Pompallier's People - Blog

Neighbours

22 Oct 2015

New Zealand particpants will be sending posts from the Synod on Marriage and the Family in Rome this month.
Here is a post from Bishop Charles Drennan.

I’ve lost count how many hours we have spent in the Synod Hall. But there’s been many. I was on a bus yesterday and a young person got up to offer me a seat. I thanked him but declined, explaining why I was enjoying standing.

Seating is the Synod Hall is set. Cardinals in one block. Archbishops in other and lay participants in a further block, plus another for heads of Religious Orders etc. The ecumenical participants (guests) – an Anglican, a Methodist, a Lutheran, a Baptist and a Disciple of Christ, plus various Orthodox Church reps etc – get seats rather close to the front. The Hall is tiered so in fact no seat is poor.

Anyhow, two people you get to know well at a Synod are your seat neighbours. To my left is the Military Ordinary (the Bishop of the families of the Armed Forces) of Bosnia Hercegovina, Bishop Tomo Vuksic. He never puts on his ear phones (for simultaneous translation service) and understands well every language used in the Hall – Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German and English. He did baulk a tad when a couple from Iraq spoke in Arabic.

On my right is the Bishop of Hradec in the Czech Republic, Jan Vokal. We had worked together in the Secretary of State and we both accompanied Benedict XVI on his pastoral visit to the Czech Republic in 2009. Jan is sharp with a great sense of humour so we have had a lot of laughs.

He gave me a book in English on the Church in the Czech Republic. Turns out the Cathedral of his Diocese like that of Palmerston North is named the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is rarely named as the “patron” of a Cathedral. We were both commenting on that when the Bishop of Gbarnga in Liberia, Anthony Borwah, who sits on Jan’s left, piped up and said: you want believe this, mine’s the Holy Spirit too!

Today is a free day. First we’ve had. After Mass at breakfast I sat beside the Special (doesn’t quite work in the English) Secretary of the Synod Archbishop Bruno Forte. Essentially he’s the numero uno slave. Certainly no holiday for him today. He is the writer, the crafter, of the final text. He’s a very likable and capable guy, slightly impish, and called by most people don Bruno (Father Bruno) rather than the usual more formal, Eccellenza… Notwithstanding an unwarranted amount of media attention on a side show of the Synod – a small group of Cardinals’ letter of lament to Francis (I will comment on this in my next blog) – don Bruno remains calm and resolute in exercising his role.

That perhaps points to another one of the points of difference at the Synod: those wracked with fear and those who, as one Archbishop put it yesterday, feel comfort in the presence of Pope Francis and the Holy Spirit.

It’s time to visit my remaining old colleagues at the Secretary of State.

Bishop Charles Drennan is Bishop of Palmerston North.

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