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Together with Pope Francis, forged by his South American experience rooted in a theology of the people of God and chosen to give an impetus to the Church’s reform, the Church has entered a new phase in the reception of the Second Vatican Council which puts an emphasis on synodality.
In one of the key texts of his pontificate (Address for the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops, 17 October 2015), starting with an interpretation of the “signs of the times”, Pope Francis clearly indicates the horizon: “The world in which we live, and which we are called to love and serve, even with its contradictions, demands that the Church strengthen cooperation in all areas of her mission. It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium”.
The current crisis, with the realization of the gravity of the sexual abuse issue and the urgent need to fight abuse in every form, is also a kairos, a particularly favourable time for taking up the challenge of overcoming clericalism. For so many of the faithful, particularly young people and women, are profoundly aware that the Church cannot continue as before and that she must become more synodal, entrusting to the faithful greater roles and responsibilities.
For many people the fire in the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris which shocked the world symbolized what the Church is going through: a sort of collapse of the old structures. Today, through listening to the victims, which is both indispensable and a priority, a path of truth in suffering is unfolding, allowing us to recognize that the Church is cauterizing her gangrene from within, because of what permitted those perverse practices, those devastating silences, those mortifying cover-ups, those destructive abuses of power. Thus the idea that it is necessary “to repair the Church” is becoming more acute. This demands more collegial practices, with greater dialogue, more participatory and more inclusive, which enable everyone – men and women, the young and the old – to play a part, and enable lay people to be involved in decision-making processes.
Regenerating the Church so that she will be more evangelical, more missionary and more synodal also requires the involvement in this process of the lowliest, the weakest, the poorest and those who have been hurt the most. To “repair” the Church, but even more to bear witness to Christ in the cultures and languages of the 21st century, all the baptized – whatever their vocation – are called to discern and to plan together the paths of the mission. It is therefore a matter of finding ways of acting which tangibly express in every context this profound identity of the Church: “a missionary communion” rooted in the Trinitarian mystery. Naturally women – who immediately introduce otherness into the clerical system and bring a desire for collaboration in reciprocity with men for greater pastoral fecundity, and also women religious, because of their experience of fraternal life in community, of community discernment and of an obedience experienced as “listening together” to the Spirit – have a fundamental role to play in promoting, together with many lay people who want to belong to this synodal Church, new ecclesial practices whose new expressions are “listening”, “serving all”, humility and conversion, participation and co-responsibility.
Synodality, “a constitutive dimension”, in taking the form of a “journeying on together”, listening to the Holy Spirit, is truly a key to the proclamation and transmission of faith today. In the excitement of the Synod on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment in October 2018, in the spirit of the sexual abuse Summit in February 2019, and with a view to the Synod on Amazonia, we are thus all called to live and to develop synodality as the Church’s “missionary style” in order to face the current challenges.
A Xaverian, consultor to the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops
St. Peter’s Square
Sept. 15, 2019
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