Monday, October 06, 2014

"Speak Clearly, Listen Humbly" – On Day One, Francis Dares Synod to Bring It

For such a major, long-awaited day in his pontificate, the Pope arrived at the Synod Hall rather inconspicuously this morning, having taken the short walk from the Domus on his own, and carrying no suitcase, to boot.

Even if it wasn't in the plans, meanwhile, no one should've been surprised during when, during the opening session of the Synod on the Family when, as the body's president, Francis rose to speak.

At the last assembly – 2012's gathering on the New Evangelization – his predecessor likewise seized the floor, turning in a 20-minute off-the-cuff reflection that showcased Joseph Ratzinger's sweeping intellect. Again reflecting the contrasts between the two, Papa Bergoglio today turned in a six-minute stemwinder that served both to reiterate the centrality of the Synod in his governing model, and to express his expectations for the discussions to come.

After an effusive greeting and thank you list, here's a house translation of the core of the Pope's remarks, which again returned to his initial, unscripted charting of the path which led to today:

I also thank you, dear cardinals, patriarchs, bishops, priests, religious men and women and lay men and women for your presence and your participation that enriches the work and spirit of collegiality and of synodality for the good of the church and of families! Keeping with this spirit of synodality, I wanted there to be the election of the relator, of the secretary general and of the presidents-delegate. The first two were directly elected by the Post-Synodal Council, they being elected by the participants of the last Synod. Instead, as the presidents-delegate must be chosen by the Pope, I asked this same Synod Council to propose some names, and I appointed those who the Council proposed to me.

You bring the voice of the particular churches, reaching to the level of the local churches by means of the episcopal conferences. The universal church and the particular churches are of divine institution; the local churches arranged by human institution. This voice you will show in synodality. It's a great responsibility; to bring the realities and the problems of the churches, to aid them to journey on that path which is the Gospel of the family.

At the root of things, one condition is this: speak clearly. No one should say: "You can't say that; he will think of me so and so...." It bears saying that all this is done with parrhesia. After the last consistory (February 2014), in which we spoke of the family, one cardinal wrote me saying: it's a sin that some cardinals didn't have the courage to say some things out of respect for the Pope, maybe thinking that the Pope would've thought something different. This isn't good, this is not synodality, because you need to say all that which the Lord is urging you to say: without [concern for] human respect, without timidity. And at the same time, one must listen with humility and welcome with an open heart what the brothers say. With these two qualities, synodality is exercised.

And do it with great tranquility and peace, because the Synod always unfolds cum Petro et sub Petro ("with Peter and under Peter"), and the presence of the Pope is a guarantee for all and maintains the faith.

Dear brothers, let us work all together much that we might affirm with clarity the dynamic of synodality. Thank you.
Of course, synodality isn't just something to expound upon from the central seat of the dais. Breaking from the style of his predecessors, the Pope got to the Aula some 20 minutes before this morning's session began to meet and mingle with the delegates, going out into the corridor for more impromptu chats during the midmorning coffee-break.

Once the body reconvened, the day's other major speech was delivered – the lengthy pre-discussion report from the Relator-General, Budapest's Cardinal Peter Erdö, which traditionally sets the baseline for the floor exchanges to follow.