Nuncio of American Bishops: Synodality, Discernment Lead to Action in Concrete Situations


Addressing the American bishops at their General Assembly in Baltimore on Tuesday, Bishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, spoke of the importance of synodality in facing the challenges facing the nation and the Church, in openness to the Holy Spirit.

By Robin Gomes

Synodality does not imply changing the “traditional truths of Christian doctrine”; rather, it is “how the teaching can be lived and applied in the changing contexts of our time” through apostolic discernment. The Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Bishop Christophe Pierre, provided an update on Tuesday at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), which is currently holding its General Assembly in Baltimore, Maryland, from November 15 to 18. He told them about synodality and the need for apostolic discernment.

While remaining faithful to the living Tradition of the Church, synodality, that is to say walking together, must bring about real reform through concrete actions involving the participation of the whole Church. The conversion, especially in our mentality, which the synodal process brings about leaves us in a better place, said Bishop Pierre.

He stressed that synodality helps provide responses to the challenges and confrontation that threatens to divide the United States and whose echoes are also being felt in the Church. Many are inadvertently involved in this confrontation, asserting themselves on the basis of certain truths which remain in the realm of ideas and do not apply to the experience of the faithful in concrete situations.

Pro-life issue

Speaking of the pro-life challenge, the nuncio said that “the Church must be resolutely pro-life” and must stand up for innocent human life and vulnerable people. In this regard, the synodal approach would seek to better understand why people seek to end pregnancies and make choices against life and to agree with concrete strategies to build the culture of life and civilization. of love.

Bishop Pierre welcomed the initiative Walk with moms in need, which seeks to put itself in the shoes of local pregnant women and their children in order to meet their needs, stressing that this is a synodal approach.

Idea vs reality

“Realities are more important than ideas,” the Apostolic Nuncio told American bishops, highlighting the practical Eucharistic experience of synodality. “We can have all the theological ideas about the Eucharist – and, of course, we need them – but none of these ideas compare to the reality of the Eucharistic Mystery, which must be discovered and rediscovered through experience. practice of the Church, to live in communion, especially in this time of pandemic. “

He said, “We can become so focused on the sacredness of the forms of the liturgy that we miss the true encounter with His Real Presence. There is the temptation to treat the Eucharist as something to offer to the privileged few rather than seeking to walk with those lacking in theology or discipleship, helping them understand and appreciate the gift of the Eucharist and by helping them overcome their difficulties. “

“Rather than remaining locked in an ‘ideology of the sacred’, synodality is a method which helps us to discover together a path to follow”, declared Mgr Pierre.

Addressing issues in synodality

Speaking of racial injustice in the United States, which all bishops condemn, he said the Church must instead respond in a tangible way to the lived reality that some members of society face on a daily basis. While stressing the need for a “Samaritan Church”, he also said that the Church itself needs to heal from the wounds inflicted by the crisis of abuse, the lingering effects of the pandemic and the polarization plaguing society. . He said that the Church must involve everyone in concrete action that mediates the presence of Christ in the human reality of our suffering world. According to the archbishop, “the way in which this concrete action is implemented is done through synodality”.

Synodality, he continued, is a way of living the faith permanently in dioceses, parishes, families and peripheries, involving all members of the Church in the mission of evangelization.

Pope Francis described synodality as “nothing other than the ‘together way’ of the flock of God on the paths of history towards the encounter with Christ the Lord,” which God expects from the Church of the third millennium.

The Holy Spirit in listening and discernment

Synodality involves listening, said Bishop Peter, which is more than just listening, as the Pope says. “A Church that listens and is close reflects God’s ‘style’ of“ closeness, compassion and tender love ”. Bishop Pierre added: “A Church that teaches must first of all be a Church that listens. It requires creativity to respond to the demands of our time, in fidelity to tradition, in openness to a deeper conversion to Christ.

Pope Francis emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit, who brings about conversion by speaking frankly and listening to others in a synodal process. When we pay attention to what the Spirit has to say to us and open ourselves to change and new possibilities, says the Pope, the Synod becomes an experience of conversion for all.

As an example, Bishop Peter cited the Second Vatican Council, where individual ideas, programs and plans were abandoned for something new and better to meet the challenges and signs of the times.

Advancing in unity implies patience and discernment, which is why communion is an integral part of the next Synod in October 2023. The true synodal path must be rooted in Tradition, with local bishops serving as guarantors of the Truth, walking along in communion with the Pope. , to meet Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Synodality led by God

Emphasizing that synodality is led by God, the nuncio in the United States emphasized charity, conversion, truth and salvation as the four dimensions of dialogue. “Our dialogue and our listening,” he said, must involve, not only speaking among ourselves – bishops, clergy, religious and lay people – but also listening to God – listening to what the Spirit has to do. to say. The Church in the United States needs this attentive listening more than ever if it is to overcome the polarization that afflicts the country.

Mission-oriented synodality

The synodal process must lead to missionary discipleship, the model of which, said the Nuncio, is the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Holy Spirit, who is at the heart of this ecclesial “together journey”, has eclipsed it. Mary and the Spirit “walk together” from the Annunciation to Pentecost.

In this regard, he shared a thought from Pope Francis, who said that when we are open to God in the midst of an apparent disagreement or deadlock, there is usually a breakthrough or “overflow” of the Holy Spirit, who “breaks the shores which have confined our thought, and brings forth, like from an overflowing fountain, the answers which formerly … did not allow us to see. It is about humbly listening to one another and the Spirit, and being open to what the Spirit has in store for us.

Common apostolic discernment

Bishop Peter also stressed the need for apostolic discernment in synodality, not walking alone, but relying on one another as brothers and sisters under the direction of the bishops, with the aim of serving the people through proclamation of the Gospel.

“Three phrases that help to understand discernment are: recognize; to interpret ; and choose, which have also been described as seeing, judging and acting. To face the situations and the difficulties of life, the dioceses need to form people and communities. by listening and recognizing the inner movements of the Spirit. Individuals, parishes and dioceses must learn to interpret and judge experiences in the light of the Spirit. In this task, involving the laity is not an abdication of authority but an invitation to shared responsibility. “

Common apostolic discernment requires integrating our reflections with those of the community or of our brother bishops. Through others, we might discover more clearly, if not perfectly, the will of God. In the synodal process, after having listened, prayed and carefully deliberated, the bishops must make decisions or take concrete actions, which is never an affirmation of power but a service to the Church.

“Listening to one another and to the Spirit and walking with our brothers and sisters,” said Bishop Pierre, “together we will emerge from current crises like the Church that Christ called us to be!


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