Continuing the major portion of his introduction to Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, Pope John Paul II describes the preparation process and document for the synod. Under pre-Francis popes, these synods were often perceived as driven by the agenda and desires of the Holy Father. This is practically admitted here in terms of “fundamental aspects.” No matter what one thinks of that, let’s read:
The basic document of the synod (also called the lineamenta), which was prepared with the sole purpose of presenting the theme while stressing certain fundamental aspects of it, enabled the ecclesial communities throughout the world to reflect for almost two years on these aspects of a question-that of conversion and reconciliation-which concerns everyone. It also enabled them to draw from it a fresh impulse for the Christian life And Apostolate, That reflection was further deepened in the more immediate preparation for the work of the synod, thanks to the instrumentum laboris which was sent in due course to the bishops and their collaborators. After that, the synod fathers, assisted by all those called to attend the actual sessions, spent a whole month assiduously dealing with the theme itself and with the numerous and varied questions connected with it. There emerged from the discussions, from the common study and from the diligent and accurate work done, a large and precious treasure which the final propositions sum up in their essence.
This is all pretty standard stuff. A meeting is called. People do advance research and some discussion. There’s an unspoken presumption about praying over the issues.
The synod’s view does not ignore the acts of reconciliation (some of which pass almost unobserved in their daily ordinariness) which, though in differing degrees, serve to resolve the many tensions, to overcome the many conflicts and to conquer the divisions both large and small by restoring unity. But the synod’s main concern was to discover in the depth of these scattered acts the hidden root- reconciliation so to speak at the source,” which takes place in people’s hearts and minds.
It is true that reconciliation occurs in modest and gentle ways in the world. Do they contribute to the lessening of divisions? Many people are swayed and softened by acts of generosity, admission of fault, of making amends. That latter point is one of the hallmarks of serious 12-Step programs, the urging to repair damage perpetrated by one’s faults.
Pope John Paul II’s main concern addressed, that of original sin and all the wrong that have followed it:
The church’s charism and likewise her unique nature vis-a-vis reconciliation, at whatever level it needs to be achieved, lie in the fact that she always goes back to that reconciliation at the source. For by reason of her essential mission, the church feels an obligation to go to the roots of that original wound of sin in order to bring healing and to re-establish, so to speak, an equally original reconciliation which will be the effective principle of all true reconciliation. This is the reconciliation which the church had in mind and which she put forward through the synod.
This document is Copyright © 1984 – Libreria Editrice Vatican. The link on the Vatican site is here.