Rome (Italy). On 10 October 2021, with the solemn Eucharistic celebration in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, in the presence of about three thousand people, including cardinals, bishops, priests, religious, and laity, Pope Francis opened the Synod of Bishops on the theme: “For a Synodal Church: communion, participation, and mission ”.

In his homily , the Holy Father recalled the meaning of the word Synod – “To be Synod means to walk on the same path, to walk together.”  At the start of the synodal journey, he asked the questions: “Do we, the Christian community, embody the style of God, who walks in history and  shares the events of humanity? Are we ready for the adventure of the journey or fearful of the unknowns? Do we prefer to take refuge in the excuses of ‘it’s no use’ or of ‘it has always been done this way’?”

In the light of the Sunday Gospel – “A man, a rich man, goes to meet Jesus as He ‘went along the road’ (Mk 10:17)”, he proposed three verbs:

  • Encounter: “We too, who begin this journey, are called to become experts in the art of encounter. Not in organizing events or in making a theoretical reflection on the problems, but above all in taking the time to meet the Lord and encourage the encounter between us. (…) Each meeting requires openness, courage, willingness to let oneself be challenged by the face and history of the other.”
  • Listen: “To make a Synod is to place oneself on the same path as the Word made man. It is to follow in His footsteps, listening to His Word together with the words of others. (…) The Spirit asks us to listen to the questions, worries, hopes of every Church, of every people and nation. And also listening to the world, to the challenges and changes it puts before us.”
  • Discern: “The Synod is a journey of spiritual discernment, of ecclesial discernment, which takes place in adoration, in prayer, in contact with the Word of God. (…) The Word opens us to discernment and enlightens it. It orients the Synod so that it is not an ecclesial ‘convention’, a study conference or a political congress; so that it is not a parliament, but an event of grace, a process of healing led by the Spirit.”

With the blessing and the mandate to 25 people representing the people of God and the different continents, Pope Francis started the synodal journey, which foresees, on 17 October 2021, the beginning of the first phase in the Dioceses, in preparation for the celebration of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October 2023, that will be followed by the implementation phase, which will again involve the local Churches.

The synodal reflection already began on 9 October 2021, in the new  Synod Hall in the Vatican, where members of the Roman Curia and delegates of the International Meetings of the Bishops’ Conferences and similar bodies, representatives of  consecrated life,  lay Church movements, and fraternal delegates met with Pope Francis.

The young people were present with some members of the International Consultative Organism of  Young People, born following the Synod on Youth of 2018, made up of young women and men under 30, representing all the continents, who collaborate with the Dicastery for the laity, family, and life.

In the Discourse on the occasion of this first time of listening and sharing expectations and desires for the synodal process, the Pope expressed the hope that the Synod will be a time  inhabited by the Holy Spirit, “He who guides us where God wills and not by our ideas and our personal tastes” and invited to invoke His presence and action:

“For a ‘different Church’, open to the newness that God wants to suggest, let us invoke the Spirit with more strength and frequency and let us humbly listen to Him, walking together as He, creator of communion and mission, desires, that is, with docility and courage.”

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