The Plenary Assembly of the Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE), in its 118th edition, has been closed in Santiago de Compostela This week, with a pilgrimage of the 63 Spanish bishops, two diocesan administrators and the two vice-secretaries of the EEC, accompanied by the apostolic nuncio in Spain, Msgr. Bernardito C. AuzaThe event was held at the feet of the Apostle St. James, on the occasion of the Jubilee Year of Compostela, where they left their yearnings and concerns.
The main event was the Pilgrim's Mass at 11.00 a.m. in the cathedral. The bishops entered the church through the Holy Door at about 10:45 a.m. to venerate the tomb of St. James the Apostle in the crypt. The archbishop of Santiago, Mons. Julián Barrio, presided over the Eucharistic celebration.
After the reading of the Gospel, the President of the EEC and Archbishop of Barcelona, Cardinal Juan José Omellahas made the offering to the Apostle on behalf of the Spanish bishops. He began by referring to the inhabitants of the island of La Palma, punished by the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano.
Solidarity with La Palma
"As pilgrims we come before you to ask for your protection over all the projects of our local Churches, as well as your encouraging presence in the joys and sufferings of our people and all our communities that we serve as pastors. In a special way we present to you the concern and pain of the inhabitants of La Palma, who have been under the eruption of the volcano for more than two months. We wish to reach them not only with our prayers, so necessary, but also with the solidarity of all the peoples of Spain".
Earlier, he addressed the Apostle St. James directly: "We, the bishops of the Church in Spain, go on pilgrimage to this cathedral, where your remains have been venerated since time immemorial. It was you, according to venerable tradition, who brought to these lands the light of the Gospel. We come here in the framework of this Holy Year, which periodically brings tens of thousands of people from all over the world to this cathedral, and we do so also in the framework of our Plenary Assembly meeting, which we wanted to conclude with this pilgrimage.
Causes of suffering
Cardinal Omella also referred to the pandemic, noting that "today we still feel the pain of so many people who suffer the absence of loved ones or the consequences of the disease: health, family, religious, pastoral, social and also economic".
"We have shared these days other causes of suffering," he then added. "The abuses committed by some members of the Church cause us pain and shame. We ask for your strength and your light so that, in all dioceses, we can meet, welcome and accompany, face to face, the victims in the healing of their pain."
The president of the EEC also wanted to place in the hands of the Apostle St. James "the economic difficulties that are leaving more and more people in a situation of exclusion. We are sensitive to the concern for land, housing and work, so often pointed out by Pope Francis. The data offered by Caritas and other entities of the Church tell us that there are currently 11 million people who are already in a situation of social exclusion. Not to mention the more than two and a half million people in situations of extreme vulnerability".
Commitments to those who suffer the most
"We ask you, Apostle James, to accompany those who suffer these sufferings and to arouse in all of us feelings of compassion, as well as effective commitments to make it true that we are one people, and that we are all committed to one another, and all to those who suffer the most," said Cardinal Omella.
Finally, he placed in the hands of the Apostle St. James "the synodal endeavor in which the whole Church is engaged," asked for his "help for this beautiful and exciting mission [evangelization] because we are aware that it surpasses us," and prayed that, "with Mary, star of the new evangelization, under the invocation of the Pillar, which, according to tradition is so closely linked to your person and evangelizing work, intercede for us now and always."
Pioneering decree to tackle abuse
The Plenary Assembly this week approved a General Decree on the protection of minors. It is the first Episcopal Conference in the world to approve this set of norms to deal with cases of sexual abuse against minors and people who usually have an imperfect use of reason, the Spanish Bishops' Conference itself has pointed out,
The text gathers, in a single document, "the canonical norms dispersed in various documents, and will be valid in all Spanish dioceses, in religious institutions of diocesan right. It will also be a good instrument for its application in those of pontifical right. Its implementation will allow for greater coordination and speed in dealing with this type of case and will also guarantee the rights of all parties by clarifying aspects that were previously interpreted by juridical analogy".
This decree "already incorporates the modifications that the Holy See introduced, on this matter, in Book VI of the Code of Canon Law, which was presented on June 1 of this year", and will enter into force as soon as it receives the recognitio of the Holy See.
Also in relation to the protection of minors, the Plenary Assembly specified the formation and work of the Coordination and Counseling Service for the Offices for the Protection of Minors. And "it was glimpsed the growing need to welcome all kinds of people who ask for help for abuses that have taken place in other areas. Also discussed were the common services that the EEC can offer to facilitate the work of these offices", for which "the formation of a team of people in the Conference that can help and provide the services that the offices demand" is under study.
Case by case, not statistics
Luis Argüello, auxiliary bishop of Valladolid and secretary general of the CEE, gave an account of the work of the Plenary Assembly, together with the vice-secretary for economic affairs, Fernando Giménez Barriocanal. In relation to the abuses, Bishop Argüello emphasized that the Conference of Bishops is in favor of "case by case knowledge of the situations of abuse that may have occurred, with the desire that they not be repeated", but not to carry out a task of "sociological or statistical research".
"Our main interest is that each victim can feel that the Church, in each diocese and in each congregation is ready to welcome their situation, and if the possibility of opening a procedure is derived it would be opened, because the Church although it has a twenty-year statute of limitations period, it is always open to lifting the statute of limitations," said the secretary general, according to Cope.
Bylaws, family, budgets
The agenda of the Plenary Assembly also included the approval of the Statutes of the EEC and its organisms. The bishops received information on the project of structure and functioning of the Council of Studies and Projects of the EEC, whose creation is one of the activities foreseen in the plan of action. "Faithful to missionary sending".which was approved at the April 2021 Plenary Meeting.
On the other hand, the European Youth Pilgrimage will take place in Santiago de Compostela from August 4 to 8, 2022, with the theme 'Young man arise and be a witness. The Apostle Santiago awaits you'.which is convened on the occasion of the Holy Year of Compostela. There are already 10,000 young people registered, reports the EEC.
Within the framework of the Year "Family Amoris Laetitia"the program has been advanced to Marriage Weekpromoted by the EEC, from February 14 to 20, 2022. In addition, the bishops have agreed to join the World Meeting of Families, which will take place in Rome from June 22 to 26, with a national Meeting, in addition to those organized in the various dioceses. They thus accept the invitation of Pope Francis to bring this Meeting to the local Churches.As for the budget of the Interdiocesan Common Fund for 2022, the instrument through which the distribution of the tax allocation to the Spanish dioceses and other ecclesial realities is channeled, "a little more than 295 million euros has been established as the target amount, which represents a 3.5 % increase over the previous year."