“[The] synod is neither a convention, nor a parlor, nor a parliament or senate, where people make deals and reach compromises. The synod is rather an ecclesial expression, i.e., the Church that journeys together to read reality with the eyes of faith and with the heart of God; it is the Church that interrogates herself with regard to her fidelity to the deposit of faith, which does not represent for the Church a museum to view, nor even something merely to safeguard, but is a living source from which the Church shall drink, to satisfy the thirst of, and illuminate, the deposit of life.”
Remarks to the First Session of the Synod of Bishops on the Family
On Sunday evening, September 27, the Holy Father left Philadelphia for Rome after a hugely successful visit to Cuba and the United States. Four days later – barely time to breathe – I headed to Rome as a delegate to the 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family.
It’s taken until now for the scope of the World Meeting of Families to begin to sink in. But the truth is this: The Church, the city and the people of Philadelphia achieved something astonishing. In Rome I’ve been stopped again and again by bishops, journalists and everyday people from around the world. They describe their days in Philadelphia as something close to a miracle; a highpoint of their faith and their lives.
The credit goes to many people: generous donors, a tireless staff, wonderful volunteers and great cooperation from civic authorities. But above all, the credit goes to the priests, deacons, religious and people of our local Church. Success in Philadelphia had two ingredients: the grace of God and thousands of extraordinary families at the parish level who helped World Meeting of Families be the sign of hope God intended. Looking out on a parkway jammed with nearly 900,000 persons at the closing Mass, Pope Francis saw the face of the Christian family in our country; the very best of Philadelphia and the very best of the United States. The day clearly moved him, as it did all of us. And it set the stage perfectly for the Synod on the Family that began its first session yesterday, October 5.
A synod – from the Greek word synodos, for meeting or assembly — is a global gathering of bishops called together by the Holy Father to give him counsel on a topic he chooses. Its role is purely advisory. The Pope can accept its counsel or choose a different path. But Francis has a keen sense of collegiality. He encourages a high degree of candor in discussing sensitive issues. And few subjects are more sensitive or more urgent than renewing the health of today’s families, the focus of the current synod. If the first day’s interventions were a sign, delegates at this synod will have no trouble being frank. Proceedings are closed to the public, but bishops are free to speak with the media, and many will. So as themes develop over the next three weeks, plenty of information will be available.
In his opening remarks on the first day of the synod, Francis urged his brother bishops to be guided by three principles in the days of discussion ahead:apostolic courage; evangelical humility and trustful prayer.
That’s good advice for anyone seeking to live a genuinely Christian life. But it’s vital for bishops in their work at the Synod on the Family.
I’ve come to Rome with the World Meeting of Families alive in my memory and my heart. I saw the hope and joy in those nearly 900,000 faces on Philadelphia’s parkway, just as Francis did. That’s what God intends for us all. Please pray for me during this synod, that God gives me the ability to share that hope and joy – so vividly alive in so many Christian families at the memorable closing Mass – with my brother bishops.