Pope Francis spoke at the beginning of the Synod on synodality, insisting on what differentiates an ecclesial assembly from a political meeting and stressing the centrality of listening to the Holy Spirit.
The General Assembly that opened on 4 October is a peculiar Synod, similar only to the 1986 one on communion. In fact, communion in the Church and synodality as a way of living and expressing this communion, represent fundamental aspects and are not linked to specific topics.
The Bishop of Rome also indicated a method to the members of the Synod and a request he extended to journalists, whom he asked for understanding, as he invited them to report on what is happening in the Vatican this October.
Pope Francis explained that in the Synod the priority is to listen, to listen to the Holy Spirit above all.
Listening to what others have to say and what those who are “far from me” have to say, sharing their experience. To do this, asceticism is required. Also required is a protected space that must be guarded in order to prevent individual positions and protagonism from prevailing over the symphonic harmony of the whole. The Pope explicitly called for a kind of “fasting”, to abstain from listening to public opinion in order to safeguard this.
He also called for what is published to somehow manage to convey this. Pope Francis added: “Some will say — they are saying it — that the bishops are afraid and that is why they do not want journalists to talk...”. Thus illustrating the attitude and discernment required in the first place of the members of the synod.
On the evening of the first day of the Assembly, the rules regarding the procedures for these days of work were disclosed. They state that “each of the participants is bound to confidentiality and privacy with regard to both his own interventions and the interventions of the other participants”.
Keeping this space protected does not mean not being allowed to know what is going on. This in fact, is the most live-streamed Synod in history: from the meditations of the spiritual retreat to the greetings, from the introductory reports of each module to the daily briefings on the content of the debate.
There are bishops, priests, men and women religious, laymen and laywomen from every part of the world who together, in an atmosphere of prayer and not of opposition or polarisation, are seeking, in the coming weeks, to understand the ways that the Spirit is indicating for an evangelical proclamation capable of reaching everyone and for a Church that is ever more faithful to its origin, a Church with open doors, “the paternal home where there is room for each person, each one with his or her own busy life”.
By Andrea Tornielli