By Vatican News
The Portuguese Bishops’ Conference (CEP) is holding a Plenary Assembly from 15 till 17 June in Fatima.
The 28 participating Bishops are deliberating, among other things, on new directives regarding post-Covid public worship. They will also vote to elect the successor of the outgoing president of the CEP, Cardinal Manuel Clement of Lisbon.
In an interview, the Secretary of the Portuguese Bishops’ Conference, Fr. Manuel Joaquim Gomes Barbosa, explained the reason for the reduced number of participants.
“Since it is an essentially elective assembly, and for security reasons due to the pandemic, the Permanent Council decided that only the members of the CEP with voting rights (21 Diocesan Bishops and 7 Auxiliary Bishops), as well as the Secretary and the Director of the General Secretariat, will participate,” Father Barbosa said.
Reflection on Portuguese society post-Covid-19
At the start of the Plenary Assembly before the elections, is “a reflection on the Portuguese society to be rebuilt after the Covid-19 pandemic,” Father Barbosa said, adding that the reflection will emphasize its “economic, social and ecclesial consequences.”
Earlier in April, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced a sector-by-sector plan to gradually lift lockdown measures imposed in March. Starting on 4 May, the three-phase plan opened up different sectors of the Portuguese economy every 15 days, beginning with small neighborhood shops, hairdressers and bookshops.
The CEP Secretary said that the Bishops will elect the members of the Permanent Council as well as the heads of the seven Episcopal Commissions.
Father Barbosa explained that the members of the Permanent Council include the President and Vice-President (who must be diocesan Bishops), a Secretary (who can be a Bishop or Priest), and five voters (who can be either diocesan or auxiliary Bishops). He also added that the Patriarch of Lisbon is “a member by right of the Permanent Council.”
Following the election of the Permanent Council, the Bishops will elect the heads of seven commissions: Christian Education and Doctrine of the Faith; Social Pastoral and Human Mobility; Laity and Family; Vocations and Ministries; Culture, Cultural Goods and Social Communications; Liturgy and Spirituality; and Mission and New Evangelization.
Protection of minors
The ongoing Plenary Assembly in Fatima was formerly scheduled for April but was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It was originally to deliberate on implementing the provisions of Pope Francis’s Motu Proprio “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” for the prevention of child abuse. It also was to discuss preparations for the next World Youth Day in Lisbon in 2022.
Fr. Barbosa pointed out that even though the question of the protection of minors is not on the agenda of this Assembly, commissions on the protection of minors and vulnerable people had been established in all the dioceses before the 1 June deadline indicated in the Motu Proprio. He added that the CEP is working on elaborating new regulations on the protection of children.
The next plenary assembly of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference is scheduled for 9 to 12 November this year, “hopefully within ‘normality’,” concluded Father Barbosa.