• Rift revealed as Scottish bishop complains of Curial interference • Lay movements acclaimed • Support for European integration
By Bruce Johnston and Padraic Maher in Rome, David Quinn in Dublin and Luke Coppen in London Ti-m EUROPEAN Synod of Bishops ended at the weekend with a call for a united and integrated Europe, where the Christian ethos prevailed and the Church fearlessly proclaimed the "Gospel of Hope".
But it also concluded on a divisive note, with one bishop claiming that Curial bishops had stifled debate of controversial issues and another spurned by his fellow bishops after a bold call for greater collegiality.
The Synod's closing message, published on Saturday, contained a resounding plea for a renewed evangelisation of Europe. "Church of Europe: do not be afraid! Live out your responsibilities! The time will come — and the signs can already be seen — in which good will triumph over evil."
The message was overshadowed, however, by the outspoken comments of Archbishop Keith O'Brien of St Andrews and Edinburgh at the Synod's final English language press conference.
Archbishop O'Brien claimed that a lobby of curial bishops and some papal nominees blocked discussion of sensitive topics, such as celibacy and married priests, in the working groupsessions. 'Practical things like that have been discussed by the bishops and our advisers, but there is also a 'lobby' — if that's not too strong a word — of opposition to any discussion about that among the curial bishops."
He added: "It does cause tension. I would not say it came to blows, but views were expressed very, very strongly."
He also claimed that a plan aimed at reviving the sacrament of reconciliation in the Holy Year, which would have included the use of general absolution, had the joint backing of the bishops of England and Wales, Ireland and Scotland, but was turned down by Rome.
He said: "On the Saturday before Palm Sunday there would be general absolution in all of our parishes in the British Isles and Ireland and on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week there would be opportunities for individual confession."
However, he told reporters, "the Curia would not approve of that, despite the fact that it was approved by the hierarchies of our countries." This claim was dismissed, however, by two Irish synod participants, Archbishop Sean Brady of Armagh and Bishop Donal Murray of Limerick, who said that the Irish bishops had never approved a proposal on general absolution.
They also denied that Vatican officials had stifled discussion. "We certainly didn't fmd that," Bishop Murray said.
The synod also indicated a shift in the fortunes of one of Europe's most prominent bishops. Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, hailed as the "Pope in waiting" by the Italian press, failed to win enough votes to be elected to the postsynodal council which will assist the Pope in drawing up the Apostolic Exhortation which follows all Church synods.
The Archbishop of Milan, a former president of the Council of Episcopal Conferences of Europe, is understood to have polled badly in the voting for the 14-member council, while his rival, Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, generally considered a conservative, polled strongly. Cardinal Tettamanzi, Archbishop of Genoa, made an undisguised attack on Martini at the Synod's final press conference. He said that Cardinal Martini's speech to the synod in which he called for greater collegiality in the Church, opening the way for a Third Vatican Council, "had no echo at all within the synod assembly".
Archbishop Franc Rode of Ljubljana, a protegee of the Pope, echoed Cardinal Tettamanzi's comments with a crushing anecdote.
He said: "A Spanish bishop came to me and said: 'Did you hear Cardinal Martini?' Yes,' I replied. And the conversation ended right there.
"Perhaps his proposals were discussed by some people at the table, but the words of Cardinal Martini were not the great shock of the assembly."
Several non-Italian bishops, however, rallied to Cardinal Martini's aid, including Bishop Vincent Nichols, auxiliary in north London.
He said: "Martini has touched on some very important themes, which should be taken seriously, including those concerning the centrality of the Bible and the role of the movements in the Church."
Bishop Joseph Homeyer of Hildesheim said: "The questions that he posed to us should be taken seriously, although they may go beyond the dimension of a single continent. A lot of people agreed."
But if Cardinal Martini's star fell at the Synod, Cardinal Tettamanzi's rose sharply and