Bishop Omella began the 118th Plenary Assembly with a greeting and affectionate remembrance to the people of La Palma and "especially to those most affected by the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano". The president of the EEC wanted to simplify his speech, on a day in which no less than three episcopal appointments in Spain have been made public, but he wanted to underline the essential aspects that will mark this plenary.
The palpable socio-economic crisis that the country is going through was one of the main topics discussed in this first speech of the Plenary Assembly. Omella highlighted youth unemployment and the loneliness of the elderly, calling on all to set aside ideologies and walk together: "the great family that is the Church, the People of God on the way, wants to collaborate more actively with political and civil institutions to make possible this necessary change that will make it possible to emerge "better" from the crisis we are suffering.
Referring to the Synod, recently opened in the dioceses, Bishop Omella wanted to emphasize that "All this effort and ecclesial work of the synodal journey will undoubtedly have positive effects of renewal and communion not only for the Church, but also for our whole country. Yes, Catholics, who are present in all spheres of society, to the extent that we enter into the synodal dynamic that the Pope proposes to us, we will help cohesion, humanization and the common good of Spain.
"I ask forgiveness for our lack of witness."
Bishop Omella did not avoid such unpleasant issues as the lack of unity within the Church or the sins and lack of coherence of its members that blur, personally and collectively, the beauty of Christian life. The lack of presence of Catholics in public life "is also caused - we have to recognize it - by the internal inconsistencies of the Church and of Christians, and, it must also be said clearly: of us the pastors of the Church and for this I ask forgiveness, because with our lack of witness and inconsistencies, by our divisions and lack of evangelizing passion, on many occasions we contribute, not without scandal, to the disaffection and lack of confidence in the hierarchy, in the Church itself.
This request for forgiveness was accompanied by a hopeful invocation: "In spite of our infidelities, the Holy Spirit continues to act in history and to show his life-giving power. With Him we are not afraid to confront issues such as lack of faith and corruption within the Church that really hurt us and we ask God, the victims and society for forgiveness, while working for their eradication and prevention".
Laity, "the Church's best means of communication".
The role of the laity as committed Christians in all social, cultural and political spheres was once again one of the central points of the words of the President of the Spanish Episcopal Conference. In this sense, he called for "a Church that reaches all corners of society. In which the laity, with their way of life, are able to bring the newness and joy of the Gospel wherever they are". A request that he summarized in the expressive phrase: The laity are the best means of communication that Jesus Christ and his Church have.
Total communion with the Pope
The visit ad limina which, in a few weeks, the Spanish bishops will begin their visit, was another of the topics included in this opening speech. A visit that the Spanish prelates are preparing with special diligence, as the Apostolic Nuncio in Spain, Bishop Auza, wanted to emphasize, and that manifests "the affective and effective communion with the one who in the Church is the visible principle of unity and shares with him his solicitude for all the Churches". In this sense, Bishop Omella wanted to emphasize "the feeling of deep affection and full communion of the Church in Spain, of its pastors and communities, with the Successor of Peter, Pope Francis, with his person and his magisterium".
Greetings from the Nuncio
For his part, the greeting of the Apostolic Nuncio in Spain, Bishop Auza, was centered on his gratitude for the work of the Spanish Church in the recently opened synod as well as for the proposal of the Service of Help and Orientation for the Diocesan or Provincial Offices of Denouncements of Abuse of Minors. "It is the way to operate, in such a sensitive and delicate subject, with security, with a guarantee of effectiveness and with unanimity of direction and criteria, uniting the efforts of all" stressed the nuncio who has also encouraged "the efforts they make in this respect, praising the wishes of the Pope in the application of Amoris Laetitia in the renewal of the preparation for marriage and in the renewal of the Directory of family pastoral care".
The first day of the 118th Plenary Assembly also coincided with the publication of three episcopal appointments. Bishop Juan Antonio Aznárez CoboJuan del Río Martín, currently auxiliary bishop of Pamplona and Tudela, is the new Archbishop of Castrense, whose see was vacant after the death of Bishop Juan del Río Martín on January 28, 2021.
Pope Francis has appointed Msgr. José Luis Retana GozaloThe new bishop, until now bishop of Plasencia, as the new bishop of Salamanca and Ciudad Rodrigo, under the formula in persona episcopi ("in the person of the bishop"), in such a way that they will have the same bishop but without modifying the structure of either of the two dioceses.
Finally, it was also announced the appointment of the priest Francisco César García Magán as auxiliary bishop of Toledo, where he is currently vicar general.
Information and topics of the Episcopal Commissions
The Episcopal Subcommission for the Family and the Defense of Life will present for study the draft of the document "Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Elderly in the Present Context".
It will also report on two of the events scheduled on the occasion of the Year "Amoris Laetitia Family". Marriage Week, promoted by the EEC, from February 14 to 20. And the World Meeting of Families to be held in Rome from June 22 to 26, which will close this Year dedicated especially to the family. In view of the difficulties to reach Rome and to be able to participate in this meeting, the bishops of the Plenary are going to evaluate the possibility of organizing a national meeting; in addition to the celebration of meetings in the different dioceses.
As is customary at Plenary Assembly meetings, the activities of the various Episcopal Commissions will be reviewed.
Luis Argüello, Secretary General of the EEC, will bring to the Plenary various proposals of the Coordination and Advisory Service for the Offices for the Protection of Minors.
The agenda includes the approval, if necessary, of the Statutes of the EEC and its organisms. The bishops will also be informed about the project of structure and functioning of the Council of Studies and Projects of the EEC. The creation of this Council is one of the activities foreseen in the action plan of the EEC, "Faithful to the missionary sending", which was approved in the Plenary of April 2021. They will also decide on the proposal of a document on "person, family and common good".
Various follow-up matters will be discussed and, as is customary at the November Plenary, the proposal for the constitution and distribution of the Interdiocesan Common Fund for the year 2022 and the budgets for the year 2022 of the Spanish Episcopal Conference and the organizations that depend on it will be presented for approval.