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 CNS Story:

SYNOD-KICANAS Oct-22-2008 (940 words) xxxi

Blogging bishop welcomes idea of personal papal blog

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- Someone at the Synod of Bishops on the Bible suggested that Pope Benedict XVI start his own blog, and a blogging U.S. bishop thinks it's a good idea.

Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told Catholic News Service a papal blog might make the teaching pope more accessible to a wider audience.

Bishop Kicanas has been blogging on the synod since his arrival in Rome Oct. 4. His first post described the early arrival of his luggage as a "miracle" and included a picture of the view of St. Peter's dome from his room.

Since then, he has offered colorful asides from his conversations with other bishops, reported on meetings with Catholics from back home and catalogued some of the synod's bigger and lesser themes.

So when a Hong Kong synod observer, Agnes Kam Leng Lam, suggested that the pope open his own multilanguage blog, it struck a chord with Bishop Kicanas.

"I think it is a good idea. He has a way of inspiring young people," Bishop Kicanas wrote at www.diocesetucson.org/WorldSynodBlog.html. The pope did not give an answer, but he smiled at the notion, the bishop said.

In an interview with Catholic News Service Oct. 21, Bishop Kicanas said that, at the synod, Pope Benedict has been an attentive listener, taking notes throughout the speeches and smiling whimsically at occasional organizational problems.

"He's obviously someone who, as a teacher, was aware of the contributions of each student," Bishop Kicanas said. "He creates a very powerful presence when he's in the synod hall."

Whether the pope would have time to do a blog is another question. Bishop Kicanas said blogging does take a chunk of time, but that it's helped him to collect his own thoughts at the end of each busy day.

"I told our communications man in Tucson, I hope it's not too boring," he said, but the feedback so far has been good.

What's made his blog richer -- and the demand on his time heavier -- is that Bishop Kicanas was tapped to be a recording secretary, or relator, for one of three English-language discussion groups. His job included working out the wording of synod propositions in English, then coordinating them with the propositions of other language groups.

During the synod's last week, he was putting the final touches on the Latin version of some of the 53 propositions, inserting amendments and preparing them for a final vote Oct. 25.

Bishop Kicanas said that so far the level of agreement in the synod has been amazing considering the variety of points of view and the language and cultural differences of the world's bishops.

A synod's final propositions generally do not include surprises, and the main themes of the synod on the Bible had become pretty familiar: better formation of priests and laity in Scripture, how to pray the Scriptures, homilies more focused on Scripture, the relationship between theology and scriptural interpretation, the role of church teaching and tradition in understanding Scripture, Bible accessibility and translations.

Bishops Kicanas provided a more complete list of topics raised in synod speeches in his three-page Oct. 15 blog entry, which probably would have been useful as a handout in the synod hall.

One particular issue of discussion has been the possibility of making a formal ministry for "delegate of the Word," which some bishops thought would be a fitting ministry for catechists.

Bishop Kicanas said there was wide agreement that catechists are important in promoting the word of God. But because the role of catechist is so different in various parts of the world, it was proving difficult to agree on a proposition on the question, he said.

In developed countries, catechists are essentially teachers of religion. But in many Third World communities, catechists also act as pastoral administrators -- a ministry that would not be completely formalized, since it exists only because of a shortage of priests.

The role of lector also has been highlighted at the synod, he said. But as a formal ministry, lector is currently not open to laywomen, and Bishop Kicanas said it was unlikely the synod would try to change that.

"I would hope that the final document would have an acknowledgment of the role of women in the church and what a significant role they've played, forming families, teaching the faith -- and of course the vast majority of catechists are women," he said.

Bishop Kicanas said the synod's discussions on fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible and religious sects have been interesting. The synod clearly wants to emphasize that the Catholic interpretation of Scripture is not fundamentalist, that it involves a long history of church teaching and tradition, and that even the phrase "Word of God" refers primarily to the person of Christ as "the Word incarnate."

At the same time, he said, some of the synod's small groups have recognized that Christian fundamentalist sects have been popular in part because of the passion of their preaching and the sense of energy they instill.

"Some of those qualities were present in the (Catholic) Church, and are still present in the church in many ways, and I think re-engaging and rediscovering some of those qualities would be helpful," he said.

He said sects often draw people who are struggling with their lives by responding to their feelings of pain and hopelessness. The bishops attending the synod know "how powerful the word of God is to speak to people's struggles" and want to encourage ways to better reach the spiritually suffering, including those who have fallen away from the church or stopped practicing their faith, he said.


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