Holy spirit

Pope at the Synod: The participation of all, guided by the Holy Spirit

Pope Francis leads a moment of reflection in the Vatican, before the solemn inauguration of the Synod on Sunday with a mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica.

By Robin Gomes

As the universal Church prepares to embark on the synodal path, Pope Francis on Saturday invoked the Holy Spirit on the People of God so that they can move forward together, listen to each other and discern our time, in solidarity with the people of God. struggles and aspirations of all mankind.

The Pope prayed as he presided over a moment of reflection in the Vatican Synod Hall, on the eve of the official inauguration of the diocesan phase of the Synod for all the dioceses of the world, marked by a solemn mass in the square Saint Peter’s in Rome on Sunday October 10. The dioceses of the world will inaugurate the synodal path at the local level on October 17th.

A special Synod

The theme of the next 16e The Synod of Bishops is: “For a Synodal Church: communion, participation and mission”. Synodality means walking together and listening to one another, but above all to the Holy Spirit. To deepen this essential characteristic of the Church, the next Synod is unlike any of the previous ones. It starts with and involves all the faithful of Local Churches around the world, promising to listen to everyone, especially the laity. This is why this Synod is a 2 year process, starting on October 10., 2021, to October 2023.

The diocesan listening phase will run until April 2022 and will be followed by a continental phase from September 2022 to March 2023. The last “universal Church phase” will culminate with the traditional assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in October 2023.

The protagonist of the Synod – the Spirit

In his speech at the time of prayer and reflection on Saturday, Pope Francis insisted on how the synodality of the Church is realized, namely through communion, participation and mission. He also highlighted the dangers he may face, as well as the opportunities it offers.

“In the one People of God, let us therefore walk together, to experience a Church that receives and lives this gift of unity, and is open to the voice of the Spirit”, declared Pope Francis , stressing that the Synod is an “ecclesial moment”, not a parliament or an inquiry into opinions, but “an ecclesial moment” whose protagonist is the Holy Spirit. “Without the Spirit, there is no Synod”, he stressed.

Communion, participation, mission

Explaining the three key words of the Synod – communion, participation and mission – he said that communion and mission describe the mystery of the Church. Communion expresses the very nature of the Church, according to Vatican Council II.

According to Saint Paul VI “communion, that is to say cohesion and interior fullness, in grace, truth and collaboration… and mission, that is to say apostolic commitment in the world. today ”. Saint John Paul II underlined that koinonia gives birth to the Church’s mission to serve as a sign of the intimate union of the human family with God.

For this reason, said Pope Francis, synods must be well prepared, especially at the local level with the participation of all.

All are called to participate

He underlined that “communion” and “mission” can risk remaining somewhat abstract, unless synodality is concretely expressed at each stage of the journey and of the synodal activity, encouraging a real implication of each one ”. “All the baptized are called to participate in the life and mission of the Church.

He recognized the frustration and impatience of many pastoral workers, members of diocesan and parish consultative bodies, and of women, who often remain on the margins. “Allowing everyone to participate is an essential ecclesial duty! he underlined, adding that it is an essential ecclesial commitment based on the “identity card” of baptism.

Three risks to avoid

The Pope warned that a Synod may run the risk of being a mere formal outward event, instead of being “a process of genuine spiritual discernment that we undertake, not to project a good image of ourselves, but to to cooperate more effectively with the work of God in history ”. For this, “we need contents, means and structures which can facilitate dialogue and interaction within the People of God, especially between priests and laity”.

He noted that there is sometimes a form of “elitism” among the clergy that alienates them from the laity, making them “lord of the house” and not a shepherd. This, said the Pope, requires changing certain too vertical, distorted and partial visions of the Church, of the priestly ministry, of the role of the laity, of ecclesial responsibilities, of the roles of governance, etc.

Another risk that a Synod can run is to become intellectual, by proposing scholarly but abstract approaches to the problems of the Church and the evils of our world, far removed from the reality of the Holy People of God and the concrete life of the people of God. communities around the world.

A third danger that a Synod should avoid, said the Pope, is the temptation of complacency, which says, we have always done it this way ”and it is better not to change. The word “complacency” “is a poison in the life of the Church”. People with such an attitude apply old solutions to new problems. The Holy Father underlined that the synodal process should involve the local Churches, in different phases and from the bottom up, in an exciting and engaging effort which can forge a style of communion and participation oriented towards mission ”.

Three opportunities

Pope Francis underlined that the synodal process of meeting, listening and reflecting helps the People of God, the Church, to recognize at least three opportunities. First of all, it must evolve not occasionally but structurally towards a Synodal Church, where all can feel at home and participate.

Second, the Synod offers us the opportunity to become a Church that listens, to get out of our routine to stop and listen, first to the Spirit in adoration and prayer, then to our brothers and sisters, their hopes, the crises of faith in the world, the need for a renewed pastoral life.

Bearing in mind that the style of God is one of closeness, compassion and tenderness, the Pope declared that the Synod is also an opportunity for the People of God not to be aloof but to to become a Church of proximity by its mere presence, healing wounds and healing broken hearts with the balm of God.

Not another Church but a different Church

For this, said the Holy Father, we need the ever new breath of God, the Spirit, who frees us from all forms of self-centeredness, revives what is dying, loosens chains and spreads joy. “It is not necessary to create another Church, but to create a different Church”, declared the Pope, quoting the Dominican priest Yves Marie-Joseph Congar. “For a ‘different Church’, the Pope urged everyone to call upon the Holy Spirit with more fervor and frequency and to listen humbly.

Watch the moment of reflection