Screenshot: The faithful gather for the opening Mass of the General Assembly of the FCBCO Screenshot: The faithful gather for the opening Mass of the General Assembly of the FCBCO 

Cardinal Czerny at Oceania Synod Assembly: 'Dare to dream'

Cardinal Michael Czerny, SJ, gave the opening address at the General Assembly of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conference of Oceania, highlighting two fundamental themes of the gathering: climate change and synodality.

By Christopher Wells

The Prefect for the Dicastry for Integral Human Development, Cardinal Michael Czerny, SJ, opened the General Assembly of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conference of Oceania in Fiji, on Sunday, celebrating the opening Mass for the gathering, and later delivering the opening address.

The Conference, on the theme “Save the Ocean to Save Mother Earth,” will also be a part of the Continental phase of the Synod on Synodality.

The two topics of climate change and synodality were the main themes highlighted by Cardinal Czerny in his opening address. “Climate change falls under ‘care for our common home,’ which here [in Oceania] also means care for the ocean.”

Responding to climate change

While acknowledging that the ocean is the “cradle of life” and acknowledging the need to respect creation, the Cardinal also recognized the many tensions that affect the region – including unsustainable exploitation of ocean resources, human trafficking, migration, and geo-political rivalries.

In response to these tensions, he said, the Church proposes “integral human development.” Following Pope St Paul VI, Cardinal Czerny linked integral human development to the “abundant life” spoken of by Jesus in the Gospels, and urged the Church to attentive to which that life and development is threatened.

The Church is called not only to speak out about human development, but to intervene in human history, “enriching the present with good.” To do this, he said, the Church must accompany people, which must begin with listening to them.

The synodal journey

This led Cardinal Czerny to reflect on the topic of synodality. He explained that the Church must learn to “walk together” – synodality – “which is renewing the Church for her mission in the Third Millenium.

This means listening to all people, including the indigenous peoples of Oceania. Quoting Synod leaders Cardinal Mario Grech and Cardinal Jean Claude Hollerich, Cardinal Czerny emphasized that “we are called to chart a common course beginning with the contribution of all.”

The Cardinal insisted, however, that this synodal process must begin with “real conversion,” including admitting “our personal and collective complicity in the degradation of our environment, and the dire consequences of such on poor and marginalized communities.”

“Our shared dream”

Finally, Cardinal Czerny emphasized that the work being done in Oceania is not being done in isolation: “In this voyage of discovery and transformation, you are not out on the ocean alone. Pope Francis, the Roman Curia, the Synod Secretariat, the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development are with you.”

He explained that the work of those bodies, first and foremost, as “recognizing and supporting the work that the Bishops do for the Gospel and the Church”, as well as offering advice for their efforts aimed at ensuring “that peoples may have abundant life in Christ.”

The Cardinal went on to explain that one way of evaluating the success of the General Assembly would be to ask how well they have learned to appreciate the overall theme of the Synod, and, more concretely, how well they are putting into practice efforts at working together.

“As we gather this week to listen to and learn from one another and discern where the Spirit is leading our communities,” Cardinal Czerny said in conclusion, “we pray for the audacity to dream great dreams for all humanity, for the created world, and for our Church.”

“Let us paddle and sail together with our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Overview of the first day of Oceania Continental Synod

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05 February 2023, 14:35