Pope Francis: Synod on Synodality’s primary task ‘to refocus our gaze on God’
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis opened the Synod on Synodality’s three-week assembly on Wednesday, with a call to remember that the Church exists to bring Jesus to the world and should face today’s challenges with a gaze fixed on God rather than “political calculations or ideological battles.”
Speaking in St. Peter’s Square for the synod’s opening Mass on Oct. 4, Pope Francis underlined that “the primary task of the synod” is to “refocus our gaze on God, to be a Church that looks mercifully at humanity.”
“We do not want to make ourselves attractive in the eyes of the world, but to reach out to it with the consolation of the Gospel, to bear witness to God’s infinite love in a better way and to everyone,” he said.
The pope presided over Mass on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, concelebrated by nearly 500 priests, bishops and cardinals, including 20 of the Catholic Church’s newest cardinals.
Recalling the Lord’s words to St. Francis, “Go, rebuild my Church,” Pope Francis said that the synod serves as a reminder that “our Mother the Church is always in need of purification, of being ‘repaired,’ for we are a people made up of forgiven sinners … always in need of returning to the source that is Jesus and putting ourselves back on the paths of the Spirit to reach everyone with his Gospel.”
Pope Francis highlighted a question raised by Pope Benedict XVI at the 2012 Synod of Bishops as the “fundamental question” facing the synod: “‘The question for us is this: God has spoken, he has truly broken the great silence, he has shown himself, but how can we communicate this reality to the people of today, so that it becomes salvation?’”
Pope Francis repeated that the synod is not “a political gathering” or a “polarized parliament” but “a place of grace and communion.”
“Dear brother cardinals, brother bishops, sisters and brothers, we are at the opening of the General Assembly of the Synod. Here we do not need a purely natural vision, made up of human strategies, political calculations, or ideological battles. We are not here to carry out a parliamentary meeting or a plan of reformation. No. We are here to walk together with the gaze of Jesus, who blesses the Father and welcomes those who are weary and oppressed,” he said.
The 9 a.m. Mass began under bright sunshine and a soft breeze with a procession through St. Peter’s Square of the delegates in the XVI Ordinary Synod of Bishops, which for the first time includes laymen and women as full voting members.
The synod delegates will meet in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall Oct. 4-29 to advise the pope on the theme: “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission.” The three-week assembly is the first of the two-part Synod on Synodality that will conclude in 2024.
The Prayer of the Faithful included a prayer that the Lord will “grant those participating in the work of the synod hearts open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, a readiness to listen to their brothers and sisters, and concern for the needs of the Church in today’s world.”
In his homily, Pope Francis outlined his vision for a synodal Church, saying Jesus wants “a Church that is united and fraternal … that listens and dialogues … that blesses and encourages, that helps those who seek the Lord, that lovingly stirs up the indifferent, that opens paths in order to draw people into the beauty of faith … that has God at its center and, therefore, is not divided internally and is never harsh externally.”
Following the Mass, the synod delegates will take part in the First General Congregation of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, where Pope Francis, Cardinal Mario Grech, and Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich will give opening speeches.