Communion, participation, mission are key words for a Church on the move, says Pope
Moment of reflection for the beginning of the Synodal Process "For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission". To become "a Church of listening" to the Spirit and to our brothers and sisters, a "Church of closeness" that "establishes greater bonds of friendship with society and the world".
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The Synod assembly is not a parliament governed by the logic of the majority and minority, but a process indicated by three words: "communion, participation, mission".
This is how Pope Francis described the Moment of Reflection for the beginning of the Synodal Process "For a Synodal Church: communion, participation and mission" this morning in the New Synod Hall.
Addressing those present - bishops, priests, religious and laity – he said: " You have come by many different roads and from different Churches, each bearing your own questions and hopes. I am certain the Spirit will guide us and give us the grace to move forward together, to listen to one another and to embark on a discernment of the times in which we are living, in solidarity with the struggles and aspirations of all humanity".
The first key words of the Synod, communion and mission, are "theological expressions". They designate "the mystery of the Church which it is good to remember" and the task entrusted to her by Christ. And Paul VI wanted to "condense precisely in these two words - communion and mission - the main lines enunciated by the Council".
However, " can risk remaining somewhat abstract, unless we cultivate an ecclesial praxis that expresses the concreteness of synodality at every step of our journey and activity, encouraging real involvement on the part of each and all. I would say that celebrating a Synod is always a good and important thing, but it proves truly beneficial if it becomes a living expression of “being Church”, of a way of acting marked by true participation. This is not a matter of form, but of faith. Participation is a requirement of the faith received in baptism. As the Apostle Paul says, “in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Cor 12:13). In the Church, everything starts with baptism. Baptism, the source of our life, gives rise to the equal dignity of the children of God, albeit in the diversity of ministries and charisms. Consequently, all the baptized are called to take part in the Church’s life and mission. Without real participation by the People of God, talk about communion risks remaining a devout wish. In this regard, we have taken some steps forward, but a certain difficulty remains and we must acknowledge the frustration and impatience felt by many pastoral workers, members of diocesan and parish consultative bodies and women, who frequently remain on the fringes. Enabling everyone to participate is an essential ecclesial duty!”.
The Synod therefore "offers a great opportunity for a pastoral conversion in a missionary and also ecumenical key", but it presents three risks, starting with formalism. " If we want to speak of a synodal Church, we cannot remain satisfied with appearances alone; we need content, means and structures that can facilitate dialogue and interaction within the People of God, especially between priests and laity" because "sometimes there is some elitism in the presbyteral order that makes it detach itself from the laity and the priest becomes in the end the leader of the pack". The second risk is intellectualism, "turning the Synod into a kind of study group" on the problems of the Church and the world, a "talking over ourselves" in which we end up " ould turn into a kind of study group, offering learned but abstract approaches to the problems of the Church and the evils in our world. The usual people saying the usual things, without great depth or spiritual insight, and ending up along familiar and unfruitful ideological and partisan divides, far removed from the reality of the holy People of God and the concrete life of communities around the world". The third risk is "the danger of complacency", the "because it has always been done this way it is better not to change" that is "a poison in the life of the Church". With the danger that "old solutions are adopted for new problems".
The Synod should instead be "an occasion for meeting, listening and reflection", "a season of grace that, in the joy of the Gospel, allows us to recognize at least three opportunities. First, that of moving not occasionally but structurally towards a synodal Church, an open square where all can feel at home and participate. The Synod then offers us the opportunity to become a listening Church, to break out of our routine and pause from our pastoral concerns in order to stop and listen. To listen to the Spirit in adoration and prayer, to listen to our brothers and sisters speak of their hopes and of the crises of faith present in different parts of the world, of the need for a renewed pastoral life and of the signals we are receiving from those on the ground. Finally, it offers us the opportunity to become a Church of closeness, that not only in words, but by her very presence weaves greater bonds of friendship with society and the world. A Church that does not stand aloof from life, but immerses herself in today’s problems and needs, bandaging wounds and healing broken hearts with the balm of God."
Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the Synod, concluding the session, first of all recalled that the current 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod begins on 10 October 2021, with the Pope's Mass in St. Peter's. This will be followed by the "journey" of all the particular Churches with the listening of all the People of God and the celebratory phase, with the Assembly of October 2023, and then the subsequent implementation phase.
In this regard, the Cardinal asked whether "it is so impossible to imagine, for example, resorting to voting on the Final Document and its individual numbers only when consensus is not certain? Isn't it enough to foresee motivated objections to the text, perhaps signed by a suitable number of members of the Assembly, resolved with an additional discussion, and to resort to the vote as the last and undesired instance?".
And again: "if instead of ending the assembly by delivering the final document to the Holy Father, we were to take another step, that of returning the conclusions of the synodal assembly to the particular Churches".
"The final document would reach the Bishop of Rome, who has always and by all is recognised as the one who issues the decrees established by the councils and synods, already accompanied by the consensus of all the Churches".
"In this case the Bishop of Rome, the principle of unity of all the baptised and of all the bishops, would receive a document that manifests together the consent of the People of God and of the College of Bishops: it would be the case of an act of manifestation of the sensus omnium fidelium, which would be at the same time an act of magisterium of the Bishops scattered throughout the world in communion with the Pope".