There are not many websites of this size who can claim their very own Vatican reporter, but as of today, this site can, only if “Temporaneo”, as the official name tag issued to me says. It was not as scary a process as I first imagined when I applied a few weeks ago online. I finally took my usual attitude of “What the hell, they can’t take my birthday from me” and leaped in. It was a tiny bit of a nervy feeling to enter the doors of the Sala Stampa the first time, but the people at the accreditation desk were very nice and very fluent in English. I went to my first news conference today. The notes I took will immediately follow.
The other thing my press pass will allow me to do, at least from the information I was given, is to go into the Synod Hall for either the morning opening prayer or the closing prayer in the late afternoon. I will have to apply to do that. There are many, many journalists here so maybe small-fry like me won’t count. I think that would be a very astounding experience. My feelings on this Synod, both the one last year and this one, is that they are almost as pivotal for the Church as Vatican II. They certainly could be for Francis’ papacy. It is a life-time experience for me to be a part of this, even in my small way, and to share it all with you. The other thing will be to go into the press section for a papal Mass. There will be one on the 18th, a canonization. You are up front on elevated stands. I would love to be at the Synod closing Mass but that is on the 25th and I leave Rome on the 21st.
Some thoughts on what I heard in the news conference before I post the notes. I think PF and Crd Baldesseri, the Secretary of the Synod, are selecting the “sacrificial lambs” to be feed to the journalist “wolves” each day at the news conference with a plan in mind. I did not think any of the ones today on the panel, with maybe the exception of Fr. Lombardi, PF’s chief press officer, were terribly sharp thinking men. Ab Chaput, a culture warrior up there with the best of them, was part of this panel. In my opinion, he came off sounding quite self-centered. He also is very obviously not on board with Francis’ “Synodality” and seems to be trying to cast quite a bit of doubt. I see this especially in his comments about the translations of the Instrumentum laboris, the working document of the Synod that drives all their deliberations, especially in the small groups that are now working with it. He is also casting doubt already on the final document. I know that he is supposed to be part of the group that thinks the Synod process, methods and guidance are all wrong and would like to find some way to shut the whole thing down. His comment about lobbying is interesting considering the others were kind of saying everybody is playing nice. I have read other reports, such as here, that seem to indicate something else. Indeed “Spinoid” has begun. Perhaps Chaput’s presence was to teach him a lesson and to also present this man for what he really is to the journalism world. The Americans, of course know who he is. And they were in abundance today: John Allen, Ines Martin, Fr. Tom Resse, and Josh McElwee (Allen’s replacement at NCR). There were a couple of others but I did not here them ask questions. Yes, if I want, I could ask a question. We will see how bold I am in my old age. Maybe my last week here. It is beginning to shape up to be very interesting….not that it hasn’t so far.
Oh, and I made a reputation for myself already in the journalist “pool”. To get the translation headset, you have to give them your passport as collateral. When I went to turn in the headset at the end, as I was walking away with my passport, making sure it was mine and tucking it away for safe-keeping….I am paranoid about it…., I missed two steps coming down from the press conference room, two marble steps. I talk a total face plant fall on the floor, sliding across well-polished Vatican marble flooring almost to the door. My next recollection was about 5 guys with ear-pieces surrounding me but being very solicitous about my well-being. I was basically unhurt because I carry my bag in front of me and I do have padding otherwise. My pride was not even hurt as it was actually really hard to notice these steps that were all the same marble as the surrounding floor. Between this and last year’s “singing event” that created a flurry of police activity, I may be getting a bit of a reputation here at the Vatican but it will only “tempraneo”. Here are my notes:
Sala Stampa Press Conference
October 7, 2015
Ab Charles Chaput-Philadelphia
Ab Salvador Pineiro-President of Peruvian Episcopal Conference
Ab Laurent Bernard Marie Ulrich-Lille, Fr
Fr Lombardi—Small groups began meeting yesterday afternoon and continued today. Elected moderator and rapporteurs. Began working using the Instrumentum Laboris. Lombardi specifically mentioned that Chaput will say something regarding the “shift” between the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia and the Synodal “pathway”.
Each of the panel members shared some remarks:
The 3 French language groups began with introductions and establishing an “atmosphere”. They are working on the reports based on Part 1 of the Instrumentum Laboris. There have been exchanges of “views” and “experiences”. These groups are composed of bishops from France and French-speaking bishops from Algeria, Canada, Middle East, Africa. Trying to “harmonize” the various perceptions on a cultural level taking into account different cultural backgrounds. The African background is much different. Working on common issues and family differences to take into account very different backgrounds at a deep level.
The Peruvian experiences of family are affected by terrorism that has occurred leaving scares on families. There is also poor development economically. There is virtually no industry. This is causing suffering among families due to poverty issues. In their territories (Spanish-speaking), they are united by devotion to the Virgin Mary. Asked to exchange views they realized they have the same views at an ecclesial level. Their emphasis seems to be on listening to the Gospel of Jesus and to “insist” on the beauty and appeal of God to couples to be parents. The Church must accompany these couples. The Spanish-speaking groups have tackled the Instrumentum Laboris and are seeing to what extent it is already carried out. The majority opinion on issues is that they have the “accompaniment” of the Holy Father which gives them hope. They feel the family is much attacked. The groups talked about abortion and needing to find ways to see how Jesus chose families. They are not here to adopt complex formulas. They are here with great hope to accompany families.
World Meeting of the Families was a “wonderful” experience of 20,000 participants, many young families with children. The experience was talking about family. The Holy Father touched on the impact of the World Meeting of Families while in Philadelphia. Many bishops have come up to talk to him (Chaput) about how positive they thought the meeting was. It celebrated what the Catholic Church “says” about family life and the life and support that the Catholic Church gives to the family. Scholarships were given out so that people around the world and in the US who could not afford to come had the opportunity to do so. He stated he enjoyed the gratefulness expressed by those served by the scholarship program. It helped strengthen and encouraged the experience. He stated that the World Meeting of Families was “more fun than this”. The English-speaking groups are:
They are hard at work on the Instrumentum laboris. Their concerns are: does the document reflect the universal Church or the European/North American model of Church? The English-speaking groups are dedicated to giving advice to the Holy Father. Lay people, women, married are very active and vocal in speaking their views.
Questions: (I could not get the names of all the journalists or where they were from when they asked questions)
- John Allen: to Chaput. We know it is early in the Synod but there has been lots of discussion of coming up with new language to express traditional Church position.
Chaput: language that may be harsh in North America or Europe may be quite clear in other countries. Who is the audience must be assessed and it is important to respond to diversity.
- Reese: to Chaput. What were the unique concerns and recommendations of the African members in your group?
Chaput: it is early in the small groups as they are only at this point dealing with Part I of the Instrumentum laboris. Their concern is if the presentation of facts in it are fully accurate. The problems listed in it basically apply to North America and Europe.
Ulrich: It is too early to raise concerns. Churches of Africa feel that they are on the increase in numbers and do not see a reduction in marriages. There are difficulties related to the new religious movements. This is problematic for African families and society. There are challenges that the African Church needs to address.
Pineiro: There is one bishop from Africa, Guinea, in the Spanish-speaking group. He spoke about the issues of poverty. Also, in Latin America they need to “remedy” the fact that African slaves were present in the early history.
- A French reporter: To Chaput: What was the main expectation and what were the fears of those in Philadelphia?
Chaput: The families in Philadelphia were a self-selected group or picked by their local bishop. They were by and large all enthusiastic Catholic members, young, rejoicing in what the Catholic Church gave them. They are hungry for re-affirmation of it. The Instrumentum Laboris is caught up in “despair” about what the Church teaches and if and how it can be lived. We need to encourage the 99 sheep as we go to look for the one. The families found strength and nourishment.
- Zenit: to Chaput: Regarding renewing the language, has it been considered that these changes can be used by politicians to promote their views?
Chaput: Yes. The Italian translations don’t match the English. There is parsing of the English words. We need to be careful about people, that they don’t get “hurt”. We need to “protect people and the Gospel”.
Pineiro: On language issues, his group all speak the same language but still need to clarify. They are emphasizing the “language of love and possibilities to support families”.
Ulrich: All want the language used to be encouraging, welcoming and understood not only by those “of the faith” but by the world. Language needs to be based on rich values. He expressed worry about “false friends” when it came to translations. Some translations are not correct on some words.
- Can we have a list of who is in each small group? Also, what about the differences between what the Pope is saying and the Instrumentum laboris?
Lombardi: The small group list is coming. A supplement will be out shortly with the names and also the moderators and rapporteurs. The official “language” is that of the pope’s two speeches from October 2014, the Relatio Synodi and the Instrumentum laboris. The IL is what the small groups are working with in their discussions. The Synod Fathers are free to provide their own contributions. They are free to post on websites and on blogs. The Synod will not be publishing all the bishops’ speeches because some of them don’t want what they have said released.
- Mexican reporter: Two questions, one of them for Lombardi. The small groups are working with the Instrumentum laboris. Are they also working with Erdo’s talk? There are perplexities in the message regarding methods, schedules and documents. Are these being addressed?
Lombardi: I spoke to this yesterday.
Ulrich: There is freedom of expression and therefore freedom to follow the Instrumentum laboris. But sources are there also with the other three documents previously mentioned and their pastoral experience. So Erdo is part and parcel so everyone can make reference to what he said. The three documents are the official ones (plus IL) but Erdo is not specifically excluded in expression of views.
Chaput: Among the English-speakers, there is the official documentation but there are questions as to the accuracy of the translations. Worries are already being expressed that the final document in Italian may not be understood and therefore those voting may not be sure what they are to voting on or what way to vote.
- Josh McElwee: Yesterday Fr Lombardi and Fr Rossica spoke regarding language used towards homosexual persons. But between exclusion and how that is understood in the groups, what language do you want the Church to use?
Chaput: One or two only spoke to it. He is sure that it will be addressed and the issue of “same sex attraction” will come up.
Ulrich: Agrees with Chaput. The issue hasn’t yet been raised.
- In the first press conference, you stated that it is a “pastoral” Synod, but today you insist on language issues.
Ulrich: He doesn’t know if the issue of the Synod and Church Doctrine is on the agenda. The issues are how it is lived. These issues will be reached in the third part of the Instrumentum laboris.
Reporter: Is there an accurate reflection of this in the press conference? Can we get a tally of how many spoke on which issues?
Lombardi: This is not possible. He touched on some issues yesterday that were relevant and significant to some of the journalists. Sometimes we have issues that might be more interesting to you: violence against women and issues with immigrants. Issues raised many times were reported yesterday but other issues were raised that were significant. No weight was given to these issues to know how many spoke to them. Not all issues listed yesterday have the same weight.
- Ines Martin: to Chaput: The Synod fathers are saying it is too European. What about Latin America?
Pineiro: He feels that their voice is heard. They are united by the same faith and language in Latin America. Their issue is that they must provide catechesis. They are united by more things than things that divide.
Chaput: Issues in Africa are not the same so making sure the Synod is comprehensive, expansive and generous is of importance. Need to make sure it does not become the “negative” the Instrumentum laboris portrays.
- In the General Audience today, the pope invited priests to “start fishing”. Do you sometimes feel they are using old fishing nets?
Chaput(?): Must not continue to just fish in known areas but in the other areas beyond.
- There is a diversity of experiences. In Evangelii gaudium, Pope Francis spoke of entrusting to the bishop conferences the ability to regulate and intervene in some matters. Have some of the fathers responded to this diversity that is not easy to manage? Can we have contributions from the couples?
Lombardi: Yes. Starting next week couples will be invited to express themselves at the daily press conferences and will be open to questions.
Chaput: The Catholic Church believes the same thing everywhere. Some things can be handled better locally, sometimes only universally. For example, adapting local customs into marriage rites with a mixed religion marriage. This will not be applicable to doctrine yet local churches need to be respected.
Note: I will be interested in your comments and thoughts on the notes.
Ulrich: He insisted on unity but understood there are cultural differences. Each bishop conference should be able to express for their people but then there is still the need to have unity. Cultural context cannot ignore people.
Pineiro: Insistence must be on the announcement of the Gospel of Jesus and sooner or later anyone can find answers to their needs.
- Do you have something to say regarding “conspiracies”?
Ulrich: The Holy Father said to be “careful and quiet” about what is said in public.
Pineiro: What has happened from last year.
Chaput: Avoid considering we are conspiring against each other. There is lobbying going one but modestly. It is not being done so that one opinion “wins”.