10/17/2015, 00.00
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Pope: the Church of the third millennium, "synodal", listening, collegial and with a "conversion of the papacy"

Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Synod of Bishops, Francis outlines his vision of the Church. "Synodality as a constitutive dimension of the Church, gives us the most appropriate interpretive framework for understanding the same hierarchical ministry". Find, even in ecumenical perspective, "a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation."

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The Church must become more "synodal" – in the context of walking together - and in this perspective "also the exercise of the Petrine primacy will receive greater light." "A conversion of the papacy" that even in the ecumenical perspective is "a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation."

The commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Synod of Bishops, celebrated this morning in the Paul VI Hall, gave the opportunity to Pope Francis to once again outline, with significant emphasis, his vision of the Church of the third millennium, characterized by ' listening to all its components, by increasing the responsibility of the Bishops' Conferences, collegiality and, indeed, the "conversion of the papacy."

The Pope began his lengthy speech by emphasizing that "from the beginning of my ministry as Bishop of Rome I intended to enhance the role Synod, which is one of the most precious legacies  of the last Vatican Council. For Blessed Paul VI, the Synod of Bishops revived the image of the Ecumenical Council and reflected its spirit and method. The same Pontiff noted that the synodal organism " can be improved upon over time." He was echoed, two decades later, by John Paul II who stated that "perhaps this tool can be further improved. Perhaps the collegial pastoral responsibility can be expressed in a more fully synodal manner '. " "We must continue on this path. The world we live in, and that we are called to love and serve in its contradictions, requires the the strengthening of synergies in all areas of the Churches’ mission. Indeed it is the path of collegiality that God expects from the Church of the third millennium. "

"All that the Lord asks us, in a sense, is already contained in the word 'Synod'. Walking together –Lay faithful, Pastors, the Bishop of Rome-it is an easy concept to put into words, but not so easy to put into practice. "

Francis noted that "the People of God," according to Vatican II  “is ‘The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One,(111) cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole peoples' supernatural discernment in matters of faith when "from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful" (8*) they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals. ''. Hence the assertion of Evangelii gaudium for which "All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization to be carried out by professionals while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients”. 120 The sensus fidei prevents a rigid separation between Ecclesia docens and Ecclesia discens, since even the Flock has its own 'flair' to discern the new paths that the Lord reveals to the Church. It was this conviction that guided me when I hoped that God's Holy People be consulted in the preparation of the double appointment of the synod on the family. Certainly, such a consultation is not enough to interpret the sensus fidei. But neither is it possible to talk about the family without consulting families, listening to their joys and their hopes, their sorrows and their troubles".

A listening Church

"A synodal Church is a listening Church, one which knows that listening "is more than hearing". It is a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn. Faithful people, the College of Bishops, the Bishop of Rome: one in listening to others; and all listening to the Holy Spirit, the "Spirit of truth" (Jn 14, 17), to understand what He  "says to the Churches" (Rev 2: 7). The Synod of Bishops is the convergence point of this listening dynamic conducted at all levels of church life. The synodal process starts by listening to the people", "it continues listening to the pastors. Through the Synod Fathers, the bishops act as true stewards, interpreters and witnesses of the faith of the whole Church, which must be able to carefully distinguish the often changing trends of public opinion. On the eve of the Synod last year I stated: "I ask the Holy Spirit first of all to grant the Synod Fathers the gift of listening: listening to God, to hear with Him the cry of the people; listening to the people, so as to breathe the will to which God calls us. " Finally, the synodal process culminates in listening to the Bishop of Rome, called upon to pronounce himself as the "pastor and teacher of all Christians": it starts with his personal beliefs, but as the supreme witness of fides totius Ecclesiae, "guarantor of obedience and compliance of the Church to God, to the Gospel of Christ and the Tradition of the Church'".

"The fact that the Synod always acts cum Petro et sub Petro - therefore not only cum Petro, but also sub Petro – is not a restriction of freedom, but a guarantee of unity. In fact the Pope, by the will of the Lord, is "the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and the multitude of the faithful." Connected to this is the concept of "ierarchica communio " used by Vatican II: the Bishops are united with the Bishop of Rome by the bond of episcopal communion (cum Petro) and are at the same time hierarchically subjected to him as head of the college ( sub Petro) ".

Synodality, a constitutive dimension of the Church

"Synodality as a constitutive dimension of the Church, gives us the most appropriate interpretive framework to understand the hierarchical ministry. If we understand as St. John Chrysostom said, that the 'church and synod are synonymous" because the Church is none other than the' walking together  of the flock of God on the paths of history to meet Christ the Lord-we understand well that inside no one can be 'higher' than the other. On the contrary, the Church needs those who ‘lower ’ themselves in service to their brothers and sisters along the way. Jesus founded the Church by placing the Apostolic College at its head, in which the apostle Peter is the "rock" (cfr. Mt 16, 18), the one who is to "confirm" his brothers in faith (cfr. Lk 22, 32 ). But in this Church, as in an inverted pyramid, the summit is located below the base. For those who exercise this authority they are called 'ministers', because, according to the original meaning of the word, they are the least of all. It is serving the people of God that each Bishop becomes, for the portion of the flock entrusted to him, vicarius Christi 20, vicar of the Jesus who at the Last Supper stooped to wash the feet of the Apostles (cfr. Jn 13: 1-15 ). And, in a similar horizon, the Successor of Peter is none other than the servant of the servants of God. "

"Let us never forget! For the disciples of Jesus, yesterday, today and always, the only authority is the authority of the service, the only power is the power of the Cross".

"In a Church Synod, the Synod of Bishops is only the most obvious manifestation of a dynamism of communion that inspires all the ecclesial decisions. The first level of exercise of collegiality is realized in the particular Churches. After recalling the noble institution of the diocesan Synod, in which priests and laity are called to collaborate with the Bishop for the good of the whole ecclesial community, the Code of Canon Law devotes ample space to those who is usually called the 'bodies communion 'of the particular Church: the Council of Priests, the College of Consultors, the Chapter of Canons and Parish Council. Only to the extent that these organizations are connected with the 'base' and spring from the people, from everyday problems, can a Church Synod begin to take shape: these instruments, which sometimes progress with fatigue, must be treated as an opportunity for listening and sharing ".

"The second level is that of Ecclesiastical Provinces and Regions, Particular Councils and especially Episcopal Conferences. We need to think about fostering even more instances of collegiality, through these organizations, perhaps by integrating and updating some aspects of the ancient church order. The hope of the Council that such bodies can help increase the spirit of episcopal collegiality has not yet been fully realized. In a Church Synod, as I said, "it is not appropriate for the Pope to replace the local Episcopates in the discernment of all the problems that lie ahead in their territories. In this sense, I feel the need to proceed with a healthy 'decentralization'. "The last level is that of the universal Church. Here the Synod of Bishops, representing the Catholic episcopate, it becomes an expression of episcopal collegiality in a synodal Church. It manifests the affective collegiality, which may well become in some circumstances 'effective', joining the Bishops among themselves and with the Pope in caring for the people of God. "

Collegiality, ecumenism and "conversion of the papacy"

"The commitment to build a synodal -missionary Church to which all are called, each in the role that the Lord has entrusted us is fraught with ecumenical implications. For this reason, talking to a delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, I have recently reiterated the conviction that "careful consideration of how to articulate the principle of collegiality in the Church's life and the service of the one who presides offer a significant contribution to the advancement of relations between our Churches". I am convinced that, in a Church synod, also the exercise of the Petrine primacy will receive greater light. The Pope is not, by himself, above the Church; but inside it as a Baptized between and within the College of Bishops as the Bishop of Bishops, called at the same time-as Successor of Peter- to lead the Church of Rome which presides in all the churches. While I reiterate the need and urgency to think of "a conversion of the papacy," I willingly repeat the words of my predecessor Pope John Paul II: "As Bishop of Rome I know [...]that Christ ardently desires the full and visible communion of all those Communities in which, by virtue of God's faithfulness, his Spirit dwells". I am convinced that I have a particular responsibility in this regard, above all in acknowledging the ecumenical aspirations of the majority of the Christian Communities and in heeding the request made of me to find a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing all that is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation"."

"Our view also extends to humanity. A synodal Church is as a sign lifted up among the nations (cfr. Is 11, 12) in a world which  -while invoking participation, solidarity and transparency in publication administration -  often consigns  the fate of entire populations into the greedy hands of small power groups. As a Church that is 'walking together'  with humanity, sharing the hardships of history, we must cultivate the dream that the rediscovery of the inviolable dignity of the people and  authority’s function to serve will also help civil society to be grow in justice and fraternity, generating a world  that is more beautiful and more worthy of man for the generations that come after us. "

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