Pope Francis acknowledged Saturday that the upcoming Synod on Synodality may be “of little interest to the general public” but underlined that the synod is “truly important” for the Catholic Church.
“I am well aware that speaking of a ‘Synod on Synodality’ may seem something abstruse, self-referential, excessively technical, and of little interest to the general public,” Pope Francis said on Aug. 26.
“But what has happened over the past year, which will continue with the assembly next October and then with the second stage of Synod 2024, is something truly important for the Church.”
The pope spoke about the significance of the synod nearly one month ahead of the first global Synod on Synodality assembly taking place at the Vatican Oct. 4–28.
It is the first of two assemblies that culminate the Church’s multiyear, worldwide undertaking during which Catholics were asked to submit feedback at diocesan, national, and continental levels.
“We have opened our doors, we have offered everyone the opportunity to participate, we have taken into account everyone’s needs and suggestions. We want to contribute together to build the Church where everyone feels at home, where no one is excluded,” Pope Francis said.
“That word of the Gospel that is so important: everyone. Everyone, everyone: There are no first-, second- or third-class Catholics, no. All together. Everyone. It is the Lord’s invitation.”
The pope underlined that the Church needs to “get used to listening to each other, to talking, not cutting our heads off for a word” and “to listen and discuss in a mature way.”
“This is a grace we all need in order to move forward. And it is something the Church today offers the world, a world so often so incapable of making decisions, even when our very survival is at stake,” he said.
“We are trying to learn a new way of living relationships, listening to one another to hear and follow the voice of the Spirit.”
To explain the significance of the Synod on Synodality, Pope Francis described the synod as “a journey that St. Paul VI began at the end of the [Vatican II] Council when he created the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops because he had realized that in the Western Church synodality had disappeared, whereas in the Eastern Church they have this dimension.”
“And this yearslong journey — 60 years — is bearing great fruit,” he added.
Pope Francis spoke about the upcoming synod while accepting an award from Italian journalists at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, noting that he usually declines awards and honors.
“You must know that, even before becoming bishop of Rome, I used to decline the offer of awards. I never received any, I did not want to. And I have continued to do so even as pope. There is, however, one reason that prompted me to accept yours, and that is the urgency of constructive communication, which fosters the culture of encounter and not of confrontation; the culture of peace and not of war; the culture of openness to the other and not of prejudice,” he said.
“Disinformation is one of the sins of journalism,” he added while enumerating other “journalistic sins,” including slander, defamation, and a “love of scandal.”
“We need to spread a culture of encounter, a culture of dialogue, a culture of listening to the other and his or her reasons,” he said. “Digital culture has brought us so many new possibilities for exchange, but it also risks turning communication into slogans.”
Pope Francis also met with a delegation of Catholic legislators on Saturday who are taking part in a meeting on the topic of “Great Power Struggle, Corporate Capture, and Technocracy: A Christian Answer to Dehumanizing Trends.”
The group, founded in 2010 by the Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn and David Alton, a member of Britain’s House of Lords, is dedicated to religious liberty, Church-state relations, the protection of life, and communicating Catholic thought in secular politics.
Pope Francis spoke to the lawmakers about how “today’s dominant technocratic paradigm raises profound questions about the place of human beings and of human action in the world.”
“Surely one of the most concerning aspects of this paradigm, with its negative impact upon both human and natural ecology alike, is its subtle seduction of the human spirit, lulling people — and especially the young — into misusing their freedom,” the pope said.
He encouraged the lawmakers to continue to promote Catholic social teaching, “especially the centrality of the God-given value and dignity of every human person.”
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“I pray that the Holy Spirit will inspire and guide your efforts to form a new generation of well-educated and faithful Catholic leaders committed to promoting the Church’s social and ethical teachings in the public sphere. In this way, you will surely contribute to the building up of God’s kingdom,” he said.
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.