A celebration full of “signs that evoke the Council,” said Archbishop Rino Fisichella and president of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, as he described some of the moments of the opening ceremonies of the Synod and the Year of Faith, which was presided over by the Pope and held in St. Peter’s Square on Thursday, 11 October 2012.
The first of these moments was the reading of excerpts from the four Conciliar documents, texts which marked the work of the Council and the renewal of the life of the Church. This was followed by a long procession which brought many people’s memories back to 12 October 1962. Thursday’s procession included all the Synod Fathers, including fourteen of the seventy still living Council Fathers who were able to attend in spite of their advanced ages.
As at the Council Paul VI gave delivered messages to the People of God, those same Counciliar messages were delivered by Pope Benedict XVI to personalities from around the world: to governors; to men and women of science and thought; to artists; to women; to workers; to the poor, the sick and suffering; to catechists and young people. Among the latter were also two youths from the Focolare Movement: Chiara Azwaka (Congo) and Ivan Luna (Philippines).
There will be 262 people attending the Synod (the highest number in the history of such assemblies), 103 Synod Fathers come from Europe; 63 from the Americas; 50 from Africa; 39 from Asia and 7 from Oceania.
Significantly, 45 experts and 49 auditors will also participate in the work: lay men and women who bring their life experience, and many other specialists and people actively involved in the New Evangelization on all five continents. Among the auditors are: Maria voce (Focolare Movement), Salvatore Martinez (Renewal in the Spirit), Chiara Amirante (New Horizons), Franco Miano (Catholic Action), Marco Impagliazzo (San Egidio), Enzo Bianchi (Bose).
Cardinal Rylko underscored the importance of the Ecclesial Movements as means for the New Evangelization during his speech on 8 October 2012.
Also significant were the fraternal delegates of other Churches and ecclesial communities, and the noteworthy ecumenical contribution offered by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of the worldwide Anglican Communion, Rowan Williams who gave an address on 10 October 2012 illustrating the Synodal theme from an Anglican point of view. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholemew I also attended.
There are three special guests: Brother Alois, Prior of Taize, with an experience of the Evangelization of the young in an ecumenical setting; Reverend Lamar Vest from the United States, and president of the American Bible Society; and Werner Arber, Nobel Prize winner for Medicine in 1978, who is a Protestant, Professor of Microbiology in Biozentrum from the Swiss University of Basilea and president of the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences, who will offer a few reflections on the relationship between faith and science on 12 October 2012.
Among the usual languages being used by the various speakers, there is one who will speak in Arabic. This decision is linked to the Pope’s recent visit to Lebanon and the publication of the post-Synod Exhortation “Ecclesia in Medio Oriente”.
On the same day, the official opening of the Synod and of the Year of Faith was remembered around the world.