that the Catholic population of Africa has increased by 33% in the past decade alone. By the year 2050, it is expected that fully 70% of Catholics will reside in the global south.”
That is why we have to re-evangelise the global north.
PS: I would advise readers who appreciate religious art to look up the Capella Redemptoris Mater on the internet and take the stunning visual tour. This is the larger of the Pope’s private chapels. If I remember correctly, it was when Pope John Paul II was celebrating the 40th anniversary of his episcopal ordination that the Sacred College of Cardinals made a presentation to him of a substantial sum of money which he chose to use for the redecoration and rededication of this chapel wherein the Lenten Retreat of the Papal Household is held and the Advent sermons of the Preacher to the Papal Household, currently Father Raniero Cantalamessa OFM Cap, are delivered.
Fr Marko Rupnik was chosen for the task and the late Cardinal Tomáš Špidlík SJ, whom Fr Clarence also recruited to the staff of the Centro Aletti, advised on the theological theme.