"En Este Sínodo -También Para Dar Espacio Al Espíritu Santo- Está La Prioridad De La Escucha, Está Esta Prioridad" Foto: Vatican Media

Pope on Opening of the Synod: “I repeat: It’s Not a Parliament, It’s Not a Meeting for the Pastoral Care of the Church

The Holy Father’s address at the opening of the Synod on Synodality

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 04.10.2023).- On Wednesday afternoon, October 4, the opening session took place of the Synod on Synodality, which was held in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall. Special arrangements were made in the Hall for the occasion. The benches that usually receive pilgrims attending papal audiences or events, we removed and replaced with round tables, where bishops. Laymen, priests, nuns and the Pope were mixed. During this opening session, the Holy Father took to the floor and gave this message, which ZENIT translated into English.

* * *

I greet you all, with whom we begin this synodal journey.

I like to recall that it was Saint Paul VI who said that the Church in the West had lost the idea of synodality, and that’s why he created the Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops, which has held so many meetings, so many Synods on different topics.



However, the expression of synodality is yet to mature. I recall that I was Secretary in one of these Synods, and the Cardinal Secretary  — a good, good Belgian missionary –, when I was preparing for the voting, would come and look at me [and say]: “What are you doing?”  — “The one to be voted on tomorrow” — “What is it? No, that’s not voted on.” “But look, it’s synodal” — “No, no, that’s not voted on,” because we had not yet acquired the custom that each one should express himself freely. And so, slowly, in the course of these almost 60 years, the path has gone in this direction, and today we can arrive at this Synod on Synodality.

It’s not easy, but it’s beautiful, very beautiful — a Synod that all the Bishops of the world wanted. In the survey that was done after the Amazonian Synod, among all the Bishops of the world, the second place of preference was this: synodality. Priests were in the first place, in the third, I believe, was a social question, but [this was] in the second place. All the Bishops of the world saw the need to reflect on synodality. Why? Because all understood that the [time] was ripe for something like this.

And we begin to work today with that spirit. And I like to say that the Synod isn’t a parliament; it’s something else: that the Synod isn’t a meeting of friends to resolve some things of the moment or proffer opinions; it’s something else. Let’s not forget, brothers, that we aren’t the protagonists of the Synod: it’s the Holy Spirit. And if the Spirit is in our midst to guide us, it will be a good Synod. If there are other paths in our mist, which go after human, personal or ideological interests, it won’t be a Synod; it will be one more parliamentary meeting, which is something else. The Synod is a path made by the Holy Spirit. We have handed you some sheets with Patristic texts that will help us at the opening of the Synod. They are Saint Basil’s, who wrote that beautiful treatise on the Holy Spirit. Why? Because we need to understand this reality, which isn’t easy.



When on the 50thanniversary of the Synod’s creation, theologians prepared a letter for me, which I signed, it was a good step forward. But now we have to find the explanation of that path. We are not the protagonists of the Synod, it’s the Holy Spirit, and if we let the Holy Spirit act, the Synod will go well. These sheets on Saint Basil have been handed to you in  different languages: English, French, Portuguese and Spanish, so that you have it in your hands. I don’t mention these texts, on which I ask you to reflect and meditate later.

The Holy Spirit is the protagonist of the life of the Church: the plan of humanity’s salvation is carried out by the grace of the Spirit. He is the protagonist. If we don’t understand this, we’ll be like those of whom the Acts of the Apostles speak: “Have you received the Holy Spirit?” – “Who is the Holy Spirit? We haven’t even heard talk of Him” (cf. 19:1-2).We must understand that He is the protagonist of the life of the Church, He who takes her forward.

 The Hoy Spirit unleashes a profound and varied dynamism in the ecclesial community: the “bustle” of Pentecost. What happened at Pentecost is curious: everything was well disposed, everything was clear  . . . There was bustle that morning, all languages were being spoken, everyone understood . . .  However, it’s a variety that one never ends understanding what it means . . . And then, [comes] the great work of the Holy Spirit: not unity, no, [but] harmony. He unites us in harmony, the harmony of all differences. If there is no harmony, there is no Spirit: He is the One who does it.

Then the third text that might be helpful: the Holy Spirit is the harmonious composer of the history of salvation. Harmony — let’s be careful — doesn’t mean “synthesis,” but “bond of communion between dissimilar parts.” If in this Synod we end with a statement that is all the same, all the same, without nuances, the Spirit is not here, He remains outside. He brings about that harmony that isn’t synthesis, it’s the bond of communion between dissimilar parts.



The Church, a unique harmony of voices, in many voices, brought about by the Holy Spirit: this is how we must conceive the Church. Every human community, every person has his particularity, but those particularities must be included in the Church’s symphony, and the Spirit brings about the appropriate symphony, we can’t do it. We’re not a parliament, we are not the United Nations, no; it’s something else.

The Holy Spirit is the origin of the concord between the Churches. What Basil says to his brothers is interesting: “Just as we esteem your mutual concord and unity as a good of ours, so also do we invite you to share our sufferings caused by the divisions, and that we not separate from you because we are far by place and location, but, because we are united in communion according to the Spirit, to receive one another in the harmony of just one body.

The Holy Spirit takes us by the hand and consoles us. The Spirit’s presence is so — allow me the word — almost maternal, she leads us like a mother, gives us this consolation. He is the Consoler – one of the names of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s consoling action is portrayed by the innkeeper to whom the man was entrusted who encountered thieves (cf. Luke 10:34-35): Basil interprets that parable of the Good Samaritan and he sees in the innkeeper the Holy Spirit who enables the good will of one man  and the sin of another, to go harmoniously.

Moreover, He who guards the Church is the Holy Spirit. Hence the Holy Spirit has a paracletic, multi-faceted exercise. We must learn to listen to the voices of the Spirit: they are all different. [We must] learn to discern.

 And then, it’s the Spirit that makes the Church. There is a very important bond between the Word and the Spirit. We can think about this: the Word and the Spirit. Scripture, the Liturgy, the ancient tradition speak to us of the “sadness” of the Holy Spirit, and one of the things that most saddens the Holy Spirit are empty words. Empty words, worldly words and lowering [oneself] somewhat to a certain human habit, but not good, of gossip. Gossip is the anti-Holy Spirit, it goes against. It’s a very common sickness among us. And empty words sadden the Holy Spirit. Do not sadden God’s Holy Spirit with which you were marked” (cf. Ephesians 4:30). What a great evil it is to sadden God’s Holy Spirit. It’s necessary to say it: Murmuring, murmuring: this saddens the Holy Spirit. It’s the most common sickness in the Church — murmuring. And if we do not let Him cure us from this sickness, with difficulty will it be a good synodal path. At least, inside here: if you are not in agreement with what that Bishop or that nun or that layman says, say it to their face. A synod is for that, but to say the truth, not gossip under the table.



The Holy Spirit confirms us in the faith . It is He who does so always . . .

Read these texts of Basil, they are in your language, because I think it will help us to make room in our hearts for the Spirit. I repeat: this isn’t a parliament, this isn’t a meeting for the pastoral care of the Church. This is a syn-odos, the program is to walk together. We’ve done many things, as His Eminence said: consultations, all this, with the People of God. But the one who takes this in hand, the one who guides is the Holy Spirit. If He is not [present], this won’t give a good outcome.

I stress this, please, don’t sadden the Spirit. And in our theology, make room for the Holy Spirit. And in this Synod also, discern the voices of the Spirit from those that are not of the Spirit, those which are worldly. In my opinion, the ugliest sickness we see in the Church today — always, but also today — is that which goes against the Spirit, namely, spiritual worldliness. A spirit which is not holy, but worldly. Beware of this: let’s not substitute the Holy Spirit with worldly things — including good ones –, such as common sense: this helps, but the Spirit goes beyond. We must learn to live in our Church with the Holy Spirit. Please, reflect on these texts of Saint Basil, they will help us a lot.

Then I want to say that in this Synod — also to give space to the Holy Spirit — is the priority of listening, there is this priority. And we must give a message to press agents, to journalists, who do a very beautiful, very good job. We must give, in fact, a communication that is a reflection of this life in the Holy Spirit. An ascesis  — pardon for speaking like this to journalists . . .  a certain fasting of the public word is necessary to guard this. And  may what is published be in this vein. Some will say — they are saying — that the Bishops are afraid and that’s why they don’t want the journalists to speak. No, the journalists’ work is very important, but we must help them to say this — about going in the Spirit. And more than the priority to speak, is the priority to listen. And I ask the journalists, please, to make the people understand this, they must know that the priority is to listen.

When the Synod on the Family was held, there was a public opinion made by our worldliness, which was to give Communion to the divorced: and we entered the Synod so. When the Synod for the Amazon was held, there was public opinion, pressure, which was to give viri probati: we entered it with that pressure. Now there are some speculations about this Synod: “What are they going to do?” “Perhaps the priesthood for women” . . . I don’t know, all the things they are saying out there. And they say so often that the Bishops are afraid to communicate what is happening. Hence, I ask you, communicators, to carry out your function well, so that the Church and people of good will  — the others will say what they want — understand that the priority to listen also exists in the Church. It’s very important to transmit this.

Thank you for helping all of us in this “pause” of the Church. The Church has made a pause, as the Apostles did after good Friday, that Holy Saturday, closed, but they out of fear, we didn’t do that. But [the Church] is in pause, it’s a pause of the whole Church, listening. This is the most important message. Thank you for your work, thank you for what you do. And I recommend to you, if you can, to read those things of Saint Basil, they help a lot. Thank you.


Translation of the Italian original into Spanish by ZENIT’s Editorial Director and, into English, by Virginia M. Forrester


Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation