Here is a translation of Pope Francis’ address to the First General Congregation of the Synod of Bishops on the Family.
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Dear Beatitudes, Eminences, Excellencies, Brothers and Sisters,
The Church takes up again today the dialogue begun with the convocation of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family — and certainly also much earlier — to evaluate and reflect together on the text of the Instrumentum laboris, elaborated from the Relatio Synodi and from the answers of the Episcopal Conferences and the organism having the right.
As we know, the Synod is a walking together with a spirit of collegiality and synodality, adopting the parrhesia, the pastoral and doctrinal zeal, the wisdom, the frankness, and always putting before our eyes the good of the Church, of families and the supreme law, the salus animarum (cf. Can. 1752).
I would like to recall that the Synod is not a congress or a “parlour,” it is not a parliament or a senate, where we come to agreement. Instead, the Synod is an ecclesial expression, that is, it is the Church that walks together to read the reality with the eyes of faith and with the heart of God; it is the Church that questions herself on her fidelity to the deposit of faith, which does not represent for her a museum to look at and even less so to safeguard, but is a living source in which the Church slakes herself and slakes and illumines the deposit of life.
The Synod moves necessarily in the heart of the Church and within the Holy People of God of which we are part in the quality of pastors, that is, servants.
Moreover, the Synod is a protected space where the Church experiences the action of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit speaks in the Synod through the language of all persons that allow themselves to be guided by the God that always surprises, by the God that reveals to little ones what he hides from the wise and the intelligent, by the God that created the Law and the Sabbath for man and not vice versa, by the God that leaves the ninety nine sheep to seek the sheep that was lost, by the God that is always greater than our logic and our calculations.
Let us remember, however, that the Synod will be able to be a space of action of the Holy Spirit only if we, the participants, are clothed with apostolic courage, evangelical humility and confident prayer.
Apostolic courage that does not let itself be frightened by the seductions of the world, which tend to extinguished in men’s heart the light of truth, substituting it with little and temporary lights, and even less so in face of the petrification of some hearts that – despite good intentions – distance people from God, — “The apostolic courage to bring life and not make of our Christian life a museum of memories” (Homily at Saint Martha’s, April 28, 2015).
Evangelical humility that is able to empty itself of its conventions and prejudices to listen to Brother Bishops and be filled with God. Humility that leads to not pointing the finger at others to judge them, but to stretch out our hand to them to raise them up without every feeling superior to them.
Confident prayer is the action of the heart when it opens to God, when all our moods are silenced to listen to the soft voice of God, who speaks in silence. Without listening to God, all our words will only be “words” that do not satiate and are of no use. Without letting ourselves be guided by the Spirit, all our decisions will only be “decorations,” which instead of exalting the Gospel cover and hide it.
Dear Brothers, as I have said, the Synod is not a parliament, where to reach consensus or common agreement recourse it taken to negotiation, to bargaining or to compromises, but the only method of the Synod is that of opening to the Holy Spirit, with apostolic courage, with evangelical humility and with confident prayer, so that it is He that guides and illumines us and puts before our eyes not our personal opinions but faith in God, fidelity of the Magisterium, the good of the Church and the salus animarum.
Finally, I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to His Eminence Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod; His Excellency Monsignor Fabio Fabene, Under-Secretary; the Relator His Eminence Cardinal Peter Erdo and the Special Secretary, His Excellency Monsignor Bruno Forte, the delegate Presidents, the writers, the Consultors, the translators and all those that have worked with true fidelity and total dedication to the Church: my heartfelt thanks!
I also thank all of you, dear Synodal Fathers, Fraternal Delegates, Auditors and Advisers for your active and fruitful participation.
I address special thanks to the journalists present at this moment and to those who follow us from a distance. Thank you for your passionate participation and for your admirable attention.
We begin our journey, invoking the help of the Holy Spirit and the intercession of the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary and Saint Joseph! Thank you!
[Original text: Italian]
[Translation by ZENIT]