It is certain that Pope Francis meditated and prayed at length to prepare his homily for the grand concelebration which concluded the Third Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. The Mass opened with the Beatification of his Predecessor, Giovanni Battista Montini, the “courageous Christian” who, from 1963 to 1978, was the Bishop of Rome with the name of Paul VI. Present at Mass were — along with representatives of other Christian confessions and a delegation of Muslim faithful — countless faithful, the presidents of all the world’s episcopates, half the College of Cardinals and Benedict XVI, his beloved Predecessor, whom the Pontiff embraced with visible affection at the beginning and at the end of Mass.
Half a century ago, at the start of the final stage of the Council, Montini instituted the Synod, and in this way, also accompanied the Church on a path which was both new and traditional at the same time. Paths to be taken with trust and on which his Successor, Francis, reflected, speaking of the dominion of God: “This is the perennial newness to be discovered each day, and it requires mastering the fear which we often feel at God’s surprises”, the Pope exclaimed.
From this urgent and profound perspective, Francis sees the Synod, before whom — immediately after the overwhelming approval of the Relatio, the foundational document which, within a year, will lead to the next Assembly — he delivered a significant and powerful intervention. Collegiality and synodality are the method which comes from the most ancient Christian experience, resumed by Vatican ii and slowly matured since until the vital experience cum Petro e sub Petro of recent days, which were marked by uncommon freedom and transparency. This method was assured by the Pope, who is “the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God”, as the Pontiff affirmed distinctly.
Francis is not afraid of temptations, often contradictory: unnecessary harshness or superficial laxity. On the contrary, “I would have been very worried and saddened were it not for these temptations and these animated discussions”, he said explicitly, reiterating that no one at the Synod had called into question “the fundamental truths” of the sacrament of marriage. And he clearly dismissed those readings — journalistic and otherwise, by “commentators, or people who talk”, who, he pointed out, are more interested in taking sides and much less in giving an account of the facts — who “have imagined that they see a disputatious Church”.
The Pope has at heart his task, which is, he stated, to remind the Pastors of the Church of their duty: to tend the flock and “seek to welcome” the lost sheep, adding that it was a mistake to say “welcome”, instead of “going out to find them”. And this is the constant concern of Pope Bergoglio, who asks all Christians not to remain closed within themselves but to go out to the world to proclaim and give witness to the Gospel, following the example of Christ, the model for pastors “given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant”.
St. Peter’s Square
Jan. 23, 2019
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