Though today brought the working start of Francis' fourth Synod in six years, none of the others began like this – at 8.30, the Confessio of St Peter's in front of the first Apostle's tomb was ringed with several hundred representatives of the Amazonian peoples and their songs, joined by a healthy number of the 185 voting prelates....
And then, the Pope appeared, taking the group with him in procession to the Aula:
In a way, the striking moment – whose optics, intentionally or not, palpably evoked a boxer heading to the ring – heightened the sense that something quite different was at hand. But in reality, it's all going according to script.
More to come... but for those who can't wait, the page's real-time feed had the major developments as they whizzed by.
Here, two among others:
In broad programmatic speech to open Synod’s first working session, Pope goes right in on inculturation (https://t.co/Q2b6DpYVma ) – saying he heard a complaint yesterday about gift-bearer in Amazonian headdress, “what difference does it make if he wears feathers or a biretta?” pic.twitter.com/YKrrJfIm4B— Rocco Palmo (@roccopalmo) October 7, 2019
The lead architect of Amazon Synod, Card Hummes says in his opening summary that “The Church needs to throw open her doors, knock down the walls surrounding her and build bridges”; distinguishes “true tradition” from “traditionalism”: pic.twitter.com/6sZYmcoerL— Rocco Palmo (@roccopalmo) October 7, 2019
to a Curial slapdown after comments he gave on priestly celibacy as the new prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, in his extensive first report, the Relator-General (in rough terms, the "showrunner") of the three-week event upended the usual moderation expected of the role, laying out the intended aims in stark, if not hair-raising terms:
The subject of the Synod we are inaugurating is, “Amazonia: New Pathways for the Church and for an integral ecology.” The theme addressed follows the broad pastoral guidelines characteristic of Pope Francis for creating new pathways. From the very beginning of his papal ministry, Pope Francis has emphasised the Church’s need to move forward. The Church cannot remain inactive within her own closed circle, focused on herself, surrounded by protective walls and even less can she look nostalgically to the past. The Church needs to throw open her doors, knock down the walls surrounding her and build bridges, going out into the world and setting out on the path of history. In these times of momentous changes, the Church must always walk next to everyone and especially those living on the margins of humankind; an “outgoing” Church. Why outgoing? So as to turn on the lights and warm the hearts of those who help people, communities, countries and all humankind to discover the meaning of life and of history. These lights are above all the announcement of the person of Jesus Christ, dead and risen, and of His Kingdom, as is the practice of mercy as well as charity and solidarity above all towards the poor, those who suffer, the forgotten and the marginalised in today’s world such as migrants and indigenous peoples.(Notably, the conclusion of the above paragraph brought a pronounced round of applause in the room.)
It is moving forwards that makes the Church loyal to its true tradition. Traditionalism, which remains linked to the past, is one thing, but true tradition, which is the Church’s living history, is something else through which every generation, accepting what has been handed down by previous generations, such as understanding and experiencing faith in Jesus Christ, enriches this tradition in current times with their own experience and understanding of faith in Jesus Christ.
The light means announcing Jesus Christ and untiringly practising mercy in the Church’s living tradition. It means showing the path to be followed in moving forwards inclusively in a way that invites, welcomes and encourages everyone, with no exceptions, as friends and siblings, respecting the differences between us.
“New pathways.” One must not fear what is new. In his 2013 Pentecost homily, Pope Francis already expressed the idea that, “Newness always makes us a bit fearful, because we feel more secure if we have everything under control, if we are the ones who build, programme and plan our lives in accordance with our own ideas, our own comfort, our own preferences... (...) We fear that God may force us to strike out on new paths and leave behind our all too narrow, closed and selfish horizons in order to become open to his own. Yet throughout the history of salvation, whenever God reveals himself, he brings newness - God always brings newness -, and demands our complete trust.” In the Evangelii Gaudium (no. 11), the Pope portrays Jesus Christ as “eternal newness”. He is always new, He is always the same newness, “yesterday, today and forever” (Heb 13, 8) He is what is new. That is why the Church prays using the words, “Send forth your spirit and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.” So we must not fear newness, we must not fear Christ, the new. This Synod is in search of new pathways....
The Church’s mission today in Amazonia is the Synod’s central issue. This is a Synod of the Church for the Church. Not an inward looking Church, but one integrated in the history and the reality of the territory – in this case Amazonia –, attentive to calls for help and the populations’ aspirations and the “common home” [the creation]. A Church open to dialogue, especially interreligious and intercultural dialogue. A Church that is welcoming and wanting to share a synodal path with other churches, religions, sciences, governments, institutions, peoples, communities and persons. A Church respecting differences, with the intention of defending and promoting life for the populations in the area, above all those who originated there, while preserving biodiversity in the Amazon region. An updated Church, “simper reformanda”, according to the Evangelii Gaudium; an outgoing missionary Church, explicitly announcing Jesus Christ, welcoming and communicative, merciful, poor, for the poor and with the poor. Therefore a Church with a preferential, encultured, inter-cultural and increasingly more synodal attention paid to the poor. A Marian Church, fuelled by devotion for the Most Holy Virgin Mary, according to many local titles, especially that of Maria de Nazaré, whose festivity brings together millions of pilgrims and faithful every year in Belém do Pará.
Inculturation of the Christian faith in the various different cultures is necessary. As St. John Paul II says about the missionary mandate of the Christian faith in the various different cultures, “The need for such involvement has marked the Church's pilgrimage throughout her history, but today it is particularly urgent.” (Redemptoris Missio, 52). Together with inculturation, the evangelisation of the peoples of the Amazon also requires paying particular attention to inter-culturality, because it is there that cultures are many and diversified, although they continue to share a number of common roots. The task of inculturation and inter-culturality lies above all in the liturgy, in interreligious and ecumenical dialogue, in popular piety, in catechesis, in daily coexistence in a dialogue with autochthon peoples in social and charitable works, in consecrated life and urban pastoral care....
The Son of God too became a man and his human body comes from the earth. In this body, Jesus died for us on the Cross to overcome evil and death, he rose again among the dead and now sits to the right of God the Father in eternal and immortal glory. The Apostle Paul writes, “For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him (...) whether those on earth or those in heaven.”(Col. 1,19-20). In Laudato si’ we read that, “This leads us to direct our gaze to the end of time, when the Son will deliver all things to the Father, so that “God may be everything to everyone” (1 Cor.15:28). Thus, “the creatures of this world no longer appear to us under merely natural guise because the risen One is mysteriously holding them to himself and directing them towards fullness as their end” (LS, 100). It is thus that God has definitively connected Himself to His entire creation. This mystery is accomplished in the sacrament of the Eucharist. This Synod is held within the context of a serious and urgent climatic and ecological crisis, which involves our entire planet. The planet’s global warming caused by the greenhouse effect has resulted in an unprecedented, serious and pressing climatic imbalance as stated in the Laudato si’ and the Paris COP21, where practically all the countries in the world signed the Agreement on climate that for the moment has remained almost unimplemented in spite of its urgency. At the same time, the planet is experiencing galloping devastation, depredation and degradation of the earth’s resources, all fostered by a globalised, predatory and devastating technocratic paradigm reported by Laudato si’. The earth cannot take this anymore....
Another issue consists in the lack of priests at the service of local communities in the area, with a consequent lack of the Eucharist, at least on Sundays, as well as other sacraments. There is a lack of appointed priests and this means pastoral care consisting of occasional instead of adequate daily pastoral care. The Church lives on the Eucharist and the Eucharist is the foundation of the Church (St. John Paul II). Participation in the celebration of the Eucharist, at least on Sundays, is essential for the full and progressive development of Christian communities and a true experience of the Word of God in people’s lives. It will be necessary to define new paths for the future. During the consultation stages, indigenous communities, faced with the urgent need experienced by most of the Catholic communities in Amazonia, requested that the path be opened for the ordination of married men resident in their communities, albeit confirming the great importance of the charisma of celibacy in the Church. At the same time, faced with a great number of women who nowadays lead communities in Amazonia, there is a request that this service be acknowledged and there be an attempt to consolidate it with a suitable ministry for them.
In conclusion, to comply with the working dynamics of this synodal assembly, I wish to suggest a number of core issues: a) The outgoing Church and its new pathways in Amazonia; b) The Church’s Amazonian face: inculturation and inter-culturality in a missionary-ecclesial context; c) Ministries in the Church in Amazonia: presbyterate, diaconate, ministries and the role played by women; d) The work done by the Church in looking after our “shared home”; listening to the earth and to the poor; integral environmental, economic, social and cultural ecology; e) The Amazonian Church in the urban reality; f) The issues concerning water; g) others.-30-
I would like to conclude by inviting everyone to allow themselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit during these days of the Synod. Allow yourselves to be enveloped by the cloak of the Mother of God, Queen of Amazonia. We must not allow ourselves to be overcome by self-referentiality, but by mercy when faced with the pain expressed by the poor and the earth. We will need to pray a great deal, to meditate and discern a real practice of ecclesial communion and a synodal spirit. This Synod is like a table that God has prepared for His poor and He is asking us to serve at that table.