In his opening address to bishops gathered in Rome for the Vatican synod on marriage and the family, Pope Francis reminded them that the synod is not a “Parliament” where participants argue their case or negotiate, but a gathering of believers attentive to the Holy Spirit.
“The only method of the synod, Francis said, is that of “opening ourselves to the Holy Spirit with apostolic courage, evangelical humility and confident prayer” so that He will “guide us, enlighten us, and keep before our eyes not our personal opinions, but faith in God, fidelity to the Magisterium, the good of the Church, and the salvation of souls.”
As he did for the synod last year, the Pope encouraged the bishops to rise above political interests and agendas to listen to God together, seeking always the good of the people of God.
“We need evangelical humility to put aside our own ideas and prejudices to listen to our brother bishops and let God fill us,” he said.
“If we don’t allow ourselves be guided by the Spirit,” he said, “our decisions will only be decorations, which conceal and hide the Gospel instead of exalting it.”
The synod is not “a Parliament or a Senate” to work out an agreement “by recourse to negotiations, deals, or compromises,” Francis said.
It is, rather, “an ecclesial expression, that is, the Church walking together to interpret reality with the eyes of faith and with the heart of God.”
It is the Church who questions herself about her faithfulness to the deposit of faith, which is not a “museum for viewing or even for safekeeping,” but a “living fountain” from which the Church draws.
In the synod, the Spirit “speaks through the mouths of all the people who let themselves be led by God, who always surprises us,” Francis said, “the God who reveals Himself to the little ones and hides Himself from the learned and the clever, the God who created the law and the Sabbath for man and not vice versa, the God who leaves the ninety-nine sheep to look for the one lost sheep, the God who is always greater than our logic and our calculations.”
In his homily Sunday for the official opening of the synod, Francis focused attention on the centrality of the family for the future of society, stressing the indissolubility of marriage as a “lifelong commitment” of fruitful love between a man and a woman.
The Church, he said, is called to be a voice crying out in the desert to defend “the sacredness of life, of every life,” as well as “the unity and indissolubility of the conjugal bond as a sign of God’s grace and of the human person’s ability to love seriously.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.