FOUR points in the final message from the recent Synod of Bishops deserve special emphasis. First, the bishops recall the Second Vatican Council's universal call to holiness, which of course applies to bishops as much as to anyone else. Since the Council, there have been meetings without count about strategies and structures, but how much attention has been paid to the universal call to holiness, not least at the diocesan level'? The way a bishop carries out his apostolic ministry is of great importance, not least because of the way in which it will affect his priests on whom he is dependent for spreading the Gospel. Moreover, the call for vocations to the diocesan priesthood is essentially a call to men to offer themselves for the presbyterate of the diocese, of which the bishop is the head. Ultimately, these vocations depend on him and the example he gives.
Second, and this no doubt is what will cause the most comment, is the statement that "collegiality ... is at the service of communion". This was the point made by the Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires in his summary as relator of the bishops' speeches. Some bishops had spoken of the "principle of subsidiarity" in the Church. If it is true that only 20 per cent of bishops actually complained that episcopal collegiality was suffering from an overdose of papal primacy, then it would seem that the majority of bishops worldwide accept Cardinal Bergoglio's point that the concept of communion in the Church is paramount and that collegiality should always be "at the service of communion". In practice, that means that when it comes to matters of Church discipline and doctrine, bishops should act with the Pope and be seen to do so. Obviously, bishops have the same kind of powers and responsibilities in their dioceses that parish priests have in their parishes. But bishops naturally expect the priests who form their presbyterate, of which the bishop is the head, to act in close communion with the bishop. That the Pope should expect the same of his bishops, who form the apostolic college of which he is the head, does not appear to be a demand for centralisation any more than it would be in a diocese. In his closing homily, the Pope, in fact, drew exactly this parallel when he called for a "deep and convinced unity of the Shepherds among themselves and with the Successor of Peter ... just as the bishops with their priests".
Third, the Synod reminds bishops of their responsibility "to warn His people against false teachings". This duty is involved in the very concept of collegiality. Much of the odium suffered by Cardinal Ratzinger and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith results from the failure of local bishops to carry out this responsibility which is an essential part of the episcopal office.
Fourth, The Synod calls for bishops to show "concern" for the new ecclesial movements and communities. As Cardinal Basil Hume remarked not long before his death, most vocations are now coming ftum these groups. They deserve our bishops' support, not least the two which originated among young people in this country, Faith, and Youth 2000.