.- When Bishops from around the world gather early next month for the 11th General Synod of Bishops, only two representatives from the U.S. will be present. One of them, Fr. Francis J. Moloney, an internationally recognized scripture scholar and professor at Catholic University of America, spoke with CNA Tuesday about his thoughts and hopes for this important event. Fr. Moloney, an Australian native who was appointed to the International Theological Commission to the Holy See in 1984, was appointed, along with Carl Albert Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus as two of the few delegates from the English-speaking world.
The Synod of Bishops is a permanent institution set forth in 1965 by Pope Paul VI for the purpose of unity and discussion among the Church's shepherds throughout the world.
The bishops gather periodically to consult with the Pope and to discuss pastoral needs in the Church and how best to spread the Gospel message in the face of a changing world.
A Synod does not have the same sort of ecclesial authority as a Episcopal council in that it presents issues to the Holy Father but does not necessarily seek to solve them. According to Canon Law, there is no distinct ecclesial power given to the Synod and in the rare case where there is, it is up to the Pope to ratify any decisions made by the group.
Fr. Moloney told CNA said he was somewhat disappointed in the Instrumentum Laboris, document, which the Vatican released last July in preparation for the Synod.
The document, which lays out the theme for the Synod: “The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church," stresses the need for the Eucharist to be the center of Christian life but also addresses liturgical abuses in the liturgy.
Fr. Moloney said that he would like to see less about the practicals, the “rights and wrongs” of liturgy and more on the general sense of “what the Eucharist is.”
Acknowledging that the concerns of a theologian like himself are quite different than those of a bishop who needs to regulate practices in his diocese however, Fr. Moloney said that part of the beauty of a Synod is the wider interplay with bishops and consultants.
Hopefully, he said, “we will see a balance.”
As to his major concerns and desires for the Synod, the biblical scholar said that “I would like to see a greater sense of sensitivity, not just among the celebrants and ministers, but of the church as a whole” as to the meaning of the Eucharist.
“The Church,” he said, “is not just a body of believers brought together, but rather, a Eucharistic people.”
“My dream for the synod”, he stressed, “is that the focus of the Eucharist will be the grandeur of our lives.” And, he said, “they will hear it from me until they’re sick of it.”
Fr. Moloney added with a bit of humor that when the Vatican approached him and asked him to be one of two Americans from the U.S. present at the Synod, he had to confess, “I’m not an American…I’m Australian.”