.- With the historic Synod of Bishops on the Bible due to get underway this coming Sunday, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic held a press conference at the Vatican this morning to announce some details of the event, which looks to have both an ecumenical and international flair to it.
Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, who is the secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, noted that the synod on "The Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church" differs from every other synod because it will begin with a Mass presided over by the Pope in the basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls. All previous synods have begun in St. Peter’s Basilica.
"This will be the first time a Synod of Bishops has been opened in a basilica other than St. Peter's," said the archbishop. "The reason for this is apparent: the Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly is being held during the Pauline Year."
The assembly, which will gather 253 Roman Catholic bishops, 13 Eastern Rite Catholic bishops and numerous experts, will run from October 5-26, closing with a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.
The 253 synod fathers, who are representing 113 episcopal conferences from around the world, will be joined by 25 dicasteries of the Roman Curia and the Union of Superiors General. Also present will be 41 experts from 21 countries, and 37 auditors from 26 countries. Pope Benedict, Archbishop Eterovic pointed out, has made sure to include women as part of the synod, with six of the experts and 19 of the auditors being women.
Archbishop Eterovic also highlighted the large number of participants from other Christian Churches.
Representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate will be present alongside others from the Patriarchates of Moscow, of Serbia and of Romania, from the Orthodox Church of Greece and the Armenian Apostolic Church, as well as from the Anglican Communion, the World Lutheran Federation, the Church of the Disciples of Christ and the World Council of Churches, he explained.
Pope Benedict has also invited three special guests to address the synod, who will each present a unique perspective to the bishops.
The first guest is Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen of Haifa, Israel, who will speak to the assembly on October 6 about how the Jewish people read and interpret Sacred Scripture. "This will be the first time that a rabbi and a non-Christian has addressed the Synod Fathers," Archbishop Eterovic noted. The other special guests are Rev. A. Miller Milloy, secretary general of the United Bible Societies, and Frere Alois, prior of the Taize Community.
One last notable ecumenical facet of the synod on the Bible will be addresses delivered by Pope Benedict XVI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I on October 18.
Both leaders will preside at first Vespers for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time and then speak to the assembly on the subject of the Word of God, with particular reference to the Pauline Year. “This will be the first time the Ecumenical Patriarch has addressed the Synod Fathers," the archbishop said.