On the eve of the biennial path that will start in October for the Churches of the whole world, Francis explained to the Diocese of Rome the meaning and style of this journey. Listen to the Holy Spirit “by listening to yourselves”, going “beyond the 3-4 per cent of our neighbours” to listen others, even those who “will insult you”.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis met a group of faithful from the Diocese of Rome this morning in the Paul VI Hall to mark the start of the new pastoral year, as well as speak about the two-year period that will start on 9-10 October, whereby dioceses around the world take centre stage and engage in reflection on the theme For a synodal Church: communion, participation, mission.
As bishop of Rome, Francis also explained to the faithful of his diocese led by the vicar of Rome, Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, that he cares so much about this journey, which will end in October 2023 with the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.
“I have come here to encourage you to take this synodal process seriously and to tell you that the Holy Spirit needs you. Listen to it by listening to yourselves. And don’t leave anyone out or behind,” the pontiff said.
"The topic of synodality is not a chapter in a treatise on ecclesiology, much less about fashion, a slogan or a new term to be used or exploited in our meetings. Synodality expresses the nature of the Church, her form, style, mission. I do not say this 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, the Book of the Acts of the Apostles.”
Precisely by vetting some pages of this book from Scripture in his long speech, Pope Francis indicated some characteristics of synodality. "Everyone is a protagonist; no one can be considered a mere extra. Authority was born from listening to the voice of God and the people who held ‘down’ those who received it. The ‘bottom’ of life, to which it was necessary to render the service of charity and faith.” For the pontiff, the Acts of the Apostles especially teach that “standing still cannot be a good condition for the Church.”
The difference of opinion between Peter and Paul was not that of two people with their own traits, but the expression of two "visions inserted in horizons greater than themselves, capable of rethinking themselves in relation to what was happening, witnesses of an impulse that put them in crisis, that pushed them to dare, ask, change their mind, make mistakes and learn from mistakes, especially hope despite difficulties. They were disciples of the Holy Spirit, which made them discover the geography of divine salvation, opening doors and windows, tearing down walls, breaking chains, freeing borders. At that point it may be necessary to leave, change course, overcome beliefs that hold back and prevent us from moving and walking together.”
From this perspective, “comparing different visions and expectations" in the Church must not frighten. “We must not fear that this will still happen today,” said the pope. “These are signs of docility and openness to the Spirit. There is a rigid way of considering circumstances, which mortifies the Makrothymía of God, that is, that patience of the gaze that is nourished by deep, wide and long visions: God sees far away, God is not in a hurry.”
“By listening patiently, the path is once again that indicated by the apostles, who, communicating to the community the decisions made, said: “‘The Holy Spirit and us.’ ‘There is always the temptation, the pope notes, to do it alone, expressing a substitute ecclesiology, as if, having ascended to Heaven, the Lord had left a void to be filled. But Jesus’ words are clear: ‘And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,’ (Jn 14:16, 18).”
What Jesus refutes “those who persist in taking God’s place, claiming to model the Church on their own cultural and historical convictions, forcing her into armed borders, guilty customs, a spirituality that blasphemes the free spontaneity of God’s engaging action.”
“There will always be discussions,” said the pontiff, “but solutions must be sought by letting God speak and give freedom to his voices in our midst, praying and opening our eyes to all that surrounds us, practicing a life faithful to the Gospel, questioning Revelation according to a pilgrim hermeneutic that knows how to preserve the journey begun in the Acts of the Apostles. Otherwise, the Holy Spirit will be humbled.”
The same tradition, notes the pope, "is a leavened dough, a reality in ferment where we can recognise growth, and in the dough a communion that takes place in motion” where “walking together realises true communion.”
Francis went on to highlight the specific importance of the diocesan phase in this synodal process because it must be the privileged moment of listening “to the totality of the baptised” because all are depositaries of the sensus fidei.
“There is a lot of resistance to overcome the image of a Church rigidly divided between leaders and subordinates, between those who teach and those who must learn, forgetting that God likes to overturn positions: ‘He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly’ (Lk 1:52).
“The synodal Church,” Francis explains, “restores the horizon from which the sun Christ rises: putting up hierarchical monuments means covering it. Pastors walk with the people: sometimes in front of it, sometimes in the middle, sometimes behind. In front to lead, in the middle to encourage and not forget the smell of the flock, behind because the people can ‘sniff out’ new ways or find the lost road.”
This is a journey in which everyone is called to recognise themselves as “sheep with respect to the Shepherd who is the Lord. [. . .] Exercising sensus fidei cannot be reduced to expressing and comparing opinions that we can have regarding this or that topic, that single aspect of doctrine, or that rule of discipline. The idea of differentiating majorities and minorities cannot prevail. How many times the ‘waste’ became the ‘cornerstone’, the ‘distant’ became the ‘near’. The marginalised, the poor, the hopeless have been chosen as the sacrament of Christ.”
This is why feeling to be “God’s people” is incompatible with any form of exclusivism. This is why parishes are invited to the synodal journey: leave doors and windows open, do not limit yourselves to considering only those who attend or think like you. Allow yourselves to go out to meet and allow yourselves to be questioned, let their questions be your questions, allow people to walk together: the Spirit shall lead you. Do not be afraid to engage in dialogue and let yourselves be upset by dialogue.”
All this “will be good for the Diocese of Rome and for the whole Church,” Francis said in concluding. This is not “strengthened only by reforming structures, giving instructions, offering retreats and conferences, or by virtue of directives and programmes.” It will help if we “rediscover that it is people who want to walk together, among us and with humanity. This will need that we go beyond the 3-4 per cent of our neighbours, that we go further to listen to others”. This might include those who "sometimes will insult you, chase you away, but it is necessary to hear what they think, without seeking to impose our things: Let the Spirit speak to us.”