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Paths are opened in their hearts
On October 9 and 10, 2021, the opening of the synodal journey was celebrated in Rome. The itinerary proposed by Pope Francis is a long journey of preparation and work, which will conclude in October 2023.
We have two years to get involved in the process. The 16th assembly of the Synod of Bishops is entitled: “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission”. A synod on synodality! As we know, this theme is dear to the heart of Pope Francis. He regularly insists on the need for the Church to reform itself in depth by integrating a new style of functioning. This is why the synod will take place over two years. There will be input from the particular Churches and from “other ecclesial realities”: the Dicasteries, the consecrated life, the Associations of the Faithful, the Higher Institutes of Education, etc. Congregations will have their say, as will dioceses and bishops conferences. We are all invited to enter into the process of prayer and reflection. The Assumption will also have its contribution to make.
But what are we talking about when we speak of synodality? The term is a bit cryptic and is not part of the common language of the faithful. But Pope Francis has put it in the spotlight and shown its importance in the life of the Church: “A synodal Church is a Church of listening, a Church aware that listening is more than hearing.” It is a reciprocal listening in which everyone has something to learn. The faithful, the College of Bishops, the Bishop of Rome: one listening to the others; and all listening to the Holy Spirit, “the Spirit of Truth” (Jn 14:17), to know what he is “saying to the churches” (Rev 2:7). The Pope, in this speech of October 17, 2015, recalled that he was committed to “a salutary decentralization.”
At the Assumption, our synodal experience takes place essentially during our various chapters: local, provincial and general. The brothers exchange with one another and learn to read the signs of the times in the light of the Gospel and in the presence of the Holy Spirit. The chapters are collegial times of responsibility. They are mini-synods. But in order to intensify their practice, it is up to us to encourage even more the circulation of the word.
Perhaps we have lost some of the sense of debate and of fraternal and peaceful confrontation? Perhaps we are afraid to exchange in depth on what we think is necessary for the coming of the Kingdom of God? At a time when the internationalmeeting of Lay-Religious Alliance has been held (by videoconference), it is useful to ask ourselves the question of the place of our lay brothers and sisters in the life of the Assumption. A synodal approach allows the expression of all for the common good. There are probably efforts to be made to better integrate the viewpoint of our friends of the Alliance in our debates and decisions. The 34th General Chapter, like the three previous ones, will welcome a delegation of lay people in its assembly.
The important thing is the preparatory work that will be done in our different countries so that the voice of the laity can be heard and taken into account in our debates.
I hope that the synodal process will open new paths in our communities and in each one of us. We can do better and do more in listening to each other. Too often we think we already know what the brother is going to say and we deprive ourselves of his contribution. There is an attitude of listening that alone can open up new ways of being Church. To walk together in order to go further and take up the challenges of the present time; such is the challenge of the synod. “Blessed are the people whose strength you give them: paths are opened in their hearts! (Ps. 83)
Fr. Benoît BRIÈRE
A.A. General Superior