We had a great Diocesan Development Day today in Sheffield on the theme of learning to be salt and light in our communities.  500 people came together from all across South and East Yorkshire.  Ann Morisey was our main speaker.  There was a great buzz in the room.  Thanks be to God and to the organising team.

The Development Day was the main reason that I’m arriving at the Synod a day late.  Everything begins tomorrow in Rome at 0930 local time with the solemn inaugural Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

However my bags are packed (just!) and I leave first thing in the morning for the flight so I will be there well in advance of the first congregation at nine o’clock on Monday morning.

The subject of the Synod needs a slightly fuller introduction.  What is meant by the term “the new evangelisation”?

Fifty years ago, evangelisation became one of the central topics of the Vatican Council.  According to one of the key documents of the Council, “evangelisation is the energy which permits the Church to realise her goal, namely to respond to the universal call to holiness” (Lumen Gentium, 39-40).

These ideas around evangelisation have been developed and underlined now by three popes.  Pope Paul VI emphasised the need in particular to evangelise those who have been baptised but have never understood or grasped the faith as their own.  Pope John Paul II developed the term “new evangelisation” to describe this aspect of the task: the transmission of the faith to those who have already received it through baptism but not embraced it as their own and especially in the traditionally Christian countries of the so-called First-World.

Pope Benedict VI has built on these ideas in his own teaching and has made this the theme of the key Synod of Bishops.  The new evangelisation is not therefore the primary communication of the gospel to those who have never heard it but the transmission of a real, living faith in Jesus Christ to those who have grown up in some sense within the Church and within nations which have been traditionally Christian.

Anglicans are familiar with the need to do this though we would not distinguish in such depth between the transmission of the gospel to those who have only a nominal faith and those who have never heard it.  We would acknowledge that society in the United Kingdom contains different groups with different experiences of both the Church and the faith and that different means are needed to connect with each.

There is a recognition in all the documents that the only place to begin is through the renewal of the individual Christian and the Church through a fresh encounter with Christ.  Pope John Paul II’s great encyclical letter to welcome the new millennium (in novo millienio inuente), calls all Christians to begin again by encountering the face of Christ.  We will be led from there to develop new tools and new expressions for the transmission of the faith.

So the Synod, I hope and pray, will not be about techniques and methods but about encountering Christ and helping others to do so.  Please pray for us!

The process for the Synod is very different from anything I’ve experienced in the Church of England.  For one thing the programme is in Latin.  My ancient languages are stronger than my modern ones so that’s not so much of a problem.  My first form Latin teacher was right – it has come in useful!

We are dealing with one big subject over quite a long time rather than lots of big subjects in small bites. The subject for the Synod is identified several years in advance and there is very thorough preparatory work.

An initial list of questions is prepared (the Lineamenta – a kind of outline) and sent to all the Bishops Conferences and other institutions around the world.  Responses are requested by a certain date.  From those responses the Synod staff prepare the key preparatory document called the “Instrumentum Laboris” (I guess working tool would be a reasonably translation).

The Instrumentum Laboris summarises the responses to the Lineamenta and organises them into themes for discussion at the Synod.  I normally have to take a very thick ringbinder to a four day meeting of the Church of England General Synod.  The Instrumentum Laboris is an 80 page book and gives me, I think, everything I need to know.  There is a realistic chance that everyone will have arrived having read the Instrumentum and prepared to discuss its themes together – a kind of level playing field.

The Instrumentum is divided into four chapters.  The first and I think the strongest is the theological introduction to evangelisation entitled: “Jesus Christ, the Good News of God to Humanity”.  This is the first paragraph and well worth pondering:

“The Christian faith is not simply teachings, wise sayings, a code of morality or a tradition.  The Christian faith is a true encounter and relationship with Jesus Christ.  Transmitting the faith means to create in every place and time the conditions which lead to this encounter between the person and Jesus Christ.  The goal of all evangelisation is to create the possibility for this encounter, which is at one and the same time, intimate, personal, public and communal” (IL 18).

The second chapter has the title “Time for a New Evangelisation” and seeks to discern and map the changes in the world which affect how we live our faith and which influence our communities (social, cultural, media etc.).  The term new evangelisation needs a post in itself.  Chapter Three maps the basic classic places and ways the Church aims to transmit the faith.  Chapter Four explores areas of newer areas pastoral activity which are a response to the changing cultural conditions.  I guess we will hear more about these in the contributions to the Synod itself.

The Synod has the specific goal of producing a further document over the three weeks summarising the reflections of the Bishops and offered to set future direction and the agenda for future work.  Hence the structure of the Synod is 12 days in plenary followed by around nine days in smaller groups then some final plenary sessions.

All the documents (including, I think, the responses to the Lineamenta) are posted on the Vatican website (www.vatican.va)


Welcome to this new blog.  A bit of an experiment.  We’ll see how it goes.I’ve started blogging because of an invitation to go to Rome in a few days time for something called the Synod of Bishops.

The Synod has been called by Pope Benedict.  Bishops are coming together from all over the world to explore the theme of The New Evangelisation.  The Synod has been called to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th Anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  It also marks the inauguration of the Year of Faith.

I’ve been asked to to as a Fraternal Delegate representing the Anglican Communion.  There are about a dozen Fraternal Delegates at the Synod representing different churches across the world and scattered among several hundred Roman Catholic bishops.

Most of the Synod will be spend listening to other people but every fraternal delegate is invited to speak to the whole Synod for around four minutes.  I’m thinking hard about what to say.

It’s a real privilege to be attending and I’m looking forward to it.  The Synod lasts for three weeks.  I’m there for the first twelve days (in plenary) and the final three days.  In between, I have to come back to fulfil commitments in the Diocese.  The Archbishop of Canterbury is giving one of the major addresses to the whole Synod part way through the plenary time.

I’ve enjoyed the preparatory reading (more on that later) and I think I’m going to learn a lot.  I have a long standing interest in catechesis (teaching the faith to new Christians), apologetics and forming fresh expressions of church.

I’m hoping to use this blog initially to pass on some of the reflections and the lessons.  Beyond that, who knows.