“The Church is feminine, she is wife, she is mother,” said Pope Francis to the participants of the Synod on the future of the Church gathered during the General Congregation in the afternoon of October 25, 2023. In a speech in Spanish, shared later the same evening by the Holy See Press Office, Pope Francis called on the Synod fathers and mothers to move beyond “ideological schemes” and reject a Church that functions like a business.
“Either the Church is the faithful people of God on a journey, holy and sinful, or it ends up being a business of varied services,” Pope Francis said, deploring how certain parishes have “price lists” for sacraments. “When pastoral agents take this second path, the Church becomes the supermarket of salvation and the priests mere employees of a multinational.”
The Pope was speaking just a few days before the end of the first Roman phase of the Synod on the future of the Church, which began on September 30. The 364 members of the Synod, who are due to vote on a summary report on Saturday to serve as a guide until the concluding session in October 2024, were able to hear the Argentine Pontiff remind them of his priorities.
The importance of the people of God
While this month’s work was an opportunity to debate highly sensitive subjects in the Church – the role of women, the authority of bishops, welcoming LGBT people, migration, etc. – Pope Francis reiterated that, in order to move beyond ideological approaches, the Church must move forward with “the holy and faithful people of God.”
“One of the characteristics of this faithful people is its infallibility; yes, it is infallible in credendo (In credendo falli nequit, says LG 9) Infabilitas in credendo. And I explain it this way: ‘When you want to know what the Holy Mother Church believes, go to the Magisterium, because it is in charge of teaching it to you, but when you want to know how the Church believes, go to the faithful people,’” the Pontiff explained.
The South American Pontiff emphasized that, among this people endowed with a “soul,” women occupy a decisive place, not least because they have been pioneers in the transmission of the faith. “The Church is feminine, she is wife, she is mother,” he underlined. “The woman of God’s holy and faithful people is a reflection of the Church.”
The “scourge” of clericalism
Referring to an intervention by one of the Synod’s members, Colombian nun Liliana Franco, the Pope denounced the “macho and dictatorial” attitudes of those who overstep their ministry and end up “disfiguring the face of the Church.”
“This is the great defeat to which clericalism is leading us,” he added, highlighting the example of “the scandal of young priests trying on cassocks and hats or albs and lace robes” in Rome’s tailors.
“Clericalism is a whip, it is a scourge, it is a form of worldliness that defiles and damages the face of the Lord’s bride; it enslaves God’s holy and faithful people,” the Pope said to the Synod members, three-quarters of whom are bishops.