Dear sisters, dear brothers,
As the work of the first session of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops comes to an end, we want, with all of you, to give thanks to God for the beautiful and rich experience that we have just had. We have lived this blessed time in deep communion with all of you. We were supported by your prayers, carrying your expectations, your questions and also your fears. It has already been two years since, at the request of Pope Francis, a long process of listening and discernment began, open to all the People of God, without exclusion, in order to “walk together”, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, missionary disciples following Christ Jesus.
The session that brought us together in Rome on September 30 constitutes an important step in this process. In many ways, it was a novel experience. For the first time, at the invitation of Pope Francis, men and women were invited, by virtue of their baptism, to sit at the same table to take part not only in the deliberations but also in the votes of this Assembly of the Synod of bishops. Together, in the complementarity of our vocations, our charisms and our ministries, we have listened intensely to the Word of God and to the experience of others. Using the method of conversation in the Spirit, we humbly shared the riches and poverty of our communities on all continents, trying to discern what the Holy Spirit wants to say to the Church today. today. We have particularly experienced the importance of encouraging reciprocal exchanges between the Latin tradition and the traditions of the Christian East. In addition, the participation of fraternal delegates from other Churches and ecclesial communities has deeply enriched our debates.
Our assembly took place in the context of a world in crisis, whose wounds and scandalous inequalities resonated painfully in our hearts and gave our work a particular gravity, especially since some of us came from countries where war rages. We prayed for the victims of deadly violence, without forgetting those whom poverty and corruption throw onto the dangerous routes of migration. We expressed our solidarity and our commitment alongside the women and men who, throughout the world, are artisans of justice and peace.
At the invitation of the Holy Father, we have given an important place to silence, in order to promote respectful listening between us and the desire for communion in the Spirit. During the opening ecumenical vigil, we experienced how the thirst for unity grows in the silent contemplation of Christ crucified. The cross is, in fact, the unique cathedra of Him who, in giving His life for the salvation of the world, entrusted His disciples to His Father, so that “all may be one” (Jn 17:21). Firmly united in the hope that His resurrection gives us, we have entrusted to Him our common House where the clamor of the earth and the clamor of the poor resonate more and more urgently: “Laudate Deum“, recalled Pope Francis at the very beginning of our work.
As the days passed, we heard the pressing call to pastoral and missionary conversion. For the vocation of the Church is to announce the Gospel not by focusing on itself, but by placing itself at the service of the infinite love with which God loves the world (cf. Jn 3:16). Asked about their expectations of the Church on the occasion of this synod, homeless people around St. Peter’s Square responded: “Love!” This love must always remain the burning heart of the Church, a Trinitarian and Eucharistic love, as the Pope recalled when evoking on October 15, halfway through the journey of our assembly, the message of Saint Teresa of Baby Jesus. “It is confidence” which gives us the audacity and inner freedom which we have experienced, not hesitating to express our convergences and our divergences, our desires and our questions, freely and humbly.
And now? We hope that the months which separate us from the second session, in October 2024, will allow everyone to participate concretely in the dynamism of missionary communion indicated by the word “synod”. It is not an ideology but an experience rooted in the Apostolic Tradition. As the Pope recalled at the start of this process: “Communion and mission risk remaining somewhat abstract terms if we do not cultivate an ecclesial practice which expresses the concrete reality of synodality (…), promoting the effective involvement of everyone” (October 9, 2021). The challenges are multiple and the questions numerous: the summary report of the first session will specify the points of agreement we reached , will highlight open questions and indicate how we should continue the work.
To progress in its discernment, the Church absolutely needs to listen to everyone, starting with the poorest. This requires on his part a path of conversion, which is also a path of praise: “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth: what you have hidden from the wise and learned, you have revealed to the little ones” (Lk 10:21)! It is about listening to those who do not have the right to speak in society or who feel excluded, even by the Church. Listening to people who are victims of racism in all its forms, particularly, in certain regions, indigenous peoples whose cultures have been violated. And above all, the Church of our time must listen, in a spirit of conversion, to people who have been victims of abuse committed by members of the ecclesial body, and to commit concretely and structurally so that this does not happen. not reproduce.
The Church also needs to listen to lay people, women and men, all called to holiness because of their baptismal vocation: the testimony of catechists, who in many situations are the first proclaimers of the Gospel; the simplicity and liveliness of the children, the enthusiasm of the young people, their questions and their calls; the dreams of the ancients, their wisdom and their memory. The Church needs to listen to families, their educational concerns, and the Christian witness they offer in today’s world. It needs to welcome the words of those who wish to engage in lay ministries or in participatory bodies of discernment and decision-making.
The Church particularly needs, to progress in its synodal discernment, to gather more of the words and experience of ordained ministers: the priests, primary collaborators of the bishops, whose sacramental ministry is indispensable to the life of the entire body; the deacons, who through their ministry signify the concern of the entire Church in the service of the most vulnerable. She also needs to let herself be shaken by the prophetic voice of consecrated life, vigilant sentinel of the calls of the Spirit. She must also be attentive to those who do not share her faith but seek the truth, and in whom the Spirit is present and active, He who “offers to all, in a way that God knows, the possibility of being associated with the paschal mystery” (Gaudium et spes 22, 5).
“The world in which we live, and which we are called to love and serve, even in its contradictions, requires the Church to strengthen synergies in all areas of its mission.” This is precisely the path of synodality that God expects of the Church of the third millennium” (Pope Francis, October 17, 2015). Let us not be afraid to answer this call. The Virgin Mary, first on the way, accompanies our pilgrimage. In joys and sorrows, she shows us her Son and invites us to trust. It is He, Jesus, our only hope!
Vatican City, October 25, 2023