In response, Francis recalled how some religious sisters had also expressed to him their fears about the synod, telling him that they feared changes to Church doctrine.
Pope Francis said that at the root of these types of ideas about synodality, one always finds “ideologies,” adding that it is ideologies that are responsible for dividing the faithful.
He explained that “a ‘doctrine’ in quotation marks” is a doctrine that is like “distilled water,” without any taste and is not true Catholic doctrine.
“Many times true Catholic doctrine scandalizes — how scandalous is the idea that God became flesh, that God became man, that Our Lady preserved her virginity. This scandalizes,” the pope said.
“Catholic doctrine sometimes scandalizes. Ideologies are all ‘distilled’ and never scandalize.”
How the October synodal assembly will work
When asked why synod discussions will be taking place behind closed doors without access for journalists and how the synod can maintain transparency with this format, Pope Francis responded that the synod will be “very open.”
Pope Francis explained that there is a Commission for Information under the leadership of layman Paolo Ruffini, the prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Communications, that “will make press releases on how the proceedings of the synod are going” and “provide information on the progress of the synod.”
“In the synod, the religiosity and the loyalty of the people who speak must be guarded, and this is why there is the commission led by Ruffini,” he said.
“The commission does not have an easy task,” he added, noting that the synod’s commission will need to be respectful of each delegate’s interventions and provide updates on the synod proceedings that are “constructive for the Church” and “not gossip.”
The pope told journalists that the news about the synod should not read like “political chatter,” adding that the information commission is tasked with transmitting “the Christian spirit, not the political spirit.”
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“Do not forget that the protagonist of the synod is the Holy Spirit,” Pope Francis underlined.
The Commission for Information is not a novelty to the Synod on Synodality but has been a regular feature of Synod of Bishops assemblies in past years.
What is unique about the upcoming synod is that for the first time, the assembly will include voting delegates who are not bishops, including laypeople, priests, consecrated women, and deacons selected by the leadership of this year’s continental synod meetings or, in some cases, directly by the pope.
The Synod on Synodality, initiated by Pope Francis in October 2021, has been a multiyear, worldwide undertaking during which Catholics were asked to submit feedback to their local dioceses on the question “What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our ‘journeying together?’”
The Catholic Church’s massive synodal process has already undergone diocesan, national, and continental stages. It will culminate in two global assemblies at the Vatican.
The Instrumentum Laboris, or working document, guiding the assembly discussions suggests discernment of questions regarding some hot-button topics, including women deacons, priestly celibacy, and LGBTQ outreach.