Since the announcement of its celebration, the Synod on Synodality has raised numerous questions. Especially about a factor that seems obvious, but isn’t so much: what does synodality mean to Pope Francis?
The word ‘synod’, etymologically, comes from the Greek terms ‘syn’, meaning “together”, and ‘hodos’, meaning “way”. In this sense, it could be said that this word expresses the desire to “walk together”. And for Pope Francis, this is precisely the model of the Church that “the Lord wants” for the third millennium.
It was several years ago, in ‘Praedicate Evangelium’, when the Pope referenced this word more explicitly, noting that “the life of communion gives the Church the face of synodality, that is, of a Church of mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn.” “Faithful people, episcopal college, bishop of Rome: one listening to the others, and all listening to the Holy Spirit to know what He says to the Churches,” writes Francis.
Thus, synodality in the Church, as dreamed by the Pope, must be understood – as he pointed out in his speech on the 50th anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops in 2015 – as “the walking together of God’s flock along the paths of history towards Christ the Lord”. He added, “I am convinced that in a synodal Church, the exercise of the Petrine primacy can also receive more light. The Pope is not, by himself, above the Church; but inside it as a baptized among the baptized, and within the episcopal college as a bishop among bishops, called at the same time – as the successor of the Apostle Peter – to lead the Church of Rome.”
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Furthermore, the Pope does not forget that synodality has an important ecumenical aspect: “The commitment to building a synodal Church — a mission to which we are all called, each in the role that the Lord entrusts to him — is fraught with ecumenical implications,” he declared. In fact, he pointed out that for this reason, “speaking to a delegation from the Patriarchate of Constantinople, I recently reiterated the conviction that ‘a careful examination of how the principle of synodality and the service of he who presides are articulated in the life of the Church will offer a significant contribution to the progress of relations between our Churches’.”
“Our gaze also extends to humanity,” the Pope concluded, asserting that “a synodal Church is like a standard raised among the nations,” especially in a world that “while invoking participation, solidarity, and transparency in the administration of public affairs, often leaves the fate of entire populations in the greedy hands of small power groups.” Therefore, Francis noted that “as a Church that ‘walks together’ with men” and that is “part of the difficulties of history,” we must nurture “the dream that the rediscovery of the inviolable dignity of peoples and the service function of authority can help civil society to build itself in justice and brotherhood, promoting a more beautiful and more worthy world for man for the generations that will come after us.”
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