Mass today was celebrated in language groups.
The morning prayer reflection was on the theme of having the mind of Christ crucified; it was led by Fr Giovanni Cipriani. The session was chaired by Fr Luis Alberto Cano.
An update was given on the situation of Fr Mario Bartolini in Perú. The Synod members had seen a news report which was broadcast on television yesterday. Today they received fresh information from our religious and sisters there about the present state of the case.
On behalf of the interprovincial Passionist Youth Ministry Team in Spain, Fr José Maria Saez gave a presentation about the World Youth Day in Madrid in 2011. It is important for us as a Congregation to be present at the WYD, as the sign which defines this encounter is the Cross. There will be a meeting of young Passionist religious at Peñafiel from 12 to 14 August. Groups of young people who are part of the Passionist family will be welcomed at Alcalà de Henares during the WYD, from 15 to 21 August. The special Passionist day, referred to in the General’s letter on the WYD, will be on 18 August. Those interested in taking part should contact the Youth Ministry Team and also, in the case of the Meeting of Young Religious, the Secretary General at Saints John and Paul.
The work done by the Commission on Digital Communications was then explained by some of its members. The Commission (Frs Clemente Barron, Ramiro Ruiz, Marco Pasquali and Massimo Granieri) have been working on a new Congregational website which aims to be user friendly and act as a place not just of information but of communication. The site can be used for internal communication within the Congregation and with our associates, but will also have an external mission in the evangelisation of the digital continent. Congregation members will be able to log in to the internal sections of the site, and there is the possibility for our religious of having a blog which is hosted on the site. At a later stage, the site will also be available for video conferencing. This will be an innovative site, unlike any existing site of a religious congregation.
The Synod members then looked at four proposals, which followed from the General’s report, on the size of provinces, a norm for decision-making in the configurations, the notion of an addition to the Constitutions regarding Passionist laity, and the question of Brothers being eligible for the role of First Consultor.
At present, there is no fixed criterion for the number of religious required for an entity of the Congregation to be a province. Normally, three canonically constituted communities are required to establish a province, but there are several other questions which are taken into consideration, such as the group’s ability to undertake formation of candidates and its financial viability. The relationship of existing vicariates with their respective mother province and with their configuration is also relevant here. This proposal envisages a discussion during the next two years which can permit an examination of criteria for the erection or suppression of provinces; the number of religious would be part of that, but there would also be other criteria. The Synod members were asked to indicate their view on the aim of the proposal; all were in favour.
A one-page proposal on the functioning of the configurations was then presented. After discussion, which included clarifications on the role of the leader (‘president’) of a configuration and also the question of configuration statutes, it was suggested that Synod members should indicate their acceptance of the content of the proposal, rather than the text of the proposal. In this spirit, a show of hands was asked for: two were against the proposal, two abstained, and the rest were in favour.
The suggestion to include a text on the Passionist lay movements in our Constitutions and General Regulations was then discussed. It was pointed out that as well as laypeople, there are also diocesan priests who seek to live according to our spirit. Is this about a spiritual belonging to the Congregation or is it more than that? In addition to the Missionary Secular Institute of the Passion (which is of Pontifical Right), there are some lay associates who seek to live a form of consecrated life. There were some difficulties with the wording of the proposal: in the text, religious and laypeople seemed to be all mixed up together; the place of the laity was actually defined by negation, saying who they are not, rather than who they are; they were described as being ‘together’ with us only spiritually whereas, for many, this ‘being together’ has other dimensions, particularly the dimension of mission. There are also legal considerations in relation to those countries where the constitutions of a religious institute are recognised as binding in civil law. It was proposed that the General Council should study this issue, with a view to a statement on the laity for inclusion in our Constitutions being proposed to the next General Chapter. This suggestion was accepted unanimously.
The proposal on Passionist Brothers was for a recommendation to be approved by the Synod that provinces, vice-provinces and vicariates modify the norms of their own regulations to allow a Brother to be elected as First Consultor. This would be done by changing existing legislation so that, in the event of the Provincial leaving office, the First Consultor would not automatically become Provincial, but the new Provincial would be chosen in some other way determined by the entity’s legislation. Because, at present, a Brother cannot become Provincial, this modification would mean that our Brothers are no longer ineligible for the role of First Consultor. This has already been done in Korea; Br Laurence Finn, who is present at the Synod as a translator, was asked to share his experience of how such a norm had functioned when he was elected First Consultor in Korea some years ago. After this, the proposal was approved, with one against and three abstentions.
Having looked at the four proposals, the Synod members were invited by Sister Christine to reflect on the Synod so far and ask themselves what other issues need to be addressed. The afternoon was to be spent in configuration groups where this could be discussed. The groups were also to look at the question of the configuration’s communications with the grass roots: provinces, communities and the religious.
The Synod group photograph was taken at the beginning of the afternoon session, which was spent in its entirety in configuration groups. Evening Prayer was celebrated at the usual time in the Retreat House Chapel.