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Pope Francis emphasizes ‘commitment to build a synodal-mission Church’

October 19, 2015

In a major address commemorating the 50th anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis said that synodality is a “constitutive dimension of the Church” and emphasized the “commitment to build a synodal-mission Church.”  

“A synodal Church is a Church of listening,” Pope Francis said, with “faithful people, the College of Bishops, the Bishop of Rome” listening to one another, and all listening to the Holy Spirit. “The Synod of Bishops is the point of convergence of this dynamism of listening conducted at all levels of the life of the Church.”

The synodal process begins with listening to the people, continues with listening to the pastors, and “culminates in listening to the Bishop of Rome, called upon to speak authoritatively as ‘Shepherd and Teacher of all Christians’: not on the basis of his personal beliefs, but as the supreme witness of the Faith of the whole Church, the guarantor of the Church’s conformity with and obedience to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ and the Tradition of the Church.”

Synodality, Pope Francis added, provides a “more appropriate interpretive framework” for understanding the hierarchical nature of the Church. The Church is like an “inverted pyramid” in which those in authority are “ministers” and each bishop a vicar of Christ who washes the feet of the flock entrusted to his care.

There are three levels of the exercise of synodality, the Pope continued: (1) diocesan synods, (2) “ecclesiastical provinces and regions, the particular councils and in a special manner episcopal conferences,” and (3) the Synod of Bishops.

The Pontiff called for “reflection to realize even more” the “intermediate instances of collegiality, perhaps by integrating and updating some aspects of the ancient ecclesiastical order.” The desires of the Second Vatican Council for these intermediate bodies, he continued, have not been fully realized: “we are midway, a part of the journey.”

“The commitment to build a synodal-mission Church to which all are called, each in the role that the Lord has entrusted, is pregnant with ecumenical implications,” Pope Francis continued, as he cited St. John Paul’s 1995 call for a reexamination of the exercise of the papal ministry, and an effort to find new ways to exercise that ministry in a manner that would not compromise the essence of the papal mission.

A synodal Church “invoking participation, solidarity, and transparency,” he concluded, is a positive example in a world in which power is often exercised by small groups.

 


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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: wojo425627 - Nov. 20, 2015 9:30 AM ET USA

    Isn't this how we ended up with all these problems, in the last 40 years, in the first place, "committees". I see a disaster. When a committee is formed truth is usually cast aside for tolerance and political correctness, and eventually the committee falls into mediocrity and drags everyone else down.

  • Posted by: samuel.doucette1787 - Oct. 20, 2015 9:49 AM ET USA

    What if "listening to the flock" is/was jerry-rigged in the first place to provide an engineered result? That seems to have happened with this Synod. Heterodox interest groups seemed to have stuffed the ballot box with the surveys sent out to the faithful, leading to the false impression that most average Catholics want Church teaching and practice changed on the issues of divorce and remarriage, same sex pseudo-marriage, etc.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Oct. 19, 2015 2:51 PM ET USA

    jasoncpetty3446, I hope God will raise up saints to protect us from other saints. But seriously, this only works if authority is seen as a ministry, a point of service. Otherwise, it is just passing the buck.

  • Posted by: Jason C. - Oct. 19, 2015 10:18 AM ET USA

    The speech sounds positive, but I dread what the conferences will do without oversight. This will effectively create sui juris particular churches; national churches, in fact, since that's what the bishops' conferences are--national conferences. How will Rome claw back any vestige of authority over a renegade conference--a renegade national church--once that conference decides something contrary to the Faith? "We're just listening to our flock" will always be the excuse for apostasy.