Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 4: The Synod’s View, Part 2

Recent popes have not avoided the message of reconciliation:

My predecessors constantly preached reconciliation and invited to reconciliation the whole of humanity and every section and portion of the human community that they saw wounded and divided.*

And the footnote:

The encyclical Pacem in Terris, John XXIII’s spiritual testament, is often considered a “social document” and even a “political message,” and in fact it is if these terms are understood in their broadest sense. As is evident more than twenty years after its publication, the document is in fact more than a strategy for the peaceful coexistence of people and nations; it is a pressing reminder of the higher values without which peace on earth becomes a mere dream. One of these values is precisely that of reconciliation among people, and John XXIII often referred to this subject. With regard to Paul VI, it will suffice to recall that in calling the church and the world to celebrate the Holy Year of 1975, he wished “renewal and reconciliation” to be the central idea of that important event. Nor can one forget the catechesis which he devoted to this key theme, also in explaining the jubilee itself.

Pacem in Terris is indeed a significant document. You can find our discussion on it here from back in 2013. My aside here is a lament that these documents are rarely encountered outside of academia. There is much wealth to uncover in an encyclical like John XXIII’s, a depth you can’t get in the Catechism. A broad and basic knowledge is a good start. A Catholic interested in peace and reconciliation can do far worse than making a study of such a work.

Pope John Paul II explains his thinking for the synod and the jubilee he announced for 1983-84:

And I myself, by an interior impulse which-I am certain-was obeying both an inspiration from on high and the appeals of humanity, decided to emphasize the subject of reconciliation and to do this in two ways, each of them solemn and exacting. In the first place, by convoking the Sixth General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops; in the second place, by making reconciliation the center of the jubilee year called to celebrate the 1,950th anniversary of the redemption.(7)

And this footnote:

As I wrote in the bull of indiction of the Jubilee Year of the Redemption: “This special time, when all Christians are called upon to realize more profoundly their vocation to reconciliation with the Father in the Son, will only reach its full achievement if it leads to a fresh commitment by each and every person to the service of reconciliation, not only among all the disciples of Christ but also among all men and women”: bull Aperite Portas Redemptori 3

To be sure, this commitment of reconciliation is not a special year’s task for good Catholics. The principles hold for any believer, any time she or he feels so moved to make a personal commitment to reconciliation.

Having to assign a theme to the synod, I found myself fully in accord with the one suggested by many of my brothers in the episcopate, namely, the fruitful theme of reconciliation in close connection with the theme of penance. (The theme of the synod was, more precisely, “Reconciliation and Penance in the Mission of the Church.”)

Section number 4 of Reconciliatio et Paenitentia is really a sort of praenotanda for the whole document, laying out the case not only for reconciliation and penance, but the pope and bishops’ reasoning for addressing it. Certainly it’s a message that never loses relevancy whether or not believers realize that.

This document is Copyright © 1984 – Libreria Editrice Vatican. The link on the Vatican site is here.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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