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Marist Bulletin - Number 219

 

The Pakistan Earthquake - The Hurricane Stan - The Synod of Bishops
27.10.2005

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THE PAKISTAN EARTHQUAKE

Bro. Michel de Waas
Provincial of the Province of Pakistan and Sri Lanka


As I write this, it is ten days since the northern regions of Pakistan were devastated by the earthquake. Each day brings more news of destroyed villages, wrecked infrastructure and a rising death toll. It is difficult for us all to take in the extent of the tragedy, the worst to strike Pakistan. The loss of children alone, a whole generation in some locations, has deepened the sufferings of the people who have lost so much of their material possessions.
The effects have been mainly felt in the hill country, the foot hills of the great mountain ranges. The centre of the quake was in that part of Kashmir controlled by Pakistan, but the destruction extends into Indian territory and Afghanistan. The Marist communities are in the North West Frontier Province (Peshawar - three Brothers) and the Punjab Province - Sargodha (two Brothers) and Faisalabad (two Brothers). Apart from Islamabad where several buildings collapsed and there was loss of life, very little damage and no loss of life occurred throughout those the parts of these Provinces that are on the plains. So the Brothers, our schools and other Institutions, the families of the Brothers and the young men in Formation experienced no ill-effects from the quake.
But we can be sure that there have been some good effects throughout the country. The way the world community has come with their Rescue Teams, with their Medical Teams, food-aid, tents, heavy equipment, helicopters etc, has brought the Pakistan community much closer to so many other nations. The co-operation between India and Pakistan in rescue and rehabilitation work could surely deepen the spirit of reconciliation which has been building up for some time. There is the hope that the working together of so many elements within the country to provide aid will foster a greater spirit of harmony. The Catholic Bishops Conference urged every Catholic to give a days wages to the relief efforts. All the Christian Churches are combining to support their people in the devastated areas.
The Brothers are not directly involved in the setting up relief services but are directing contributions of various kinds through regular Church and State agencies. Let us all keep in our prayer the people who are facing a most difficult winter and a bleak future.


HURRICANE STAN

Brother Adolfo Cermeño
Provincial of the Province of Central America


A few lines to give you some information of recent events that we have experienced and continue to experience here in Central America.
You know that we have just been suffering the consequences of Hurricane Stan. These were days of intense rain which caused floods and mudslides. It has been a time of death and destruction.
At present there have been more than 300 deaths in Salvador and Guatemala; the number could rise to as many as 1200. A lot of families have lost their homes and have nothing. Several villages have been carried away by or buried under mudslides. Means of communication have been seriously damaged. At the present time, several villages are cut off and it is difficult to get indispensable provisions like food and potable water to them.
Our works have not been affected, but three colleges are being used as refuge areas for several families and two of them have welcomed more than 200 refugees. We have a community in a village of Salvador which is still isolated. The brothers are doing what they can to transport food with their vehicle in the places where the people would have to otherwise carry this on their shoulders.
Once more we find ourselves faced with the mystery of suffering which hits the poorest and most vulnerable of people. It is endearing to discover in them the courage to continue to think that there is a future and that life is worth being lived, as difficult as it seems to be.
I warmly thank all the brothers who have shown interest in our situation and who have offered their collaboration. The more difficult task starts now: we especially need to find means for the people who are abandoned to find a suitable place to live and continue their fight for survival.
Once more thank you and I pray that our God who is full of mercy will comfort those who are the most affected by this drama.


THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS - VATICAN


A DAY IN THE LIFE OF THE ASSEMBLY
The Synod of Bishops is giving Benedict XVI a privileged view of the life of the universal Church. Since the synodal assembly on the Eucharist began Oct. 2, the Pope has able to attend at least the first and last session of each day. The last session of the day, 6-7 p.m., is dedicated to free interventions. Each participant may speak for three minutes on any of the synods topics. It is also a way for the Pope to take the pulse of the life of the Church and to hear different points of view.
During the coffee break of the morning session, the Holy Father speaks personally with the bishops, who are divided in working groups by languages. The meetings between the working groups and the Pope have been held daily in a room near the main auditorium of Paul VI Hall, according to Isidro Catela, a synod spokesman. About 40 people attend the meetings.
Each of the synods participants, not only the bishops, greet the Pope and speak with him for about a minute.
The Pope is concerned about each one and about their lives. He gives each his undivided attention during those moments, disclosed Catela. The bishops use the opportunity to speak about the life of their dioceses.
At the request of the synodal assembly, there may be an hour of Eucharistic adoration, both in the morning and the afternoon, in the chapel of the synod hall.
Most of the participants are housed in the Domus Sanctae Marthae (which housed the cardinals during the conclave) or in the Child Mary Institute, both in Vatican territory.
Two-hundred fifty-two ecclesiastics are attending the synod. Four seats are empty; these represent the Chinese bishops who didnt receive government approval to attend.
The assemblys first proposals will begin to be written in Thursdays working sessions. After being discussed and corrected in the general assembly, the proposals will be included in the synods conclusions.
The proposals will be presented to the Pope for use in a postsynodal apostolic letter. The synod closes Oct. 23.

7 KEY TOPICS DISCUSSED AT SYNOD
The Synod of Bishops focused chiefly on seven topics, foremost among them the sacrificial dimension of the Eucharist, says a spokesman for the assembly.
In fact, Benedict XVI dedicated his free intervention on Thursday to this question, said Isidro Catela, spokesman to the Spanish-language media.
Sacrifice and banquet are the two recurrent concepts mentioned by synod members, said Catela. Framed in this context are the experiences of contemporary martyrdom, not only of known persons but also of the daily suffering of so many people, he said.
The second topic frequently mentioned was the objectives of the Eucharist, that is, its vertical, or spiritual, dimension, and its horizontal, or communitarian, dimension in a world that is materially and spiritually hungry, said the spokesman.
At this point, the Eucharist and the culture of life were discussed, with reference to No. 73 of the synods working document. No. 73 refers to the coherence of believing politicians and lawmakers, as well as to the commitment of all Christians in public life.
The third issue referred to normative questions and abuses, with references to the Second Vatican Council and the Council of Trent in regard to the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
The ars celebrandi, art of celebration, was the fourth topic discussed. It touched on the opportunity to receive Communion in the hand or the mouth; the central location that tabernacles should occupy in churches; and the need for silence and adoration.
The fifth topic addressed was the ecumenical dialogue and intercommunion -- the possibility of giving Communion to Christians of other denominations -- which, according to Catela, sparked great and varied interest in the free interventions.
Catela also noted that there were discussions about secularization and religious indifference; liturgies that await priests; and celibacy in the Church.
There is the conviction that celibacy in the Latin Church must be promoted, Catela added.
The sixth topic referred to the relationship of the Eucharist with the other sacraments.
Catela said that the synodal fathers want special emphasis placed on the relationship between the Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation and that an integral catechesis be undertaken, capable of linking the various sacraments among themselves.
Someone asked that a Year of Penance be convoked, and others hoped that the Year of the Eucharist would be extended and related to the family.
The seventh topic was reconciliation which should lead to peace. The participants stressed the need for the Church to be an instrument of reconciliation, and that the Eucharist serve as experience, Catela said.
Several synodal fathers asked that the synods final message mention Jerusalem and the Holy Land, because of their connection with the Eucharist and the longing for peace.

THE FINAL MESSAGE OF THE SYNOD
The bishops discussed the conclusions of the meeting. The conclusions are compiled in a 17-page document, of 26 paragraphs, written in French and translated into five languages, and entitled The Eucharist, Living Bread for the Peace of the World, the prelates reported in a press conference.
The document, which seeks to stimulate the Eucharistic pastoral program in the Church, begins by giving thanks to those who participated or promoted the synod, especially to Pope John Paul II, who initiated the assembly, and to Benedict XVI, who followed its immediate preparation and development.
Gratitude is also expressed to the brothers of the Eastern Churches for their participation as well as the hope that the day will come of the full visible unity of the Church.
The document then paints a picture of the world and the Church.
The document touches on the sufferings of the world, such as hunger, poverty, injustices, natural disasters, wars, and the difficult situations in Africa and the Middle East, said Monsignor Giorgio Constantini, spokesman for the Italian-speaking journalists.
The synodal fathers also lament the religious indifference of the West, and appeal to the leaders of nations to be concerned about the dignity of individuals, to defend life from its conception, and to promote human and social progress.
As for the Church, the document comments on several positive trends: the renewed consciousness of Sunday Mass, the increase in priestly and religious vocations in many areas of the world, and the discovery and deepening of the faith among many young people, with special reference to the work of World Youth Days.
Several challenges are also mentioned: that the sacrament of reconciliation be restored; that there be respect for the liturgy; that the faithful be consistent with what they profess; and that there be more active promotion of priestly vocations.
The impossibility of access to sacramental communion is reaffirmed for divorced persons who have remarried, an issue of particular interest to the media.
One modification made to the document was that the final draft include the Churchs acknowledgment of the suffering and interior frustration of these Catholics.
The synodal fathers invited such couples not to feel excluded from the life of the Church, and to attend Sunday Mass and hear the word of God.

YOUNG PEOPLE
The final message of the Synod is addressed also to the young people to whom it says:
Dear young people, the Holy Father Benedict XVI has repeatedly said that you lose nothing when you give yourselves to Christ. We take up again his strong and serene words from his inaugural Mass that direct you toward true happiness, with the greatest respect for your personal freedom: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ - and you will find true life. We have great trust in your capacity and your desire to develop the positive values in the world, and to change what is unjust and violent. Please count upon our support and our prayer so that we may together accept the challenge to build the future with Christ. You are the sentinels of the morning and the explorers of the future. Do not fail to draw from the source of divine energy in the Holy Eucharist to bring about the changes that are necessary.

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