Archbishop discusses his role at the synod

By MARNIE McALLISTER
Record Assistant Editor

When the World Synod of Bishops convenes on Oct. 7, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz will be among the more than 200 delegates from around the world gathering in Rome for the three-week long meeting.

Archbishop Kurtz was one of seven U.S. bishops selected by Pope Benedict XVI to attend as full members of the Oct. 7 to 28 synod focused on the “New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.” Ten other Americans are attending as official observers of the synod or as experts, who may advise the bishops.

The archbishop is expected to offer an “intervention” or a brief presentation on the new “Blessing of a Child in the Womb,” at some point during the meeting’s first two weeks. The blessing rite was adopted for use in the United States last spring after it received Vatican approval. Archbishop Kurtz proposed the blessing to the U.S. bishops in 2008.

He said during an interview last week that he sees the synod as both an adventure and a responsibility.

“I’ve not been to a synod; I’ve not had the opportunity to participate and listen. I’ve never had the opportunity to make an intervention. All of those will be an adventure,” he noted. But he and the other delegates also bear a serious responsibility, he said.

“The grave topic and yet joyful topic of new evangelization also means the Lord wants us to use our best thinking so that the recommendations that come to our Holy Father — and hopefully will eventually be received by the church over the next decade or more — will result because we’re open to the Holy Spirit.”

That responsibility, he added, “begins with prayer.”

Archbishop Kurtz also noted that though he’ll be far from the Archdiocese of Louisville, “I will probably be just as eager to read and respond to emails from Rome as I would if I were right here.”

He plans to keep a blog while at the synod and it will be posted on the archdiocesan website — www.archlou.org.
He doesn’t yet know how much time he’ll be able to devote to blogging or how much he’ll be able to share about the official business of the meeting. But he plans to share his impressions as frequently as he can. And he’s asked the people of the archdiocese to send questions and comments to him via email. His address is archbishop@archlou.org.

The archbishop also plans to share photos and brief updates on Twitter. His handle is @ArchbishopKurtz.

He does know his days during the synod will be fairly full. Each will begin at 6:30 a.m. with Mass. Business meetings will begin at 9 a.m. After a break during the early afternoon, the synod will reconvene each day from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. The last hour, he said, will be reserved for comments on the day’s proceedings.

During the first two weeks, delegates will offer their interventions, or brief presentations. Archbishop Kurtz expects his to last about five minutes.

He will present his intervention on the new “Blessing of a Child in the Womb” when the synod addresses the subject of “revivifying pastoral action,” the fourth section of the synod’s working document.

He will ask the delegates to consider making the blessing available world wide and “a regular part of the rhythm of parish life,” he said.

The archbishop said he believes the blessing has a great potential for evangelization in addition to “the great gifts for the child in the womb.”

“There are things that move the heart to further action,” he said, and this blessing may be one of them. He noted, for example, that an expectant mother and father who are not active in the church could be invited to receive the blessing. “It’s equivalent to receiving ashes. It requires no public commitment.”

But, he said, it can be a first step to draw a family back to the church in preparation for baptism and it would provide “a grace for the parents who may be renewed in their faith.”

After Archbishop Kurtz and the other delegates present their interventions, he said, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, the synod’s recording secretary, will discern the major themes presented to the assembly.

During the final week, the delegates will discuss these themes to formulate recommendations for Pope Benedict XVI about the new evangelization.

Voting members of the synod, including Archbishop Kurtz, will vote on the recommendations in the last two days of the meeting, he said.

The Holy Father is expected to use the work of the synod to formulate an Apostolic Exhortation, a document meant to encourage and guide the church on a certain topic.

The archbishop added that the work of the synod also could eventually lead to an encyclical, a papal letter.

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