Thursday, October 4, 2018

Synod on Youth III - Francis Speaks

Yesterday, Pope Francis inaugurated the Synod of Bishops on "Youth, Faith and Discernment of Vocations" by celebrating the Eucharist in St Peter's Square. Later in the synod hall, he presented his vision in a remarkable opening speech. My reflexion today limits itself to simply presenting of a few sentences from this speech centered on the idea of synodality.

- The Synod we are living is a moment of sharing. I wish, therefore, at the beginning of the Synod Assembly, to invite everyone to speak with courage and frankness (parrhesia), namely to integrate freedom, truth and charity. Only dialogue can help us grow.

- Humility in listening must correspond to courage in speaking. It is this listening that creates space for dialogue. 

- The Synod must be an exercise in dialogue, above all among those of you participating. The first fruit of this dialogue is that everyone is open to newness, to change their opinions thanks to what they have heard from others. 

- Let us feel free to welcome and understand others and therefore to change our convictions and positions: this is a sign of great human and spiritual maturity.

- The Synod is an ecclesial exercise in discernment. Discernment is not an advertising slogan, it is not an organizational technique, or a fad of this pontificate, but an interior attitude rooted in an act of faith. 

- Discernment is the method and at the same time the goal we set ourselves: it is based on the conviction that God is at work in world history, in life’s events, in the people I meet and who speak to me.

- Discernment needs space and time. This attention to interiority is the key to accomplishing the work of recognizing, interpreting and choosing.

- This Synod has the opportunity, the task and the duty to be a sign of a Church that really listens, that allows herself to be questioned by the experiences of those she meets, and who does not always have a ready-made answer.

- It is therefore necessary, on the one hand, to decisively overcome the scourge of clericalism. Clericalism arises from an elitist and exclusivist vision of vocation, that interprets the ministry received as a power to be exercised rather than as a free and generous service to be given. This leads us to believe that we belong to a group that has all the answers and no longer needs to listen or learn anything. 

- Clericalism is a perversion and is the root of many evils in the Church: we must humbly ask forgiveness for this and above all create the conditions so that it is not repeated.

- May the Synod awaken our hearts! The present moment, and this applies also to the Church, appears to be laden with struggles, problems, burdens. But our faith tells us that it is also the moment in which the Lord comes to meet us in order to love us and call us to the fullness of life.

- The Synod’s purpose: to plant dreams, draw forth prophecies and visions, allow hope to flourish, inspire trust, bind up wounds, weave together relationships, awaken a dawn of hope, learn from one another, and create a bright resourcefulness that will enlighten minds, warm hearts, give strength to our hands, and inspire in young people – all young people, with no one excluded – a vision of the future filled with the joy of the Gospel.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Synod on youth II - The Importance of the Preparatory Phase

Yesterday, I wrote of the challenge of achieving truly effective synodality in the Church, synodality that would allow all members to listen to each other as they discern together the paths the Spirit is showing us. Of course, in this process of discernment, bishops and pope have a special role to play: that of ensuring that this discernment is always faithful to the Gospel and to the living Tradition that interprets and enriches it over the years. centuries.

In this perspective, Pope Francis has recently renewed the legislation surrounding the Synod of Bishops, as well as its bylaws (which were published this morning). He seeks renewal in continuity: he did not shake everything up but adjusted aspects of the process in order to free up a space of mutual listening and collective discernment that should typify any synodal process.

To do this, he strengthened the framework surrounding the preparatory consultation for the synod. In the past, this consultation was primarily aimed at the bishops of the world who were invited to give their opinion on the chosen theme. Above all, it was an "episcopal" approach. In theory, it was open to wider consultation but most often remained a matter for bishops.

From now on, the synod will be integrated in a longer process of reflection, of speaking and listening by all the people of God. We had our first experience of this approach during the special assembly of Synod on Marriage and the Family in 2014. This time, the method having been honed, the consultation was even more dynamic and richer.

  • An online questionnaire allowed thousands of young people to share their experiences and express their views on the Church.
  • In dioceses, bishops listened to young people. I myself attended a interesting session that allowed me to listen to students and young workers share their anxieties, their hopes and their thirst for God.
  • The bishops of Quebec organized a 48-hour mini-forum with young people representing the entire territory.
  • In Rome, an important pre-synodal gathering of young people from all over the world helped develop a document that largely inspired the working instrument of the present synod.

Thus, the month-long meeting that will be inaugurated tomorrow in Rome will not begin from scratch. An impressive work of consultation and reflection has preceded it.

Likewise, in the Archdiocese of Gatineau, the Diocesan Pastoral Council wanted a broad consultation to enable us to accurately paint the portrait of our parish and community reality, to express our hopes and fears and to surface the questions that we need to study. We will also publish an online questionnaire (starting October 11th) so that everyone can express their point of view. Focus groups will be organized to listen to the voices of those who might not otherwise be heard. Meetings will be held in all parishes in October and November to gather the convictions and questions of all the faithful.

The Synod of bishops in Rome ... our own diocesan synodal process in Gatineau ... these are signs that the Church want to listen to the Spirit who through the communities and in the hearts of all the baptized.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Synod on Youth I - The Challenge of Synodality

This Wednesday, Pope Francis will preside at the opening mass of the fifteenth synodal assembly of bishops since the founding of the synod more than fifty years ago. The theme of this meeting is "Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment". It will last three and a half weeks until Sunday, October 28th.

During this time, I will try to share with you regularly my reflections on this major event in the life of the Church. I will do so thinking of the diocesan synodal process that I recently announced and which will be inaugurated on Thursday, October 11 on the occasion of the feast of Mary, Mother of the Church, patron of our Archdiocese of Gatineau.

Although the theme of the synod of bishops and that of our diocesan synodal process differ significantly, the approach that the bishops will follow may inspire ours. In this regard, I draw your attention to the effort made by Pope Francis to make the Synod of Bishops more ... synodal.

This may seem paradoxical: is not the synod of bishops, by its very nature, synodal? Is it not the perfect example of what is meant by the expression “a synodal Church”?

In fact, many bishops who have participated in the synods of recent decades have complained about the method and spirit that seemed to prevail there. Some felt that everything was settled in advance, that they did not have the right to raise certain issues or to propose certain solutions. The preparatory consultations were rather superficial and limited; the working papers abounded in generalizations and commonplaces.

Francis started changing this situation with the two synodal assemblies on marriage of 2014 and 2015. The first assembly, labelled as extraordinary, gathered a smaller group than usual: a hundred bishops from across the world (presidents of episcopal conferences) plus the cardinals of the curia. This first assembly "prepared" the second by clarifying issues and suggesting ways to move forward. It itself was preceded by a vast consultation of the people of God, explicitly desired by the pope. At the first session of this special assembly, he invited the participants to speak openly, with courage and conviction ... and to listen with humility and attention. In other words, he sought to free up the participants’ interventions.

During the second synodal assembly on marriage, we celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of this institution. (I had the grace of attending both Synodal Assemblies as President of the CCCB and then as a delegate of the Canadian Episcopate.) On this occasion, Pope Francis shared his vision of the synod.

Here are some key phrases from this speech:

  • A synodal Church is a Church which listens, which realizes that listening “is more than simply hearing”. It is a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn. The faithful people, the college of bishops, the Bishop of Rome: all listening to each other, and all listening to the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of truth” (Jn 14:17), in order to know what he “says to the Churches” (Rev 2:7).
  • For Blessed Paul VI, the Synod of Bishops was meant to reproduce the image of the Ecumenical Council and reflect its spirit and method. Pope Paul foresaw that the organization of the Synod could “be improved upon with the passing of time”. Twenty years later, Saint John Paul II echoed that thought when he stated that “this instrument might be further improved. Perhaps collegial pastoral responsibility could be more fully expressed in the Synod”. We must continue along this path.
  • It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium.
  • The sensus fidei prevents a rigid separation between an Ecclesia docens and an Ecclesia discens, since the flock likewise has an instinctive ability to discern the new ways that the Lord is revealing to the Church.

Let me explain this last sentence. The sensus fidei is the intuitive flair of believers for what, in life and in history, corresponds to the Gospel or, on the contrary, contradicts it. It is a collective flair shared by women and men who follow Jesus and open themselves to his Spirit. Bishops and priests cannot monopolize this flair or pretend to dictate it: their role is to discern it, to recognize how the Spirit speaks to the Church today through its members.

Pope Francis affirms that this sense of faith, shared by all the faithful, prevents us from seeing the Church as being composed of two groups: a first (the clergy) in charge of teaching (the Ecclesia docens) and a second (the laity) whose role is to listen and obey (Ecclesia discens). On the contrary, the clergy must listen to the Spirit who speaks to the Church in the life of the laity. This conviction brings about a radical change in how to discern the voice of the Spirit in the Church. This change, desired and encouraged by Francis and many bishops, causes great resistance in others: hence the interest of following this new synod, whatever its theme.

In my next comment, I will examine how Pope Francis framed these principles in the new legislation for the synods of bishops published recently under the title of Episcopalis communio. I will show how this new legislation already informs this fifteenth assembly of bishops. And I will indicate how his principles also inspire the synodal process that we are undertaking in our own archdiocese of Gatineau.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

My Easter Message for 2018

Intolerance. This, according to experts, was the main theme covered in Quebec media during 2017. 

“It has had an effect on all the news,” according to Jean-François Dumas, president of Influence Communication. In an interview, he commented that “in 2016, fear was the key theme in the media; in 2017, intolerance was the recurring theme in Quebec news.”

Intolerance. It fuels wars, gives rise to persecutions, holds onto grudges. It divides families, communities and peoples. It assaults, hurts and kills.

Jesus died on the cross, a victim of intolerance. Leaders of that time could not tolerate the interest he garnered, the message he proclaimed, or his actions which spoke so powerfully. They could have entered into dialogue with him. They could have tried to understand him. It was easier to just get rid of him.

And yet, Jesus did not close the door on anyone. He engaged with people in authority like Nicodemus and with regular folk like the Samaritan woman. He visited the rich like Zacchaeus and Simon and shared table fellowship with the poor like Lazarus, Mary and Martha. As they nailed him to the cross, he prayed that his executioners would be forgiven.

“Love your enemies,” he said, and “do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6, 27–31)

Jesus did not only call for tolerance, but for love. He not only welcomed the other, he set out to encounter the other. How different the world would be if we put his teaching into practice, if we followed his example.

In a world marked by intolerance and by fear of the other, the resurrection of Jesus shines like a beacon which shows us a path of openness and trust. The God of Jesus Christ does not differentiate between us, he welcomes us all as his beloved children. Let us then live as brothers and sisters. 

May 2018 be a year characterized not only by tolerance, but by a spirit of welcoming, deep respect and fruitful dialogue.

A blessed Easter to all.

+ Paul-André Durocher