It was a solemn celebration in the presence of all the synod Fathers, delegations, ambassadors and Pope Francis – who gave one of the most important speeches of his pontificate – on 17 October in the Nervi Hall, to commemorate 50 years since the institution of the Bishops’ Synod by Pope Paul VI.
Focolare President, Maria Voce defined it, “a masterpiece”, when asked to comment on the spur of the moment, on the Pope’s speech. “He illustrated that there cannot be a progress of the Church if not as a synodal body. I was struck when he underlined the importance of the sensus fidei, that is, the sense of faith, and the infallibility of the people of God, who together listen to the Holy Spirit, thus expressing the faith of the Church. And this starts always from the base. In this manner, with all the juridical collegiate figures that emerged after the Second Vatican Council – Pope Francis makes us see – that if we don’t live this synodal spirit, starting from the people it addresses, they will not serve to enhance communion. They would all be just masks.”
And regarding the primacy of service: “Let us never forget this!” the Pope exclaimed. “For the disciples of Jesus, of the past, today and for always, the only authority is that of service, the sole power is the cross, in the Master’s words: ”’You know that the governors of the nations rule over them and the leaders oppress them. Among you it will not be so; whoever wishes to be great among you, will be your servant and whoever wants to be first among you, will be your slave’ (Mt 20,25-27). Among you it will not be so: in this expression we reach that very heart in which we have been trying for some time now to reflect ourselves, exactly in the sense which he explained: “the top is found below the base. Due to this, those who exert authority are called ‘ministers’ because, according to the original meaning of the word, they are the smallest among all.”
What comes out once more in his speech is the same wavelength between Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew I:
“The commitment to build a synodal Church – a mission to which we are all called, each in the role the Lord entrusted us with – is burdened by ecumenical implications. Due to this, in speaking to a delegation of the Patriarchate of Costantinople, I recently stressed the conviction that ‘the careful examination of how the principle of synodality is expressed in the life of the church and the service of he who presides it, will offer an important contribution to the progress of relationships between our Churches.” Maria Voce also underlined, “It is a synergy – that not only regards the problems of creation expressed in the encyclical Laudato si’; it is precisely this feeling of synodality of the Church that pushes Pope Francis to open a door to say: we must get together as one. It is a responsibility that urges him to find a way of getting down to concrete steps towards a full communion among Christians, because only in this can the synodal spirit of the Church be seen.”
Lastly, Maria Voce continued, “The effort is not to seek compromises, but that which the Holy Spirit wants to say to us, which is a challenge that requires a strong unity of the entire Church. We spoke with various participants of the Synod for Families in the past days, and also with the family of married focolarini from Colombia, María Angélica and Luis Rojas, and all asked us for prayers. So let us intensify our prayers as if we were there, trying to understand how to respond to the anguish and difficulties of the family in the modern world, and regard the family as part of God’s plan.”
The motivation and strong words of Paul VI that accompanied the institution of the Synod of Bishops on 15 September 1965 are particularly important for the Focolare Movement, precisely because the institution of the Synod, Maria Voce explained, “brought a new climate within the Church, a turning point: that of collegiality, communion, passing from a manner of conducting the individual and rather hierarchical Church, to a collegial one. As the Focolare Movement, as a movement of unity, we thus could not but take this event into consideration, and with joy I accepted Cardinal Baldisseri’s invitation to participate in the commemoration.”
The Synods, in fact, are the concrete prosecution of the Second Vatican Council: «Paul VI, evidently inspired by the Holy Spirit after having made such a beautiful experience of the council, which had stirred up new realities in the Church – just think of the documents Gaudium et Spes, Lumen Gentium, Nostra Aetate – felt that this experience had to continue.»
“Synod,” in fact, precisely means “journey together” as Cardinal Schönborn explained in his speech on the birth of the Synod of Bishops and on the various Synods, with the force of the Pope. It thus means that «the Church is walking together, not the Pope by himself, the bishops by themselves, the people of God by themselves, or the laity by themselves: this journey is undertaken by the Church, in which all have something to say and give.”
Read more: press release on the participation of the Focolare in the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Synod of Bishops.