In opening marks, the Holy Father recalled that the 2-year event is not an opinion survey, but will have the Spirit as protagonist.
To open the Synod on Synodality on October 9, Pope Francis identified three risks that could impede the process, instead inviting the Church, “Let us live this Synod with the spirit of prayer for his disciples that Jesus raised to the Father with such fervor: ‘That they may be one …'”
Departing from his prepared text, the Pope immediately insisted that the Synod “is not a Parliament, it’s not an opinion survey. The Synod is an ecclesial moment, and the protagonist of the Synod is the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit is not present, there won’t be a synod.”
The synodal path desired by Pope Francis began October 9 with a moment of reflection bringing together more than 200 people in the Vatican Synod Hall. There were lay people, delegates from episcopal conferences and members of the Roman Curia. The official launch of the synod will take place on Sunday with Mass celebrated by the Pope in St. Peter’s Basilica.
The two-year process could be derailed by “formalism,” “intellectualism” and “immobility,” the Pope warned in his remarks.
The first, that of “formalism”: The head of the Catholic Church pointed out a conception of the synod which would reduce it to “an extraordinary event, but a facade, a little as if we were staring at the beautiful facade of a church without ever stepping inside.”
To enter fully into the synodal journey, on the contrary, it will be necessary to enter into dialogue, “especially between priests and lay people,” and to be able to “transform certain vertical, distorted and partial visions of the Church, of the priestly ministry, of the role of the laity, ecclesial responsibilities, roles of government.”
“A second risk is that of intellectualism,” continued the Bishop of Rome. He does not want the Synod to be seen as a “kind of study group, with cultivated but abstract interventions,” where one proceeds in a superficial and mundane manner. Conversely, the Synod must be anchored in the “reality of the Holy People of God” and in “the concrete life of communities.”
The Pope has never ceased to call for the participation of all: “it is an essential ecclesial commitment,” he said in his speech, inviting in particular to make more room for “women, who are still often on the margins.”
Finally, Pope Francis warned against “the temptation to stand still.” Criticizing the reflex of falling back on the familiar, the Pope said there is a risk of “adopting old solutions for new problems.”
These three risks are contrasted by opportunities, the Holy Father said, such as nourishing the Church in the process of listening, both to the Holy Spirit, and to our brothers and sisters and the needs they face in their lives.
Read the Pope’s full address here.