Pope Francis Sets the Tone for Upcoming Synod
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Pope Francis, during an in-flight press conference following his visit to Mongolia on Monday, articulated his vision for the forthcoming synodal assembly in October. He emphasized that this significant event should be a prayerful exercise in dialogue, devoid of ideological debates or political posturing often seen in televised talk shows.
While onboard the chartered ITA Airways plane on his way from Ulaanbaatar to Rome on September 4, Pope Francis engaged with journalists and addressed multiple inquiries about the Synod on Synodality.
"In the synod, there is no place for ideology," Pope Francis stressed, underscoring the need for authentic dialogue among the participants. He emphasized that the synodal assembly should be a deeply spiritual experience, contrasting it with mere "parliamentarianism."
To create an atmosphere conducive to prayerful reflection, Pope Francis proposed the inclusion of three to four minutes of silent prayer between discussions, emphasizing that this would be essential to differentiate a synodal assembly from political discourse.
"The synod should maintain its 'synodal atmosphere,''' the Pope stated, urging that it should not resemble a television talk show, but rather a genuine dialogue among baptized individuals.
He described the synod as a platform where baptized individuals, representing the Church, engage in discussions about the Church's life and interact with the world regarding contemporary global challenges.
Pope Francis pointed to the Eastern Churches as a source of inspiration, highlighting their ability to practice synodality without succumbing to divisive ideologies.
Responding to a question about a book's comparison of the Synod on Synodality to opening "Pandora's box," Pope Francis recounted concerns expressed by religious sisters who feared potential changes in Church doctrine.
He cautioned against the influence of ideologies in such debates, asserting that they often lead to divisions among the faithful. Pope Francis emphasized the importance of preserving authentic Catholic doctrine, even if it challenges societal norms, describing it as "scandalous" but true.
Regarding the transparency of the upcoming synodal assembly, particularly the decision to hold discussions behind closed doors, Pope Francis reassured that the synod would remain "very open." He explained that a Commission for Information, led by layman Paolo Ruffini, the prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Communications, would release regular updates on the synod's progress.
Pope Francis emphasized the need for the Commission to focus on conveying the "Christian spirit" rather than engaging in political discourse. He underscored the central role of the Holy Spirit in the synod's proceedings.
The unique aspect of the upcoming Synod on Synodality is the participation of voting delegates who are not bishops, including laypeople, priests, consecrated women, and deacons. These delegates were selected through continental synod meetings or directly by the Pope.
The synodal process, initiated by Pope Francis in 2021, involves Catholics worldwide and has undergone various stages, including diocesan, national, and continental levels. It will culminate in two global assemblies at the Vatican, addressing crucial topics such as women deacons, priestly celibacy, and LGBTQ outreach.
The first assembly is scheduled for October 2023 in the Paul VI Hall, with the second planned for October 2024.
Pope Francis concluded by sharing his busy schedule for the coming month, including an international trip to Marseilles, France, an update to Laudato Si', an ecumenical prayer vigil, and the creation of 21 new cardinals during a consistory.
In his 40-minute in-flight press conference, Pope Francis also touched upon Vatican-China relations, the possibility of a papal trip to Vietnam, and clarified his recent comments on Russian imperialism.
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