By Vatican News staff writer
Pope Francis on Monday inaugurated the Italian Episcopal Conference’s (CEI) 74th General Assembly that takes place from 24 to 27 May in Rome.
Greeting participants at the start of the Assembly, the Pope highlighted three themes to be addressed during discussions: seminaries, ecclesiastical courts and Synods.
In fact, the theme of this year’s General Assembly is “Proclaiming the Gospel in a time of rebirth – setting out on a synodal journey.”
During the gathering, two vice-presidents will be elected, for the Northern and Central areas, as well as members of the Council for Economic Affairs and the presidents of the Episcopal Commissions.
Before proceeding with a question-and-answer session, the Pope reflected on the theme of the Assembly.
With regard to the Synod, he recalled that it must stem from a “bottom-up” process that begins in small communities and in parishes. It is a process that will require patience and work, he said, allowing people to speak freely and giving space to "the wisdom of the people of God".
This synodal path that Pope Francis has indicated for the Italian Church was outlined during a 2015 Conference in Florence and represents "a heritage" that must "illuminate this moment".
The Pope also warned of the danger that comes from "making mistakes during formation" and called for "prudence in the admission of seminarians".
The synodal journey of the Italian Church was also at the heart of Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti’s opening remarks.
Bassetti, who is the President of CEI, asked the Pope for "encouragement, prayers" and his "paternal blessing.”
And referring to the document of the Synod of Bishops that calls for the involvement of the people of God, Cardinal Bassetti said it "supports us" in the process that "we want to start".
Bassetti also quoted from Alessandro Manzoni’s masterpiece “The Betrothed” in which the priest, Don Abbondio tells Cardinal Federigo Borromeo that one cannot give courage if one does not have courage: "it may come to him if he is moved by a desire greater than his own fears. The important thing is to have dreams and desires greater than fears.”