The journey has begun, but not without many efforts. The journey has started and the dream is to transform the ordinary life of the Church through the participation and involvement of everyone, to renew her life and help Christian communities be ever more faithful to the Gospel and therefore ever more missionary.
Pope Francis’ announcement at the Angelus on Sunday, 16 October, that the next ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will take place in two sessions, each one year apart in October 2023 and October 2024, shows how much the Pope cares about this dream, that little by little, is becoming a reality. There is a need to fully appreciate the many contributions that have come in and will continue to arrive from the continental assemblies, so that every baptized person feels called to this journey in communion with their own parish priests and Church leaders.
Such a great opportunity must not be missed by using the same old ways of doing or looking at things — whether the “always looking to the past” or the progressive attitudes. These stances always take for granted the starting point regarding the faith of the people of God and end up focusing only on single issues rooted in past and self-referential ideological battles.
In his homily for the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, on 11 October, Pope Francis said, “The Church needs first to be viewed from on high, with God’s eyes, eyes full of love. Let us ask ourselves if we, in the Church, start with God and his loving gaze upon us. We are always tempted to start from ourselves rather than from God, to put our own agendas before the Gospel, to let ourselves be caught up in the winds of worldliness in order to chase after the fashions of the moment or to turn our back on the time that Providence has granted us, in order to retrace our steps.”
Starting from the loving gaze of God with the joy that flows from feeling loved, welcomed, and accompanied by Him is also key to understanding the Synod. The Church exists to proclaim the Gospel. And the Church’s structures, always subject to reform, exist only for this aim.
Pope Francis’ announcement at the Angelus tells us that synodality in the Church is a process and not a rushed restructuring of some of its ecclesial structures where nothing really changes. Lengthening the time of the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod, taking it from one to two years, means in reality seeing the method and process as more important than the individual themes themselves that have emerged so far and also need to be addressed.
The process of involving everyone that began in 2021 in the local Churches has led as many as 112 (out of 114) Bishops’ Conferences to carry out extended discernment on what has emerged from listening to the people of God. It is a beginning marked by hope.
By Andrea Tornielli