A special synod of the Dutch bishops opened in the Vatican on Monday (14 January).
GV Pope John Paul II blessing congregation during service (2 shots)
GV Mural PAN TO congregation and Pope during service (2 shots)
SV INTERIOR Pope greeting cardinals
SV PAN Pope and cardinals praying before meeting commences (2 shots)
SV PAN Cardinals and Pope seated during meeting (2 shots)
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Background: A special synod of the Dutch bishops opened in the Vatican on Monday (14 January). Some observers say no event of comparable importance has so far marked Pope John Paul II's reign. The issues raised by the synod are seen by many Roman Catholics as the first clear indication of how the Pope envisages his churchs's future, and his attitude to what some Roman Catholics see as excessive liberalism in the church in Holland.
SYNOPSIS: The Dutch Church hierarchy itself is profoundly split. Liberal innovations first brought the Dutch church in conflict with the Holy See after the Second Vatican Council. Practical ecumenism in some places broke down traditional distinctions between Catholics and Protestants, and demands for a married priesthood have been strong. The question of women priests has been raised much more forcefully in Holland than elsewhere in Europe. Seminary training in the traditional sense was abolished and young candidates for the priesthood have studied alongside other students at the theology faculties of ordinary universities.
Other issues raised by the synod include contacts with other churches, Catholic education and ethical standards in the modern world.
Pope John Paul welcomed the Dutch bishops to the Vatican and he chaired their first meeting. The synod is due to last for about two weeks.
Before the synod's first meeting got under way, the Pope spoke a prayer. The meeting was without precedent, the Pope told the Dutch bishops and senior prelates who were gathered in the small private chapel. The Pope summoned the synod, the first for just one national church, after increasing anxiety in conservative church circles, including the Vatican, about Holland's liberal reforms. Cardinal Jan Willebrands acknowledged that there have been failures. "We are men and not angels," he told a news conference. He would not speculate on the outcome, but appeared anxious to dispel any high hopes for the meeting.