Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The apostles screamed at each other

Cappella brancacci Predica di San Pietro restaurato Masolino

This morning, Pope Francis has started a new series of Wednesday General Audience talks about the family, given that we are in the year between two synods on the subject. Instead of launching straight into it, Francis today focused on last October’s Synod. After first thanking the media for their extensive coverage, he criticized them for reporting on the synod as if it had been a sports event, with opposing sides fighting each other, and then proceeded to provide his own account:
“Above all I have asked the Synod Fathers to speak frankly and with courage, and to listen with humility, to say all they had in their hearts, with courage. During the Synod there was no prior censorship, there wasn’t. Everyone could, even he had to, say what he had in his heart, what he thought sincerely. ‘But, Father, this will lead to arguments.’ That’s true, we saw how the apostles argued. The text says: a strong argument followed. They screamed at each other, the apostles, yes! Because they were seeking the will of God about the Gentiles, whether they could enter the Church or not. It was a new thing. Always, when you seek the will of God, in a synodal assembly, there are different points of view and there are arguments and that is not a bad thing! As long as it is approached with humility and a spirit of service to the assembly of brothers. But, it would have been a bad thing, eh!, to have prior censorship. No, no, everyone had to say what they thought.”
Francis then proceeded to present a walk-through of the Synod’s milestones, as has been covered previously on this blog, and then proceeded to reflect again on the confrontational nature of some of the proceedings:
“Some of you may ask: ‘But, father, have the Fathers fought?’. I don’t know about fighting, but they have raised their voices, yes, really, eh! And this is freedom, it is the freedom that’s in the Church. Everything happened “cum Petro et sub Petro,” that is, with the presence of the Pope, which is a guarantee for all of freedom and trust, and the guarantee of orthodoxy. And in the end, in my speech I gave a synthetic reading of the synodal experience.”
After emphasizing that there are only three official documents resulting from last October’s synod: the final message, the final report (Relatio Synodi) and his closing speech, Pope Francis spoke about what the synod is:
“We need to know that the synod is not a parliament, with the representative of this church, that church, another church … No, it’s not that. They are representatives, yes, but the structure is not parliamentary. It is totally different. The Synod is a protected space so that the Holy Spirit may work; there was no clash between factions, as in a parliament, which is licit in a parliament, but an exchange among Bishops, which came after a long process of preparation and now continues in further work, for the good of families, the Church and society. It’s a process, it is the normal synodal journey. Now this Relatio [Synodi] returns to the particular Churches, and in those Churches the work of prayer, reflection and fraternal discussion continues, in order to prepare for the next Assembly. This is the Synod of Bishops. We entrust it to the protection of the Virgin Mary our Mother. May she help us to follow the will of God, taking pastoral decisions that help the family most and best. I ask you to accompany this synodal journey until the next synod with prayer. May the Lord enlighten us, help us progress to the maturity of what we have to say to all the Churches as Synod. And it is important for you to pray for this. Thank you.”
I find Francis’ clarity very encouraging here and I believe that the openness of discussion that I saw during the Synod even just from the outside is very positive for the Church. After all, what is at stake is of great importance and discerning how to remain faithful to Jesus’ Good News today is a constant challenge. I very much look forward to what Pope Francis will speak about next Wednesday!