ORLANDO, Fla. (OSV News) – At the assembly of U.S. Catholic bishops in June, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the papal representative in the United States, laid out the Vatican’s case on how the adoption of synodality – with Jesus Christ as their “true north” – can help bishops carry out the Church’s mission of evangelization among their people. And he said that the American bishops already have examples of synodality at work among them and in their local churches.
“The purpose of walking this synodal path is to make our evangelization more effective in the context of the precise challenges we face today,” Archbishop Pierre said in his June 15 address.
The archbishop referred to Pope Francis’ homily opening the synod nearly two years ago, remarking that “synodality” is a way of being Church following the example of Jesus Christ. He listed three main paths: “encounter with the Lord and with each other”; to listen to people, in particular to the religious and existential concerns that underlie their questions; and “discerning with them” what change is needed “to live a more abundant life.”
The Apostolic Nuncio challenged the bishops to ask themselves the following questions: “Do we know what the real needs of our people are? Through our encounters with others, how have we been changed? What have we discerned? What old methods should be abandoned and what new methods should we adopt to move forward? Are we ready to give our people the knowledge we have acquired? »
Synodality, he explained, “is a way of being Church that allows us to discern the path to which the Spirit of God calls us.”
The papal nuncio acknowledged that this way of being Church “can be a challenge for us” and that many bishops may still struggle to understand what synodality is or have concerns about the unknown.
Bishop Pierre assured the American bishops that synodality “is not a new ‘program’; nor is it a disguise for a plan to change church doctrine.
Bishop Pierre explained that “Jesus Christ and his kingdom are the ‘true north’,” but the Church can only find its own way when bishops “immerse themselves in the reality of our people and listen carefully to the questions and the concerns of their hearts. ”
“Like Christ himself, we must go on a mission to the world with an openness to find out what is really there – not just imposing what we already know,” he said. To do this, Bishop Pierre continued, “requires closeness to the one we meet.”
The church must “engage with the real experiences of people,” he said. In this way, he added, “if they ‘come to church’ to meet Christ, it will be because Christ came to them first. Let us therefore be ambassadors of Christ.
The Archbishop explained that “listening in order to unite” is at the heart of synodality and can both serve to overcome Church polarization and, like the first gathering of bishops in the Acts of Apostles, “to build us up as a Church and to equip us for mission” through the Holy Spirit.
“This present gathering is an opportunity to be the kind of church we are called to be: to come together, to listen to one another and to listen to the Holy Spirit, and to let our differences not divide us but enrich and strengthen our unity,” he said.
“It is only through courageous and humble synodal unity that we as bishops will be fully equipped to apply divine power to the issues that weigh heavily on our people today,” he said.
Bishop Pierre also said that bishops can recognize examples of synodality that have already taken place: the work of Catholic charities, the Fifth National Meeting of Hispanic/Latino Ministry (V Encuentro), and “the many small popular apostolates that have seen the day in your dioceses and parishes, offering things like family formation, spiritual accompaniment and social bonds for marginalized and misunderstood people.
“My purpose in highlighting these few examples is to show that the call to synodality should not seem to us something unknown or seem like an impossible burden,” he said. “Important work within the Church has already taken place on a synodal path.”
He also pointed to the late Auxiliary Bishop David G. O’Connell of Los Angeles, who was found shot dead in his home in February, as “a model of synodal service, combined with Eucharistic charity.”
“Here is a shepherd who immersed himself in the reality of his sheep, who walked with them, and was with them to find a way, no matter how difficult their situation,” the archbishop said, because “he has followed the compass that always pointed him to Christ.
Referring to Eucharistic renewal, the Archbishop stressed that the Eucharist is “a sacrament for mission.”
“Teaching the doctrine of real presence, promoting Eucharistic adoration and taking Our Lord in procession: these initiatives will undoubtedly bear fruit in the lives of the faithful,” he said. “But the fruit will only multiply if the faithful learn that the Eucharist they receive is destined to make them missionaries.”
Finally, Bishop Pierre called on bishops to be open to recognizing where “walls” once erected to protect the faith may in fact prevent, rather than safeguard, the spread of the Gospel.
“Have we exhausted all the new ‘zeal’, ‘methods’ and ‘expressions’ that John Paul II said we would need for the new evangelization? “, he said. “If we are to love our fellow human beings ‘until the end’, we must allow the presence of Christ to bring us through all the walls that prevent us from bringing peace to his people.”
The full text of Bishop Christophe Pierre’s speech is linked here: https://www.usccb.org/resources/June%202023-Archbishop%20Christophe%20Pierre.pdf
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