“The synod will succeed or fail according to whether we trust the Holy Spirit or not,” warned Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary general of the synod of bishops on synodality. He was speaking on September 7, 2021 in the Vatican, during a conference presenting the preparatory document and the vademecum of the diocesan phase of the synod.
“Everyone’s participation” is what matters and is sought, said Fr. Dario Vitali, consultor of the Synod of Bishops. What the Church also calls the sensus fidei, that is, the expression of the “genius” of the People of God when they are consulted and, “especially the feminine genius,” he added.
Women, said Sr. Nathalie Becquart, French Under-Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, must be “protagonists” as members of the People of God.
At the beginning of September, Cardinal Grech answered questions in the weekly magazine La Vie, an interview that was published on September 12.
On the opening of a dialogue to the “peripheries,” the cardinal explains: “This synod will begin by relying on the consultation of the People of God, it is the first step, through questions proposed to the local Churches. This is the first time that we have asked all the bishops to organize so wide a consultation.”
The bishops are invited, continues the cardinal, “to listen to everyone, and particularly to those who are on the existential peripheries.” This first step is of fundamental importance, he insists. “If we fail to listen to the entire People of God from the first day of the synodal path, which opens on October 17, all the rest of the work will fall apart.”
How do we understand each other then? “We don't need to agree on the words, we just need to meet (sic) each other,” Cardinal Grech replied. “The synodal path must be a lived experience, more than a concept or an idea. It's making the journey together (sic).”
The synodal path will be a “dialogue to share what we feel about the Holy Spirit in ourselves, what we hear that the Holy Spirit says in us.”
Thus, explains the secretary general of the synod, “through this common discernment, a new sense of faith can be discovered, beyond the perspectives of the individuals involved.” And in practice, “synodality means that we walk together sharing each other's burdens, doubts, and fears.”
In conclusion of the interview, the cardinal wishes to stress that “the objective of the synodal process that we are beginning is not to answer doctrinal questions but to seek to strengthen communion and unity, to explore the way in which we can open spaces for the participation of all, to finally proclaim the Gospel together - which is our common mission.”
So to be a missionary, the cardinal specifies that “our gaze must focus on a style, a method of being a Church together. Once it is found through the ecclesial consensus, then the community will be able to provide answers.”
And this difficult synodal process, of course, is only possible in the Holy Spirit, assures the cardinal. “If we do not believe that the Holy Spirit will blow during our synod, then it will be a failure.”
In a speech to the faithful of the Diocese of Rome on September 18 at the Vatican, Francis described the synodal process. “Standing still cannot be a good situation for the Church. And the movement is a consequence of docility to the Holy Spirit, who is the realizer of this story in which all are worried protagonists, never standing still.”
The Pope also warned against “one of the evils of the Church, even a perversion, this clericalism which alienates the priest, the bishop from the people.” Then against rigidity, “another perversion which is a sin against the patience of God, against this sovereignty of God.”
Likewise, continues Francis, St. John Chrysostom warns us: “Do you want to honor the body of Christ? Do not allow Him to be an object of contempt in His members.”
In conclusion, Pope Francis invited all to listen to the Holy Spirit “by listening to one another. Don't leave anyone out or behind....The Church, does not strengthen itself only by reforming the structures, - this is the great deception! - by giving instructions, by offering retreats and conferences, or by dint of directives and programs, - this is good, as part of something else - but [the Church is strengthened] when we rediscover that we are a people who want to walk together, among ourselves and with humanity.”