On 18 September 2021, Pope Francis addressed the faithful of Rome, his diocese. In his speech, he explained what synodality means to him. He explained that we must have an “interior concern” in our hearts. This theme is at the heart of a process that will mobilise the whole people of God between October 2021 and October 2023. As a team, we can take up the few excerpts below and share on the meaning this brings to the heart of our life, of our commitment to follow Christ.
Synodality and Pope Francis
The theme of synodality is not a chapter in a treatise on ecclesiology, nor is it a fad, a slogan or a new term to be used or exploited in our meetings. It is not! Synodality expresses the nature of the Church, its form, its style, its mission. And so we speak of the synodal Church, avoiding the idea that it is just another title, a way of thinking that offers alternatives. I say this not on the basis of a theological opinion, not even as a personal thought, but following what we can consider the first and most important “manual” of ecclesiology, which is the book of the Acts of the Apostles (…)
The book of the Acts of the Apostles is the story of a journey that begins in Jerusalem and, through Samaria and Judea, continuing in the regions of Syria and Asia Minor and then in Greece, ends in Rome. This journey tells the story of how the Word of God and the people who turn their attention and faith to that Word walk together. The Word of God walks with us. Everyone is a protagonist, no one can be considered a mere extra. It is important to understand this: everyone is a protagonist. The protagonist is no longer the Pope, the cardinal vicar, the auxiliary bishops; no: we are all protagonists, and no one can be considered a mere extra. The ministries were still seen as real services
Listening to the voice of God
And authority was born of listening to the voice of God and of the people – without ever separating them – which allowed those who received it to remain “below”. The “bottom” of life, to which it was necessary to return in the service of charity and faith. But this history is not only on the move because of the geographical places it crosses. It expresses a continuous inner turmoil: it is a key word, inner restlessness. If a Christian does not feel this inner restlessness, if he does not live it, something is missing; and this inner restlessness comes from faith itself and invites us to evaluate what is the best thing we can do, what we should maintain or change
History teaches us that immobility cannot be a good condition for the Church (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 23). And movement is a consequence of docility to the Holy Spirit, who is the director of this history in which each one is moved by this inner restlessness, never immobile.
Disciples of the Holy Spirit
Peter and Paul are not only two people with their own character, they are visions set in horizons larger than themselves, capable of rethinking what is happening, witnesses to an impulse that challenges them, that pushes them to dare, to ask questions, to change their minds, to make mistakes and to learn from their mistakes, and above all to hope despite the difficulties. They are disciples of the Holy Spirit who makes them discover the geography of divine salvation, opening doors and windows, breaking down walls, breaking chains, liberating frontiers. Then it may be necessary to go out, to change the way, to overcome the convictions that hold us back and prevent us from moving and walking together. […]
Do not discriminate
Christianity must always be human and humanising, reconciling differences and distances, transforming them into familiarity and closeness. Paul VI liked to quote Terence’s maxim: ” I am a man, I do not consider anything human to be alien to me “. The meeting between Peter and Cornelius solved a problem, it favoured the decision to feel free to preach directly to the Gentiles, with the conviction – in Peter’s words – ” that God is no respecter of persons ” (Acts 10:34). In the name of God, you cannot discriminate. And you see, one cannot understand “catholicity” without referring to this wide and hospitable field, which never marks borders. Being Church is a way of entering into this vastness of God.
Sacrament of promise
A synodal church means a church that is a sacrament of this promise, manifested in the cultivation of intimacy with the Spirit and with the world to come. There will always be arguments, but solutions must be sought by giving voice to God and his voices among us; by praying and opening our eyes to all that surrounds us; by practising a life faithful to the Gospel; by questioning Revelation according to a pilgrim hermeneutic that knows how to safeguard the journey begun in the Acts of the Apostles. Otherwise, we would be humiliating the Holy Spirit. Gustav Mahler believed that fidelity to tradition does not consist in worshipping the ashes, but in keeping the fire burning. He was a great composer, but he is also a master of wisdom with this reflection
Leaven in the dough
He sees how our Tradition is a leavened dough, a fermenting reality where we can recognise growth, and in the dough a communion that is realised in movement: walking together we achieve true communion. The book of the Acts of the Apostles helps us by showing that communion does not eliminate differences. This is the surprise of Pentecost, when the different languages are not an obstacle: even if they are strangers to each other, thanks to the action of the Spirit “each one hears in his own mother tongue” (Acts 2:8). Feeling at home, different but united in this journey.
Member of the People of God
People of God
Being God’s people is not a privilege, but a gift that you receive… for oneself? No: for everyone, the gift is meant to be given: that is the vocation. It is a gift that someone receives for everyone, that we have received for others, it is a gift that is also a responsibility. It is a responsibility to bear witness with deeds and not only with words to the wonders of God which, if they are known, help people to discover his existence and to welcome his salvation. The choice is a gift, and the question is: my being a Christian, my Christian confession, how to give it?
In the synodal journey, listening must take into account the sensus fidei, but it must not neglect all those “presentiments” which are incarnated where one would not expect them: there may be a “style without citizenship”, but it is no less effective for that. The Holy Spirit, in his freedom, knows no boundaries, nor does he allow himself to be limited by belonging. If the parish is the home of everyone in the neighbourhood, not an exclusive club, I recommend it to you: leave the doors and windows open, do not limit yourself to taking into account those who frequent it or think like you, which will be 3, 4 or 5%, no more. Let everyone in… Allow yourself to meet them and let their questions be yours, let us walk together: the Spirit will guide you, trust the Spirit. Do not be afraid to enter into dialogue and to let yourself be involved in it: it is the dialogue of salvation. (…)
Listen to the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit needs you. And it is true: the Holy Spirit needs us. Listen to Him by listening to others. Leave no one outside or behind. This will do good to the diocese of Rome and to the whole Church, which is not only strengthened by the reform of structures – that is the great deception! -it will do good to the diocese of Rome and to the whole Church, which is not only strengthened by reforming structures – that is the great deception -, by giving instructions, proposing retreats and conferences, or by force of directives and programmes – that is fine, but as part of something else – but if we rediscover that we are a people who want to walk together, with each other and with humanity. A people, the people of Rome, which contains the variety of all peoples and conditions: what an extraordinary richness, in its complexity! But we must leave the 3-4% who represent what is closest to us, and go beyond that to listen to the others, who will sometimes insult you, throw you out, but we must listen to what they think, without wanting to impose our own things: let us allow the Spirit to speak to us.
Translation Anita Bourdin for Zenit News Agency