Speaking of the current Synod on the Family, which began with a consultation of the faithful as an attempt to draw the entire Church into the process, Ivereigh noted how last year Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, had said the two stages of the current Synod reflected Pope Francis’s wish for “a dynamic and permanent synod, not as a structured entity but as an action, as osmosis between the center and the periphery.” This, said Ivereigh, is the language of Yves Congar.
To those who worry that the Synod has exposed and even exacerbated divisions in the Church, Ivereigh pointed to the writings of the late Father Romano Guardini as another key for unlocking the mystery of Francis. Noting how Guardini believed contrasting views could work together to generate dynamic growth, Ivereigh recalled how Pope Francis has said of the Synod Fathers that, “I prefer that they yell a few strong words against each other and then embrace, rather than speak against each other in hiding.” Pope Francis, he said, is not afraid of conflict, and believes it can lead to a deep agreement in unity, though not in uniformity. Such unity, believes Pope Francis, is the work of the Holy Spirit.
Asked after the conference how the Irish Church could work towards renewal in the light of Pope Francis’s teaching, Michael Kelly described the call to the Church to be on a permanent missionary footing as particularly relevant in the context of an Ireland where Catholicism is no longer synonymous with Irishness and where a new evangelization is a pressing issue.
“Pope Francis’ vision of a Church, humbly calibrated by the Gospel, offers a powerful antidote to the problems of the Church in Ireland, which is struggling with reaching out to the disenchanted,” he said, adding that he hopes that Pope Francis will “help the Church in Ireland rediscover that contagious apostolic fervor which must be at the heart of the Church in Ireland if is truly to be relevant and bring the young people of today in to encounter and friendship with Christ.”
In a nutshell, as Ivereigh put it to Aleteia, “Francis is calling the Irish Church to stop focusing on the shadows, the past, the sense of loss, and become missionary disciples like St Patrick. Build from below: focus on prayer and the poor. And let Christ do the rest.”
Greg Dalycovers the U.K. and Ireland for Aleteia.