There has been criticism concerning the process of the Synod on Synodality. Is there any criticism that worries you that you would like to address?
First of all, I understand those who have doubts or fears or different points of view.
For me, criticism is valuable and it should help us all in our discernment process. Nobody has to be excluded, even if one is critical, or has objections, everyone should be welcome on board. Let us not forget that we are one family. And it takes time until ideas mature, until one really understands what’s going on.
I have my fears as well. For example, those who are opposing the people of God and the hierarchy now, because in this synodal process everyone was allowed to raise his voice, some might think that we are on a way leading to a sort of a democracy. The Church is not a democracy.
The Church is hierarchical, constitutively hierarchical. The ministry of bishops, the Petrine ministry, are a gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church. And we need to treasure that.
So if those who are opposing, for example, the crowd, the people of God with the hierarchy, that really hurts me, because we have to walk together, respecting all the charisms and ministries.
Ministries are a gift for the Church. And they can give us assurance that we are walking the right path.
Your task of communicating and explaining the synodal process has not necessarily become easier with a parallel process in Europe that has raised a lot of attention — the German Synodal Path. What is your take on this and how is it seen in the context of the global Synod on Synodality?
Unfortunately, the Synodal Path in Germany sent negative vibes in all the Church. I was in Africa, I was in Bangkok, and I listened to people who were a bit hesitant and worried about what was taking place in Germany.
But I always say, do we really know what is taking place in the Church, in our sister Church in Germany? There are two different synodal experiences.
It is not a synod in Germany. It’s a synodal journey. A synodal way, they call it. Canonically it is neither a diocesan nor a national synod, as far as I know.
They are two different ecclesial experiences. One in Germany is trying to address issues that are recurrent challenges for the Church in Germany. And the other one is for the whole Church. And the themes are absolutely different.
Perhaps the global, universal synod will help us, will guide us to avoid other difficulties in the future in our experience of synodality.
It is true that particular local Churches are very important in the whole frame of ecclesiology. The Church is made up of particular Churches, and this is Vatican II, but no particular Church is autonomous, no particular Church is independent from the other Churches.
And if synodality is an important element in the Church, also the communion among bishops is a value.
I’m talking about collegiality now. The bishops in Australia, to give another example, because they had also a plenary council now, the bishops in Ireland, the bishops in Germany, they have their responsibilities and their challenges. And we have to help our brothers to address the difficulties.
But bishops are not autonomous, bishops form part of a college of bishops, and there are issues that belong to the whole Church that need to be addressed by all the bishops together, together with Peter.
This might give us hope for the experience in Germany. I really have trust in my brother bishops in Germany that they are well-meaning. And I hope they will find the right answer to the issues raised in their synodal experience, and to the issues that the people of God in Germany are putting forth.
Are there demands that the proposals in Germany that have been voted on as well as adopted be added to the agenda of the global synod?
No. They are two different experiences. The synod for the whole Church is about synodality. Now, if there are elements in the German synodal experience that deal with synodality, why not? But not everything that was on board in the synodal way in Germany fits in the synodal experience of the whole Church, because I repeat, they are two different experiences.
Are there synodal elements to the upcoming World Youth Day in Lisbon?
One result from all the continental assemblies was that we realized we need to create more spaces for the young generation. We need to find a new language so we can communicate with them. It’s a challenge. And obviously, World Youth Day will be an opportunity.
Our secretariat is studying a project for how to be present on the ground so that we can also listen to the young generation. Because they are not only the future, but they are [also] the present. And when we made the invitation for the non-bishops for the synodal assembly of bishops, we indicated to the episcopal conferences to please also send young people. We want young people to be present to participate in this process.
You have been asking people from around the world to contribute and participate in this process. Are there any inspiring ideas for evangelization you’ve encountered that are worthwhile to pursue?
The idea of mission and synodality started from the Synod for Youth. In fact, in the final document of that synod the youth and the synod members spoke about mission and the synodal Church. Mission and synodality are the two faces of the same coin. We need a synodal Church in order to be more effective in our mission.
How can we be really effective today? If all the people of God become conscious that we are all subjects of evangelization, that evangelization is not restricted only to a special class, a special group. But all the baptized are subjects and empowered by the Holy Spirit to announce the Gospel today.
Everybody is invited and must feel duty-bound to announce Jesus to humanity today. This is the main objective of our reflection on a synodal Church.
A synodal Church is for me mainly a spiritual Church. We need more prayer. We need more prayer to avoid the risk that the Church becomes only a human convention, a human institution.
This is the reason why a few months ago, we sent an invitation to all bishops, so that during the month of May we organize a prayer at the feet of Mary, in the presence of Mary.
Because Mary, the mother of the Church, our mother, she will guide us, help us, accompany us in this particular moment of the Church. I invite everyone to take part even with prayer in this moment of grace.
Watch the full interview with Grech below.