(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 09.29.2023).- The Pope Video for October, an initiative of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network is about to be released. Its message is focused on the Synod on Synodality, a process that began in 2021 and will continue through 2024. The First Session of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly will take place from the 4th to the 29th of October 2023. “This is a journey we are on, like the disciples of Emmaus,” the Pope explains, “listening to the Lord who always comes to meet us.” In addition, during this month, the Church celebrates the 97th World Mission Day, a celebration that fits into the synodal dynamic: “Mission is at the heart of the Church. And even more when a Church is in Synod. This synodal dynamic alone carries its missionary vocation forward,” Pope Francis also says in the video. The video will be projected during the programme that will precede the Ecumenical Prayer Vigil in Saint Peter’s Square on Saturday, 30 September.
Listening and discernment in an ongoing journey
The message for this month’s video – which received the support and collaboration of the The Pontifical Mission Societies USA and on the Synod on Synodality – is an invitation to place ourselves before the Lord in an attitude of listening and dialogue. The concept of the Church as “on the way,” and its missionary vocation is represented in the choice of images put together as a road movie: through an automobile window, we see places and people from different countries – from the Vatican to Cambodia, passing through Africa, the Middle East, North America – capturing scenes from daily life. That car represents the Church; its gas, the “power of the Holy Spirit,” which, in the words of Pope Francis, must lead the Church “towards the world’s peripheries.”
Letting herself be guided by the Holy Spirit requires listening together. For this reason, the Pope also clarifies that in this Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod, “nothing ends here. Rather, we are continuing an ecclesial journey here,” so as to reap the fruits of mutual listening between brothers and sisters, everyone together at the service of Christ’s mission. Pope Francis uses the example of the disciples on the way to Emmaus and asks us to be like them, “listening to the Lord who always comes to meet us.”
What the Synod on Synodality is
On 10 October 2021, Pope Francis convoked the Synod on Synodality to treat the theme, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission.” The Synod of Bishops is a consultative body that asks bishops from all over the world to participate in the governance of the Church, advising the Pope on matters that concern the universal Church. The word “synod” comes from Greek and expresses the idea of “walking together.”
Expected to last three years (October 2021-October 2024), the Synod on Synodality has gone through different stages of listening and discernment. Pope Francis wants the entire Church to reflect on synodality: that the entire People of God – bishops, priests, men and women religious, lay men and women, adults and young people – participate in a conversation regarding whether and how we are walking together.
On 4 October, the First Session of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly will begin. In this meeting, bishops and other participants are gathering to reflect on the fruit of the previous listening process. In this Synod, there will be two such Assemblies held one year apart – from the 4th to the 29th of October 2023, and in October of 2024.
The First Session of the Ordinary General Assembly also coincides with the 97th World Mission Day. In this regard, Monsignor Kieran Harrington, National Director of the The Pontifical Mission Societies USA, comments: “Pope Francis, in echoing the spirit of St. Francis Xavier, emphasizes the Church’s journey to the margins of society. As he reorganizes the Church’s endeavors to prioritize the marginalized and impoverished, he reminds us of Christ’s ministry centered around sharing the Good News with the overlooked and underserved. This is the primary task of The Pontifical Mission Societies at a universal level: 120 national offices work together in support of thousands of missionaries who bring the message of the Gospel to all. As we reflect on the Pope’s prayer intention this month, we are called to adopt a lifestyle of listening and dialogue, moving towards the peripheries, guided by the Holy Spirit.”
Openness to mission
Father Frédéric Fornos S.J., International Director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, comments regarding this important moment the Church is living: “In this third phase of the Synod, Pope Francis is inviting us to pray that ‘listening and dialogue’ be the ‘style of life at every level’ of the Church, for this is a grace. Only in this way can we listen to the Holy Spirit and allow ourselves to be guided by him, which requires prayer and discernment. ‘Allowing herself to be guided by the Holy Spirit,’ he says later, presupposes listening to one another. ‘It is not the result of strategies and programming, but of mutual listening between brothers and sisters.’ It is the Spirit of the Lord who opens new paths to us. It is he who helps to recognize Christ’s mission today and leads us toward the world’s peripheries: ‘to reach out to everyone, to seek everyone, to welcome everyone, to involve everyone, without excluding anyone.’”