The word synod, from the Latin sinŏdus, and this in turn from the Greek σúνοδος (sínodos), which in Koiné Greek (the popular Greek language, spoken by most, as distinct from classical Greek, of the philosophers) literally means 'walking together', and today, designating in the Catholic Church (according to Canon 342 in the current Code of Canonical Law) an assembly of bishops, of a deliberative nature rather than consultative, chosen from the different regions of the world, which meets on determined occasions to promote a close union between the Roman Pontiff and other bishops in the world on subjects of current interest in the life of the church and the world.
A Synod, then, is a consultative body of bishops called by the Pope generally every three years, and on special occasions when the Pope considers it to be necessary. There are synods on pastoral subjects, but there are also continental gatherings such as the Synod of the Church in America or in Asia.
Next October the Catholic Church will celebrate a Synod —of ordinary character— on the New Evangelization. It will be Synod XIII of the Catholic bishops, and it constitutes a unique opportunity for Catholics of all races, tongues, peoples and social condition to reflect on the challenges of this particular time in the history of humanity and the life of Christians and people in general in the current social setting, in terms of the evangelistic task of the Church in the world.
On Saturday, December 3, 2005, the Holy Father Benedict XVI, in a discourse to the second group of bishops of Poland in a visit “Ad limina”, spoke of the New Evangelization, in reference to the homily of the Blessed John Paul II before the workers of Nowa Huta, during his first visit to his home country, remembering the words: “From the cross of Nowa Huta the new evangelization has begun”. It was on that occasion that John Paul II proclaimed the need of a “New Evangelization” and coined this term to designate all that the Catholic Church needs to do so that —with new ardor, new methods and new expressions— it might adequately accomplish the task of impregnating our current reality with the criteria of the gospel.
The coming Synod seeks to develop guidelines for presenting our faith in this particular hour: how to experience it, how to make it known and how to evangelize today’s world with its interpersonal relationships, micro and macro economics, political and cultural interests, artistic and athletic, cultural and technological, local and international realities, community and global realities, etc.
Underlying the intention of this Council is the same idea developed by John Paul II in the celebration of the 500 years of evangelization in America. Thus the Hispanic community residing in the United States should concern itself anew about its “Catholic” presence in this nation, its Catholic identity that impregnates the history of our Hispano-American origins and the particular challenges posed by our condition as Catholic migrants, as well as those posed to the Catholic Church in this great nation.
Some of these great challenges and concerns, both to Hispanic- and Anglo-Americans, to the Anglo-Catholic and to the Hispano-Catholic, among the purely Hispanic and the purely Anglo and North American population has to do with communion and participation, with Jesus’ desire made known in the Gospel of John: “That they all may be one” (John 17,21). Unity that is realized in full participation and integration, not in the assimilation of the Hispanic culture by the dominant culture.
Even though there is much to be done in this field, much has already been accomplished through a large measure of sacrifice: in the year 1970, Msgr. Patricio Flores was named as the first bishop of Hispanic origin in the USA, currently bishop emeritus of San Antonio, Texas. Yet currently we have 47 Hispanic bishops.
Very well, we not only need to see the recognition of Hispanic bishops, we also need to see the recognition of Hispanic academics in the universities, and promote the development of political leadership inspired by the instruction of the Church achieved through the support and concourse of everyone, among many other areas, of humanitarian migrant laws, treatment that is equitable and just for the poor and marginalized according to the gospel, which among us today have faces and proper names: millions who are poor, impoverished, marginalized and excluded by the societies from which they came, as well as in the one where they have arrived —for lack of documents— where they are exploited, persecuted and condemned to live in conditions inadequate for inhabitants of this nation that is recognized as a free and democratic society, especially when they are considered to be children of God.
All of this should contribute to the fulfillment of the vision and dream of John Paul II: to become in fact, not three Americas, but ONE AMERICA, united and for everyone. An America with different faces, languages and colors, with different creeds and ideologies, with different flavors and customs, but with a common destiny: to build a more fraternal society, more united, more human and more just. A society in which no one is excluded and all fit, for all of whom the greater realization of their best and most human longings is possible.
Thus the subject chosen for the Synod of this coming October on the New Evangelization involves us and acquires in our Hispanic context in the United States its own profile and interest: that of discovering what is truly Hispanic, North American and Catholic as a possibility of convergence, integration, unity and mutual enrichment with our differences, rather than an obligatory separation and cause for rejection and discrimination due to the things that are not common to us all.
Common to us all is the same divine origin, the same tendencies toward that which is noble, good, beautiful and true. Common to us all is the planet where we live and the dreams of a better world. Common to us all as believers in Christ (whether Hispanic or non-Hispanic) is the dream and the task of building unity —in diversity— lived out and preached by our Lord Jesus Christ.