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Updated: October 13, 1999 05:00 PM GMT
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Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini of Milan has asked fellow European bishops to consider whether holding a new council of the Catholic Church during the next 10 years would be useful, perhaps necessary.

"A collegial and authoritative confrontation of all the bishops on some of the knotty themes that have emerged in these 40 years" since the opening of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) was the idea Cardinal Martini introduced at the second Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Europe.

The 72-year-old Jesuit cardinal, who surprised the delegates attending the Oct. 1-23 synod with his suggestion, did not specifically propose a "council," which only the pope has the prerogative to convoke.

However, his words were widely interpreted as a call for a "Third Vatican Council," since the type of collegiality that he envisaged is broader than that of a synod and could be realized only in a council.

"There is the feeling that it would be good and useful for the bishops of today and tomorrow -- in a Church ever more diversified in its languages -- to repeat that experience of communion, of collegiality and of the Holy Spirit which their predecessors had at Vatican (Council) II and which is now no longer a live memory, except for a few witnesses," Cardinal Martini said.

The Italian cardinal opened his synod intervention with a tribute to the late Cardinal George Basil Hume of Westminster, England, who he said once began a synod speech with the words "I had a dream."

Cardinal Martini said that "in these days, I too have had a dream, indeed several dreams." He recounted three that dealt with the Bible narrative of the disciples on the road to Emmaus.

The first two, he said, affirmed his convictions that the Bible "is the book of the future" of Europe and that the parish can continue to make Christ present in Europe through its "prophetic, priestly and diaconal service."

It was his third dream, though, based on the joyful return of the disciples from Emmaus to Jerusalem to meet the Apostles, that he developed further.

He dreamed that this return "might become a stimulus to repeat every so often, in the course of the century that is opening, an experience of a universal meeting of the bishops."

Such meetings could deal with "disciplinary and doctrinal knots" that he said have perhaps been mentioned "too little" at the current synod.

The cardinal listed some of the issues that such a universal meeting of bishops might deal with, including development of Vatican Council II´s ecclesiology of communion and the position of woman in society and in the Church.

The shortage of ordained priests, the need for a sufficient number of ministers of the Gospel and the Eucharist, and the participation of laity in some ministerial responsibilities are other concerns he identified.

Other issues include sexuality, the discipline of matrimony, the practice of penance, revival of ecumenical hope, relations with Orthodox Churches, and the relation between civil laws and moral law, and between democracy and values.

Some of these issues emerged at past synods, Cardinal Martini said, and "suitable places and instruments for their attentive examination" are needed.

Such instruments as sociological surveys, collection of signatures or pressure groups "are certainly not valid instruments for this purpose," he continued, adding that "perhaps a synod would not be sufficient either."

"Some of these themes probably require a more universal and authoritative instrument, where they could be faced with freedom, in the full exercise of episcopal collegiality, in listening to the Spirit and looking to the common good of the Church and the whole of humanity," the Milan cardinal concluded.

Synod delegates applauded at the end of the intervention.


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