This morning was dedicated to protocol and formalities. The Synod Hall was full: nearly 270 'fathers' of the Synod (most of them bishops, a few major superiors of priestly congregations), on top of 14 fraternal delegates (representing other Churches and Christian communities), 24 experts and 51 auditors (of which there are 17 married couples).
After the opening prayer, the Pope spoke to us. In a brief but powerful talk, he reminded us that the Synod is a journey that encourages wisdom and openness, centred on the good of the Church, the family, and the salvation of souls. It's not a parliament, but rather the visible expression of the journeying Church reflecting on the possibilities of faithfulness to the deposit of the faith in today's context. According to the Pope, the Synod walks forward in the midst of God's People, whose pastors and servants we are. It is a protected space, where the Spirit can speak to us through the voices of those who are open to the God of surprises, the God who created the Law as a gift for the fulfillment of human beings. One condition is necessary for its success: that we be clothed in apostolic courage, humility and prayer. Courage will allow us to bring God's life to others, sharing our convictions and the reasons for our hope. Humility will allow us to listen to others without feeling ourselves superior to them. Prayer will open a space of silence where the voice of God can echo in our hearts. It's not about negociating our way to a consensus, but about listening to the voice of God so that GOD might enlighten us and be our guide.
Cardinal Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod, then gave a report about the work that was accomplished by the secretariate as it prepared our meeting.
Cardinal Erdo, relator general, presented a magisterial speech, quiet classic in style in content, in which he gave his analysis of the questions that face us. I very much liked his introduction, where he recalled the passage in the Gospel of Mark (chapter 6, verse 34) when Jesus comes across a crowd: he looks at these people, is moved with compassion for them, then teaches them at length. The three actions of Jesus structure our own three-part working document: first, we are invited to look at the world which surrounds us; then, we bring to mind the Good News of God's compassion for families; finally, we consider our own role in journeying with and renewing our families.
By the way, readers of this blog who want to follow my comments more closely would find an advantage in having a copy of our working document at hand. You can find it at : http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/synod/documents/rc_synod_doc_20150623_instrumentum-xiv-assembly_en.html#
After lunch, we started listening to the individual comments of bishops concerning the first part of the working document. These interventions each last three minutes and must concern a particular paragraph of the text, according to the will of the bishop. Il will be presenting my comment tomorrow. It will be focused on the role of women.
Our last hour, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., was given over to 'free' interventions. A few voices were heard, regretting the purely anecdotic or sociological style of the first section. It presents the challenges that couples and families face today, but in a rather dry and objective manner. I suggested to the group that we might work in our small groups to give this section a bit of 'breath', as we try to see these elements with the eyes of faith. We'll see where that suggestions goes..
This has been a long first day, starting with Mass at 7:00 a.m. here at the Casa Romana del Clero where I'll be living for the next three weeks. I'm starting to fall asleep as I write this, so I'm heading off to bed, thinking of all you and carrying you in my prayers. Good night!