The Pope Together With Religious Of The Society Of Jesus. Photo: La Civilta Cattolica

Pope Makes Clear What He Understands by “Synodality”: “It’s Not the Last Minute Recipe of the Church” 

“I’m bothered by the use of the adjective ‘synodal,’ as if it were the last minute recipe of the Church,” said the Holy Father to members of the Society of Jesus in Canada.

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(ZENIT News / Rome, 04.08.2022).- As part of the program of private meetings, during his visit to Canada, the Pope met with 15 Religious of the Society of Jesus. The result of that meeting, very similar to an interview, was reported by La Civiltà Cattolica, periodical of that Society. 

One of the questions asked during the meeting focused on the Pope’s synodal vision of the Church. “You speak of pilgrimage, reconciliation and listening. Does all this configure your synodal vision of the Church? Is that what you are referring to? –was one of the questions. 

The Holy Father answered thus: 

“Look, I’m bothered that the adjective “synodal” is used as if it were the last minute recipe of the Church. When one says “Synodal Church” the expression is redundant: either the Church is synodal or it’s not Church. That’s why we have arrived at a Synod on synodality, to reaffirm it. Of course, we can say that the Church of the West had lost her synodal tradition. The Church of the East has kept it. We certainly can discuss the ways of living synodality. Paul VI created the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops because he wanted to advance on this issue. We have advanced, synod after synod, timidly, improving, understanding better, maturing. 

Then the Pope referred to an experience in 2001 regarding Bishops, and he accused the then Secretary of the Synod of “censuring” (sic) some contributions (the Vatican’s Website identifies the Secretary General of that Synod as Cardinal Ivan Dias, Archbishop of Bombay, India), as well as how the theme was chosen of the forthcoming Synod, which will be held in a few months: 

“In 2001 I took part in the Synod of Bishops. I replaced Cardinal Egan who, because of the Twin Towers tragedy, had to return to his diocese in New York. I remember that opinions were collected and sent to the General Secretariat. I had to collect the material and submit it to a vote. The Synod’s Secretary came to see me, read the material and asked me to remove this or that thing. There were things he didn’t consider appropriate and he censured them. In short, there was a pre-selection of the material. There was no understanding of what a Synod was. At the end of the last Synod, in the poll on the subjects to be addressed in the next one, the first two [subjects] were the priesthood and synodality. I realized that we had to reflect on the theology of synodality to take a decisive step.”

Pope Francis clarified what he himself understands by “Synod”:

“It seems to me essential to reiterate, as I often do, that a Synod isn’t a political meeting or a commission of parliamentary decisions. It’s the expression of the Church where the protagonist is the Holy Spirit. If there is no Holy Spirit, there is no Synod. There can be democracy, parliament, debate, but there is no “Synod.” If you want to read the best theology book on the Synod, reread the Acts of the Apostles. Seeing there clearly is that the protagonist is the Holy Spirit. This is [what is] experienced in a Synod: the action of the Spirit. The dynamic of discernment is brought about. One experiences, for example, is that at times one goes rapidly with an idea, one fights, and then something happens that unites things again, that harmonizes them creatively. Hence, I like to make clear that the Synod isn’t a vote, a dialectic confrontation of a majority and a minority. The risk is also that of losing sight of the whole, the meaning of things.”

Finally, in that answer, which is also the broadest, he invites not to reduce the subjects of a Synod to a particular issue:

“It’s what happens when the Synod’s subjects are reduced to one particular issue — the Synod on the Family, for example. It’s said that it was organized to give Communion to the divorced who have remarried. But in the Post-Synodal Exhortation on this subject there is only one note, because all the rest are reflections on the subject of the family, such as the family catechumenate. Hence, there is much richness. We can’t close ourselves in the funnel of one subject. I repeat: if the Church is like that, then it is synodal. It has been so since the beginning.”

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