Synod’s about listening to the Holy Spirit, not gathering opinions

Pope Francis says the two-year process leading to the 2023 synod on synodality is not about “gathering opinions,” but “listening to the Holy Spirit.”

He repeatedly stressed the Holy Spirit’s role in decision-making.

The three-phase synod opens next month with a diocesan phase, which will run until April.

A second, continental phase will take place from September 2022 to March 2023.

The third, universal phase will begin at the Vatican in October 2023 with the Synod of Bishops and will be themed: “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.”

Synodality, is a concept at the heart of Francis’s pontificate.

Some Vatican commentators say the upcoming synod is the most significant Catholic event since the Second Vatican Council in 1962-65.

Speaking to Catholics from the Diocese of Rome of his hopes for the synod, Francis said: “The theme of synodality … expresses the nature of the Church, its form, its style, its mission.

“And so we speak of a Synodal Church, avoiding, however, to consider that it is just one title among others, a way of thinking about it that foresees alternatives.”

This way of thinking isn’t simply a “theological opinion” or merely a “personal thought,” but rather the blueprint for the Church contained in the Acts of the Apostles, which shows the early Christian community “walking together.”

The New Testament shows how the first Christians resolved their seemingly irreconcilable differences by gathering together and listening to each other to make decisions, Francis noted.

Describing how the faith is passed on from one generation to the next, Francis recalled fidelity to tradition does not consist of “the worship of ashes but the preservation of fire.”

Earlier this month, the Vatican released a preparatory document and handbook to help dioceses worldwide to take part.

The pope said the initial listening phase was critical because it sought to involve “the totality of the baptized.”

“There are many resistances to overcome the image of a Church rigidly distinguished between leaders and subordinates, between those who teach and those who must learn, forgetting that God likes to overturn positions,” he commented.

Meditating on the meaning of belonging to the “people of God,” Francis said it is not a matter of “exclusivity” but of receiving a gift that comes with the responsibility to witness to God.”

The Holy Spirit knows no boundaries and parishes should therefore be open to all and not limit themselves “to considering only those who attend or think like you,” he said.

“Allow everyone to enter… Allow yourselves to go out to meet them and allow yourselves to be questioned, let their questions be your questions, allow yourselves to walk together: the Spirit will lead you, trust the Spirit. Do not be afraid to enter into dialogue and allow yourselves to be disturbed by the dialogue: it is the dialogue of salvation.”

“I have come here to encourage you … and to tell you that the Holy Spirit needs you…”.

“It will be good for … the whole Church, which is strengthened … if it rediscovers that it is a people that wants to walk together, among ourselves and with humanity.”


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