SASKATOON — Justice and peace co-ordinator Myron Rogal of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon was the Canadian delegate to a recent Vatican symposium held on the 50th anniversary of the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes.
Rogal was selected by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) in response to an invitation from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace for a delegate from the church of Canada to attend the Nov. 5 - 6 event in Rome, held to mark the anniversary of Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope).
The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes was one of the Second Vatican Council’s key documents. It expresses the call and the desire of the Catholic Church to engage with the entire human family in understanding and addressing the needs of the world in our time.
“Young generations in the service of mankind” was the theme of the two-day symposium — reflecting words from Paragraph 31 of Gaudium et Spes: “Above all the education of youth from every social background has to be undertaken, so that there can be produced not only men and women of refined talents, but those great-souled persons who are so desperately required by our times.”
Justice and peace workers from around the globe, along with representatives of ecclesial movements in the church and from several Catholic academic institutions, gathered with cardinals and lay people for the opening, which served to show how Gaudium et Spes is truly a living document, described Rogal.
“Gaudium et Spes is the pastoral constitution coming out of Vatican II that speaks to many of the church’s positions on life, labour and justice issues,” Rogal noted. “The opening was given by Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana” (president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace since 2009).
Another speaker was Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria, who participated in the Second Vatican Council, and is the former Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and former president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue. Other speakers addressed what developed out of the Second Vatican Council document.
“Gaudium et Spes is not a museum piece, but a living document,” Rogal said, quoting presenter Rev. Andrew Small, OMI, who serves as director of Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States.
Professor Henri-Paul Hude spoke about how the document brought alive the relationship with people and things of the world, “and had a sense of moving from individual spirituality, to a spirituality of action,” Rogal summarized.
Rogal was one of two Canadians at the symposium. The other was Rev. Bill Ryan, SJ, a former director of social affairs for the CCCB, who was representing the Jesuit Forum for Social Faith and Justice out of Toronto.
“I gained a greater realization of what the church is doing internationally,” said Rogal of the experience. He also gleaned insights into long-standing international movements in the church — movements such as the International Co-ordination of Young Christian Workers (ICYCW) with their methodology of “Do for. Do with. Let Do,” and the Jesuit Research Centres that are prominent in many parts of the world, engaging youth in justice issues.
“We broke into groups and talked about peace building in local churches, hearing the contrast between the developed world and some of the countries where there is war and violence,” said Rogal.
A delegate from Iraq described how “for her entire childhood, her memories are of death, and bombs, and shells,” he said. “Presenter Dr. Kevin Ahern from the United States said that the church experiences global trauma, and we need to be in solidarity with each other to heal that trauma.”
The strong ecclesiology that comes out of Gaudium et Spes includes the need to connect with those who are most vulnerable, Rogal described.
“I was reminded of Pope Francis, when he speaks of ‘dialogue, dialogue, dialogue.’ We always need that dialogue in order too know the intention of the other, to build that trust, and to look at the circumstances around us and to respond to those circumstances,” Rogal said. “Having the info is only step one in responding to justice issues, the rest of it is pastoral and process. . . . It is about establishing a set of pastoral tools and responding with those tools.”
There is a need to listen, and then to respond together, rather than imposing something from the top down, he said. “Looking at our own Diocesan Council of Truth and Reconciliation, for instance, I think one of the best ways to build peace is to work together.”
Professor Stefano Zamagni, Consultor of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, spoke about two models of education — one grounded in “what we can take away,” and another based on “what we can put in.” It is a concept that also applies to our navigation between individualism and the collective, common good, Rogal related.
“It ties into our whole view sometimes, including what Pope Francis calls our throwaway culture, or the idea of surplus people.”
Delegates were invited to reflect on two different forms of power in the world — potency and influence — and to observe how in the Scriptures Jesus never uses the power of potency, but always uses influence.
“It is really the ‘power of influence’ of Christ which is part of each of us: we have that ability to evangelize and evoke social change,” Rogal said. Rather than revolution or mere reform, the goal is always transformation, to bring about long-lasting, true justice and peace, he said.
Other presentations during the symposium addressed the prudent use of technology and social media, marriage and family life, and the vocation of political leadership, including the Eight Beatitudes of a Politician, written by Cardinal François Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan.
In one session, Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi of Italy, founder of the Centre for Migration Studies and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, identified this as a “year of migration, where one in seven global citizens are currently refugees or migrants in the world,” noted Rogal. “It was one of the most powerful and concrete presentations . . . it was a call to unity, and a reminder that this is part of our own story: that we are all global citizens.”
The symposium brought home the continuity of the church to Rogal, who noted that the group met in the room where the synod on the family had just finished. A Vatican tradition in which the previous meeting leaves a gift behind in the room for the next gathering helped participants to “realize that the Spirit is working in many, many different places.” Staying in the hotel where a lot of the Vatican II documents were drafted also brought home the continuity of the universal church, he noted.
Another profoundly moving highlight was celebration of mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, and the procession afterward by all the delegates to pray at the tomb of Pope John XXIII, he said.
“There was also a symbolic handover of the legacy of the pastoral constitution of Gaudium et Spes, when each of representatives of the local churches was invited to come up and receive a piece of parchment paper to bring back home. On that parchment paper there is a quote from Gaudium et Spes and a flash drive is attached to it with a ribbon,” described Rogal.
“It is a reminder that we are part of a church and of a mission that has a past, a present and a future.”