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Croft addresses Roman synod

19 October 2012


Veiled: nuns take part in a candlelit pro­cession to mark the 50th anniversary of Vatican II in St Peter's Square last week

Veiled: nuns take part in a candlelit pro­cession to mark the 50th anniversary of Vatican II in St Peter's Square last week

IN AN address heard by Pope Benedict XVI at the Synod of Bishops in Rome ( News, 12 October) on Tuesday, the Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Steven Croft, suggested that the Roman Catholic Church could learn from the Fresh Expressions move­ment.

Invited, with other fraternal delegates, to address the synod for four minutes, Dr Croft encouraged the bishops to "reflect further on the formation of new ecclesial commun­ities for the transmission of the faith to those who are no longer part of any Church". The fruit of Fresh Ex­pressions was often "a new com­munity of young people, or families, or the elderly", who could then begin to offer prayers and worship.

Dr Croft also spoke of the part played by the diaconate. In the Church of England, he said, deacons were described as "heralds of Christ's kingdom and . . . agents of God's service".

He suggested that the new evangelisation, the theme of the synod, was a call to "the formation of mature disciples able to live in the rhythm of worship, community, and mission". In a blog written on Wednesday of last week, he suggested that "the idea of discipleship and of making disciples" was "the most striking absentee" from the discus­sion at the synod. He would return to Sheffield with the insight that the Church required "Christians who will not melt in the heat of the day, but endure and be sustained and grow stronger in their witness".

Writing online, Dr Croft de­scribed the synod as "formal but not stuffy", and said that the speeches delivered by bishops were "mostly very interesting". There was "a deep sense of something stirring". The picture painted by bishops from Europe was "bleaker . . . than I recognise from Britain", while Africa, which had "spectacular num­bers" of bishops and priests, was "much more positive".

Presentations from North Amer­ican and Western Europe had been united by "a willingness to ask a series of more difficult questions" about abuse scandals and the situ­ation of the divorced.

Dr Croft observed "two different kinds of contribu­tions" from bishops: those that "argue that to go forward the Church must return to fundamentals and do them better", and those that suggested that it must "listen more deeply to culture, understand it better, and be prepared to com­municate the gospel in new ways. . . Just occasionally there is a glimpse of a contribution which suggests that both are essential."

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