This fall, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz will be one of only a handful of bishops from the United States to take part in the 13th Ordinary Synod of Bishops at the Vatican.
The main focus of this October synod will be the “new evangelization.”
Along with approximately 200 other bishops and experts, Archbishop Kurtz will join three American bishops at the gathering – Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York, Cardinal Francis George of the Archdiocese of Chicago and Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of the Archdiocese of San Antonio.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., will serve as relator general (recording secretary) for the synod.
Delegates and substitute delegates to the synod are approved by Pope Benedict XVI.
The synod, which will be held Oct. 7 to 28, is entitled “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.”
“We traditionally understand new evangelization as announcing the good news to ears who have not yet heard it. But the new evangelization also acknowledges those who may already be Catholic and have stopped listening, become inactive or drifted away,” Archbishop Kurtz said in a recent interview.
A third focus of new evangelization “calls us to an internal renewal of ourselves,” he said.
“It really is a timely topic,” the archbishop noted.
A synod, Archbishop Kurtz said, is a large gathering of bishops and experts who meet to discuss a significant pastoral topic that is important to the church.
Other synods have discussed the family, which resulted in Blessed John Paul II’s 1981 Familiaris Consortio (On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World), and priests, which produced the 1992 Pastores Dabo Vobis (I Give You Shepherds).
The synod later this fall will likely be made up of general meetings of the whole assembly, presentations and small-group discussions, the archbishop said.
“In the small groups, there will be an opportunity for delegates to give input and develop recommendations that will be given to the Holy Father,” he said.
The archbishop noted that there are three public phases after a synod is held. First, the group of bishops and experts publish a statement of recommendations based on their discussions and deliberations. Second, a congregation, such as the Council on New Evangelization or the Council on Evangelization, will produce a document with recommendations.
Lastly, there is usually some sort of apostolic exhortation that the pope prepares based on the synod’s recommendations, the archbishop said.
The archbishop is hopeful that the synod will produce strategies that dioceses, parishes, pastors and lay people can use to more effectively reach out to Catholics who have drifted away from the faith and to non-Catholics as well.
Archbishop Kurtz said that being a part of the synod is “an honor and adventure.”
“It gives me and the archdiocese an opportunity to participate in listening and in speaking. I’ll be able to listen to many different perspectives from virtually every corner of the world,” he said. “Also, by speaking, I’ll have some influence on the recommendations that flow from the synod.”
To prepare, Archbishop Kurtz said he plans to approach the synod, as he does all things, in prayer. He also plans to consult various groups here in the archdiocese as he prepares, including the deacon and priest councils, women religious and the archdiocesan pastoral council.
Additionally, the archbishop plans to revisit documents from the Second Vatican Council and ones relating to evangelization.
To watch a segment of “Conversations” with Archbishop Kurtz and learn more about the “new evangelization” and the upcoming synod, click here.
By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer