By Francesca Merlo
Addressing the faithful of the Diocese of Rome, Pope Francis described the upcoming Synod — with the theme "For a synodal Church: communion, participation, mission" — as a journey in which the whole Church is engaged.
He noted that the Synod will take place between October 2021 and October 2023, and that the itinerary has been conceived as “a dynamism of mutual listening, conducted at all levels of the Church, involving the whole the people of God”.
The first stage of the process (October 2021 - April 2022) is the one concerning the individual diocesan Churches. “That is why I am here, as your bishop, to share, because it is very important that the Diocese of Rome commits itself with conviction to this journey”, said the Pope.
He explained that “synodality expresses the nature of the Church, its form, its style, its mission”. The word "synod", in fact, contains everything we need to understand: "walking together".
The book of Acts
Referring to the book of Acts as "the first and most import 'manual' of ecclesiology", the Pope noted that it recounts the story of a road that starts in Jerusalem and after a long journey ends in Rome. This road, he said, tells the story in which the Word of God and the people who turn their attention and faith to that Word walk together. “Everyone is a protagonist," said the Pope, “no one can be considered a mere extra”. At times it may be necessary to leave, to change direction, to overcome convictions that hold us back and prevent us from moving and walking together.
The Pope noted that there are problems that arose in organising the growing number of Christians, and “especially in providing for the needs of the poor”. The way to find a solution, said the Pope, quoting the Book of Acts, “is to gather the assembly of disciples together and make the decision to appoint those seven men who would commit themselves full time to diakonia, the service of the tables”.
Returning to the synodal process, Pope Francis said the diocesan phase is very important because it involves listening to the totality of the baptised. He stressed that “there is much resistance to overcome the image of a Church rigidly divided between leaders and subordinates, between those who teach and those who have to learn, forgetting that God likes to overturn positions. Walking together discovers horizontality rather than verticality as its line".
The sensus fidei
"The sensus fidei (Latin: "sense of the faith") qualifies everyone in the dignity of the prophetic function of Jesus Christ", the Pope said, "so that we can discern what are the ways of the Gospel in the present".
He explained that "The exercise of the sensus fidei cannot be reduced to the communication and comparison of opinions that we may have about this or that theme, that single aspect of doctrine, or that rule of discipline." He added, "Nor could the idea of distinguishing majorities and minorities prevail".
"It is necessary to feel part of one great people who are the recipients of the divine promises", continued Pope Francis, "open to a future that awaits everyone to participate in the banquet prepared by God for all peoples". Here, the Pope said, “I would like to point out that even on the concept of 'the people of God' there can be rigid and antagonistic hermeneutics, remaining trapped in the idea of an exclusivity, of a privilege, as happened with the interpretation of the concept of 'election', which the prophets corrected, indicating how it should be correctly understood”. It is not a privilege, he stressed, "but a gift that someone receives for everyone, that we have received for others, a responsibility".
In the synodal journey, in fact, listening must take into account the sensus fidei, but it must not overlook all those "hunches" embodied where we would not expect them: there may be a "hunch without citizenship", but it is no less effective.
"I have come here to encourage you to take this synodical process seriously and to tell you that the Holy Spirit needs you", concluded the Pope. “Listen to Him by listening to yourselves and do not leave anyone out or behind”. This, he said finally, holds not only for those present, but for the whole of the Church, “which is not strengthened only by reforming structures, giving instructions, offering retreats and conferences, or by dint of directives and programmes, but if it rediscovers that it is a people that deires to walk together, among itself and with humanity. A people, that of Rome, which contains the variety of all peoples and all conditions: what an extraordinary richness, in its complexity!”