Pope invites bishops to be open to new opinions during synod

Pope Francis opens the Synod of Bishops on youth Oct 3 2018 Credit Daniel Ibanez CNA Pope Francis opens the Synod of Bishops on youth Oct. 3, 2018. | Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Pope Francis Wednesday told those bishops and auditors who will be giving short speeches – called "interventions" – at the youth synod, they should feel free to change them up as the dialogue proceeds.

During his opening remarks Oct. 3, the pope said bishops should be open to considering their prepared text a "provisional draft," which can be added to or edited.

In the same spirit of discernment, which he said is an "interior attitude rooted in an act of faith," not a slogan, technique, or a "fad of this pontificate," he announced there will be about a three-minute long silence following every five interventions.

"This is to allow everyone to recognize within their hearts the nuances of what they have heard, and to allow everyone to reflect deeply and seize upon what is most striking," he said.

The pope stated the synod should be an exercise in dialogue, the first fruit of which is that "everyone is open to newness, to change their opinions thanks to what they have heard from others," explaining that "this is important for the Synod" and a "sign of great human and spiritual maturity."

At the first general congregation of the synod, Francis also urged bishops to aim for concrete results and "pastoral proposals" at the conclusion of the meetings, going beyond the final document, which he said is "only read by a few and criticized by many."

These pastoral fruits of the synod should "plant dreams, draw forth prophecies and visions, allow hope to flourish, inspire trust, bind up wounds, weave together relationships," he said, and "inspire in young people – all young people, with no one excluded – a vision of the future filled with the joy of the Gospel."

"The Synod is an ecclesial exercise in discernment," he said, emphasizing that it is "fundamental" participants speak frankly and listen openly throughout the process.

He said, "humility in listening must correspond to courage in speaking," and noted something he told youth at the pre-synod meeting in March, which was if they said something he did not like, then he had to "listen even more, because everyone has the right to be heard."

Pope Francis pointed out that most of the synod participants, who are bishops, are not from the same generation as young people, and encouraged them not to get bound up in prejudices and stereotypes about youth.

"When we think we already know who others are and what they want, we really struggle to listen to them seriously," he said, noting that this can go both ways, since young people can be tempted to consider adults outdated, while adults think youth are inexperienced.

"The accumulation of human experiences throughout history is the most precious and trustworthy treasure that one generation inherits from another. Without ever forgetting divine revelation, that enlightens and gives meaning to history and to our existence," he stated.

"We need to rediscover the reasons for our hope and, above all, to pass them on to young people who are thirsting for hope," he continued, quoting an address of Pope St. John XXIII, who said the current condition of society makes people incapable of seeing anything "except ruin and woe… saying that in our times, compared to the past, everything is worse."

The pope went on to reference the need to overcome the "scourge of clericalism," which he said stems from an "elitist and exclusivist vision of vocation" that treats ministry as a form of power to be wielded, rather than a service to be given.

"This Synod has the opportunity, the task and the duty to be a sign of a Church that really listens, that allows herself to be questioned by the experiences of those she meets, and who does not always have a ready-made answer," he encouraged.

"A Church that does not listen shows herself closed to newness, closed to God's surprises, and cannot be credible, especially for the young who will inevitably turn away rather than approach."

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