Recent Synods of bishops - of Asia, Oceania and Europe - all highlight a variety of fundamental problems facing the Church around the world.
Ecclesia in Asia (see page 3) is the just released Apostolic Exhortation deriving from the 1998 Synod of Asia. In it, Pope John Paul II cautions local Churches and missionaries not to allow the unique status of Christianity to be compromised in the interests of cultural accommodation.
The Synod of Oceania saw the subsequent release early in 1999 of the Statement of Conclusions, which set out a list of urgent tasks for Australia's bishops if they were to arrest the steady erosion of the faith in Australia. This erosion was confirmed in preliminary findings from the Catholic Church Life Survey (see page 7) and in the views of many of the Church's religious and intellectual élites published in the report Woman and Man (see page 9).
As the Australian bishops met for their final conference of the millennium, many Catholics were wondering what would eventuate in the way of policies designed to address the crisis of faith that appears to be worsening on the eve of the third millennium of Christianity.
Meanwhile, as the Synod of Europe concluded, that continent's bishops faced an even steeper uphill task of ensuring the continued survival of Christianity in the face of increasing secularisation.
Our Lord's guarantee that "the gates of Hell will not prevail" has never encompassed every section of his Church throughout the world, as past history illustrates. The Church in some nations or continents will endure, even flourish well into the third millennium, as others decline or die out.
Much depends on wise, realistic policies as distinct from mere rhetoric and pious platitudes.
Michael Gilchrist: Editor (E-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org)