Skip to content

Pope Francis’ Address to the Synod Fathers

October 22, 2014

Here, courtesy of Zenit, is the full text of Pope Francis’ concluding address at the Synod on the Family, for which the bishops’ standing ovation was well deserved.  In keeping with the Holy Father’s own warnings, I will let the brilliance of his address speak for itself and not risk turning into my own weapon with excessive commentary – at least for now – except to concur with Fr. Thomas Rosica, “It’s worth pausing at every single word.”

Dear Eminences, Beatitudes, Excellencies, Brothers and Sisters,

With a heart full of appreciation and gratitude I want to thank, along with you, the Lord who has accompanied and guided us in the past days, with the light of the Holy Spirit.

From the heart I thank Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod, Bishop Fabio Fabene, under-secretary, and with them I thank the Relators, Cardinal Peter Erdo, who has worked so much in these days of family mourning, and the Special Secretary Bishop Bruno Forte, the three President delegates, the transcribers, the consultors, the translators and the unknown workers, all those who have worked with true fidelity and total dedication behind the scenes and without rest. Thank you so much from the heart.

I thank all of you as well, dear Synod fathers, Fraternal Delegates, Auditors, and Assessors, for your active and fruitful participation. I will keep you in prayer asking the Lord to reward you with the abundance of His gifts of grace!

I can happily say that with a spirit of collegiality and of synodality we have truly lived the experience of Synod, a path of solidarity, a journey together.

And it has been a journey and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say enough; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned:

- One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called today traditionalists and also of the intellectuals.

- The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the do-gooders, of the fearful, and also of the so-called progressives and liberals.

- The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).

- The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

- The temptation to neglect the depositum fidei [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them byzantinisms, I think, these things.

Dear brothers and sisters, the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted and even called Beelzebul (cf. Mt 12:24) His disciples should not expect better treatment.

Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard with joy and appreciation speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parresia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the supreme law, the good of souls (cf. Can. 1752). And this always we have said it here, in the Hall without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48).

And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on peoples wound; who doesnt see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of Gods mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

The is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.

Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.

And, as I have dared to tell you, [as] I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquillity, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all.

We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock to nourish the flock that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears, the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.

His duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, with words I cite verbatim: The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority which is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is he who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply. But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter to participate in his mission of taking care of God’s People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community, or, as the Council puts it, to see to it… that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6) and it is through us, Pope Benedict continues, that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them. St Augustine, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St John, says: let it therefore be a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord (cf. 123, 5); this is the supreme rule of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, like that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant (cf. St Augustine, Discourse 340, 1; Discourse 46, 15), gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope (cf. ibid., Epistle, 95, 1).

So, the Church is Christ’s, she is His bride and all the bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter, have the task and the duty of guarding her and serving her, not as masters but as servants. The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant: the servant of the servants of God; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being by the will of Christ Himself the supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful (Can. 749) and despite enjoying supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church (cf. Cann. 331-334).

Dear brothers and sisters, now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.

One year to work on the Synodal Relatio which is the faithful and clear summary of everything that has been said and discussed in this hall and in the small groups. It is presented to the Episcopal Conferences as lineamenta [guidelines].

May the Lord accompany us, and guide us in this journey for the glory of His Name, with the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint Joseph. And please, do not forget to pray for me! Thank you!

[Translation by Vatican Radio]

 

Suor Cristina Rocks Madonna

October 22, 2014

Suor Cristina Scuccia is an Italian nun who stunned Italy (and at one remove, the world) with her powerful singing voice.  (A Youtube playlist of her songs from the The Voice can be found here.)   She has now released her first single since winning the competition:  a cover of Madonna’s Like a Virgin:

The result is quite stunning, turning the song into an extended meditation on the singer’s own religious vocation.   The video juxtaposes Suor Cristina singing in ways that express rapturous prayer with images of the churches of Venice, reinforcing her Italian, Catholic identity.  (One of the things which made her such a success was that even while belting out rock and pop tunes, she never pretended to be other than she was:  a nun in a sensible habit who took her faith and her vocation seriously.)  It both captures the raw sexuality of the original while at the same time transforming and spiritualising it. Read more…

Give to God what is His

October 19, 2014

Vox Nova is pleased to present another post by Kelly Wilson.


Twenty Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Isaiah 45:1, 4-6; I Thessalonians 1:1-5 & Matthew 22:15-21.

Caesar

Tax revolts likely were not far from the imagination of those surrounding Jesus. One such uprising had taken place in very recent memory and had been suppressed with brutality. That history makes the question posed to Jesus – is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor? – a particularly difficult one and Matthew interprets persons as looking to trap Jesus.

The Pharisees and Herodians feel they have cornered him; that, no matter how Jesus responds, he is finished: Come out against paying taxes to the emperor and trouble is coming when the Romans get wind of this but come out in favour and look like one collaborating with that occupying force and alienate those seeking liberation. Jesus, it seems, is not going to walk away from this question intact. Amazingly, with his clever response, he does.

Read more…

The ‘Culture War’ Trope in Catholic Discourse: Useful Construct or Dangerous Weapon?

October 18, 2014

Vox Nova is pleased to welcome the following guest post by reader Mike McG.


The terms ‘culture war’ and ‘culture warrior’ name very real tensions in both secular and religious domains. And yet I wonder if these phrases deepen the very polarization they seek to describe.

The terms came into common usage in the early 1990s with the publication of American sociologist James Davison Hunter’s Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America. The Pew Forum published an in-depth analysis of the book and the controversy it sparked. This analysis cites Hunter’s argument that “there was a battle raging between ‘traditionalists,’ who were committed to moral ideals inherited from the past, and ‘progressivists’ who idealized change and flexibility. These different worldviews, Hunter argued, were responsible for increasingly heated disputes over such issues as abortion, sexuality, education and the role of religious institutions in society. ‘Cumulatively, these debates concerning the wide range of social institutions amounted to a struggle over the meaning of America.’”

Note Hunter’s even-handed application of terms. He argued that warriors were well represented on both sides of contested issues. My read on current usage is that ‘culture warrior’ is no longer neutrally applied. Instead it is reserved, often with a derisive edge, for conservative activists. Much like ‘right wing,’ the epithet ‘culture warrior’ has morphed into a weapon in the culture war it was coined to describe.

Read more…

St. Augustine and the Synod on the Family

October 14, 2014

The Synod on the Family has been very much in the news lately, particularly with the release yesterday of the Relatio post disceptationem to the media.  This document deserves careful discussion, as does its reception by various parts of the Church and by the secular media. (Indeed, it made the front page of my local paper today!)  But very much related to the discussions about mercy, justice, gradualism and upholding Church teaching is the following passage from St. Augustine, which I found courtesy of the folks at the Daily Gospel Online:

Our Lord was an example of incomparable patience. He bore with a “devil” among his disciples even to his Passion (Jn 6,70). He said: “Let them grow together until the harvest lest you uproot the wheat when you pull out the weeds” (cf. Mt 13,29f.). As a symbol of the Church he preached that the net would bring back to shore, namely the end of the world, every kind of fish, both good and bad. And he made it known in various other ways, whether openly or in parables, that there would always be a mixture of good and bad. But nevertheless he stresses that we have to protect the Church’s discipline when he says: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother” (Mt 18,15)…

Yet today we see people who think of nothing but stern commandments, who order that troublemakers be reproved, « not giving what is holy to the dogs », « treating like the publicans » anyone who despises the Church, cutting off the scandalous member from the body (Mt 7,6 ; 18,17 ; 5,30). Their stormy zeal so troubles the Church that they pull out the weeds before their time and their blindness makes of them enemies of the unity of Jesus Christ…

Take care not to let these presumptuous thoughts enter our hearts, trying to separate ourselves from sinners so as not to be soiled by contact with them, wanting to form a band of pure and holy disciples. We will achieve nothing but breaking up our unity under the pretext of not associating with the wicked. To the contrary, let us remember the parables of Scripture, their inspired words, their striking examples, where we are shown that, until the end of the world and the day of judgement, the bad will always be mingled amongst the good in the church without their participation in the sacraments being harmful to the good so long as these latter have not played a part in their sins. (On Faith and works, ch. 3-5)

One Lone Individual

October 12, 2014

Vox Nova would like to welcome back Kelly Wilson who will be providing reflections on the weekly readings. 


Twenty Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Isaiah 25-6-10; Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20 & Matthew 22:1-14.

A parable, here, is told by Jesus which strikingly overlaps with one heard last week. Remember:

A landowner sends workers and, finally, his son, to tenants who abuse the workers and kill the son. Jesus asks: ‘What will the landowner do?’ Hearers respond: ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death’.

Jesus transitions from the setting of a vineyard to that of a wedding banquet. He begins – the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king – and the expectation is that God, in some way, will be reflected in the character of the king.

Read more…

A Riddle that Tickled my Funny Bone

October 9, 2014

Fr. William Grimm, a Maryknoll priest in Japan, framed an essay about Pope Francis with a riddle that set me laughing and that I have to share:

Q:  What are the three things God does not know?

A:  1) How wealthy are the Franciscans?

2) How many communities of religious sisters are there in the world?

3) What will the Jesuits do next?

In the spirit of the joke, please feel free to suggest alternative things that “God does not know”.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 885 other followers

%d bloggers like this: