The first step of the process (October 2021–April 2022) will take place in each diocese. That why I am here, as your bishop, for this moment of sharing, because it is very important that the Diocese of Rome be committed to this process. Wouldn’t it look bad if the Pope’s own diocese was not committed to this? Yes, it would look bad, for the Pope, but also for you!
What synodality is not:
Synodality is not a chapter in an ecclesiology textbook, much less a fad or a slogan to be bandied about in our meetings. Synodality is an expression of the Church’s nature, her form, style and mission. We can talk about the Church as being “synodal”, without reducing that word to yet another description or definition of the Church. I say this not as a theological opinion or even my own thinking, but based on what can be considered the first and most important “manual” of ecclesiology: the Acts of the Apostles.
The Church, like many human organizations and subcultures, can bury itself in inside babble. These days we have related terms: synod, synodal, synodality. What does it mean? Why can’t they just say, “Big church meeting,” being then done with it?
Pope Francis sees synodality, whatever it may mean, as being essential to how the Church is the Church. When we protect predators and fraudsters, we are not the Church. When we hold raffles and throw parties and raise funds, that’s all good. But it still isn’t the essence of what it means to be “the Church.” From the Greek, the term has landed into English:
The word “synod” says it all: it means “journeying together”.
The first, the essential manual of how to be the Church is in the New Testament:
The Book of Acts is the story of a journey that started in Jerusalem, passed through Samaria and Judea, then on to the regions of Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, ending up in Rome. A journey that reveals how God’s word, and the people who heed and put their faith in that word, journey together. The word of God journeys with us. Everyone has a part to play; no one is a mere extra.
This is clearly a point of emphasis:
This is important: everyone has a part to play. The Pope, the Cardinal Vicar and the auxiliary bishops are not more important than the others; no, all of us have a part to play and no one can be considered simply as an extra.
How is this so? We can read elsewhere in the Bible and in the history of the saints that God chooses his servants, prophets, and workers from unexpected places: a liberator from the household of the pharoah, the runt of the family rather than one of six elder brothers, a poor Jewish girl rather than a royal princess, fishermen rather than educated scholars, servant girls, doorkeepers, and barely literate priests rather than aristocrats, abbots, and Roman-trained clergy.
We need everybody in this effort; all hands on deck, as it were.
According to Saint Luke, the root motivation is service, not status.
At that time, the ministries were clearly seen as forms of service. Authority derived from listening to the voice of God and of the people, inseparably. This kept those who received it humble, serving the lowly with faith and love. Yet that story, that journey, was not merely geographical, it was also marked by a constant inner restlessness.
Pope Francis marks our roadmap clearly. He reiterates what he reads in the Acts of the Apostles. And why not? Jesus’ own mandatum at the end of the Gospels is to urge his followers to go out into the world.
This is essential: if Christians do not feel a deep inner restlessness, then something is missing. That inner restlessness is born of faith; it impels us to consider what it is best to do, what needs to be preserved or changed. History teaches us that it is not good for the Church to stand still (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 23).
In summary, this part of his address is given in one sentence:
Movement is the fruit of docility to the Holy Spirit, who directs this history, in which all have a part to play, in which all are restless, never standing still.
This speech is copyright © Dicastero per la Comunicazione – Libreria Editrice Vaticana