Last Sunday, Pope Francis addressed the participants of the Ecclesial Assembly of Latin America and the Caribbean, gathered in Mexico City, with the desire "to promote a Church in synodal outreach, to revive the spirit of the V General Conference of the Episcopate which, in Aparecida in 2007, called us to be missionary disciples, and to encourage hope, glimpsing on the horizon the Guadalupan Jubilee in 2031 and the Jubilee of the Redemption in 2033"..
In its MessageThe Pontiff thanked everyone for their presence at this Assembly, "which is a new expression of the Latin American and Caribbean face of our Church, in harmony with the preparatory process for the XVI General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which has as its theme: 'Latin America and the Caribbean,'" he said. For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission".
On the basis of these keys that "vertebrate and orient synodality", the Pope exhorted "to take into account two words in a special way in this journey that you are making together: listening and overflow". And he briefly explained their meaning.
On "listening", he affirmed: "The dynamism of ecclesial assemblies is in the process of listening, dialogue and discernment". "The exchange facilitates listening to the voice of God to the point of listening with him to the cry of the people, and listening to the people to the point of breathing in them the will to which God calls us." "I ask you," the Pope added, "to seek to listen to one another and to hear the cries of our poorest and most forgotten brothers and sisters."
Regarding the "overflow", the Holy Father pointed out that "community discernment requires much prayer and dialogue in order to find God's will together, and it also requires finding ways to overcome differences so that they do not become divisions and polarizations.
In this process, I ask the Lord that your Assembly may be an expression of the "overflow" of the creative love of his Spirit, who urges us to go out fearlessly to meet others, and who encourages the Church to become ever more evangelizing and missionary through a process of pastoral conversion".
The Pontiff thus encouraged everyone to live these days "welcoming with gratitude and joy this call to the overflowing of the Spirit in the faithful People of God on pilgrimage in Latin America and the Caribbean".
Numerous Cardinals and Archbishops
Thousands of participants took part in the Ecclesial Assembly, some in person and others online. You can see here a guide to the Assembly in a popular version. The presence of cardinals from the Vatican Curia and other cardinals and archbishops from Latin America and elsewhere was notable.
Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America; Mario Grech, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops; the Honduran Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga; the Peruvian Pedro Barreto, President of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM); the Archbishop of Luxembourg, Jean Claude Hollerich, President of the Bishops' Conferences of Europe; the Archbishop of Bombay, Oswald Gracias; the Burmese Archbishop Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, President of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences; the Burmese Charles Maung Bo, President of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences; and, of course, the Archbishop of Bombay, Oswald Gracias; Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay; the Burmese Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, President of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences; naturally Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos, President of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM), and also the Secretary of the Dicastery for Communication, Monsignor Lucio Ruiz, among other prelates, together with the Secretary General of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, Rodrigo Guerra.
Listening to the Holy Spirit
"What is the dream of a synodal Church? A new fad? A communication strategy? An ideology disguised as a pastoral program? A method for the missionary conversion of the Church?" With these questions, Cardinal Marc Ouellet began by explaining in his intervention that beyond the questions and doubts that may arise about Pope Francis' dream of a synodal Church, the reality is very simple.
"The Pope believes in the Holy Spirit," the cardinal noted, and "wants us to learn to listen to him better at all levels of the Church, from the last neighborhood of the great metropolises of Latin America to the top of the college of pastors, passing through parishes, universities, associations, peasants, popular, cultural and social movements, etc."
According to the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Ouellet, "the central point is to listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to each and everyone with attention, "without haste, without preconceived ideas or prejudices, without inducing at the moment of consultation what we would like to promote as a model of the Church," Vatican News reported.
In this sense, the President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America emphasized that the Pope hopes that, from the experience of faith, "we can all contribute to renew our hearts, our pastoral care and our structures so that the Church may live more and more in accordance with the style of Jesus.
Dimensions of the Synodal Church
The Vatican Cardinal also emphasized the three dimensions of a synodal Church, which Pope Francis has outlined to guide us in listening to the Holy Spirit. They are communion, participation and mission.
"Participation means awakening faith, so that we all set out on a journey, that we go to Jesus, that we meet Mary at her Cross, that we gather in the Cenacle to commune in his Body and Blood, that we go out into the streets to bear witness to his resurrection and to proclaim the wonders of his Spirit of new and eternal Life, the Life of the Risen One shared and celebrated in our baptism," said Cardinal Ouellet.
Before concluding, the Cardinal congratulated CELAM for the effort made in organizing this Assembly in times of pandemic, in which the figure of the Virgin Mary plays a fundamental role, beyond popular devotion, since, he added, "the Synodal Church in Latin America will be Marian or it will not be".
"I do not say this out of mere devotion," he added, "I say it because of the facts that impose us to think about the future of Latin America in the light of the Marian path of our churches throughout the centuries. The experience of St. Juan Diego in meeting the Virgin of Guadalupe, in bringing good news to Bishop Zumárraga, and in the end, in being available to build communion and reconciliation; educates us in the true synodality that can renew the Church", he concluded.
Relationship between synodality and mission
Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, highlighted the enormous value of deepening the link between synodality and mission. "These two dimensions of the Church can be one of the most significant contributions of this Assembly and of the synodal journey of our Church," he said.
Taking into account the history of this Assembly and citing the phases of Medellin, Puebla, Santo Domingo and Aparecida, "as the stages of a post-conciliar journey, in which the Churches of Latin America and the Caribbean have lived an extraordinary experience of ecclesial communion", Cardinal Grech underlined the approach of pastoral conversion promoted also by the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium.
"This event represents an expression of the pastoral vision of Pope Francis. This Assembly also represents a bridge between the Synod on Amazonia - Dear Amazonia as a truly transformative experience for its region and the Synod on Synodality. They are explicitly connected through the periphery-center approach and the Ecclesiology of the People of God," the Cardinal added.
In his opinion, there is a close relationship between synodality and mission. "These are two constitutive dimensions of the Church, which - precisely because they are constitutive - stand or fall together. Try to think of the mission scenario of a non-synodal Church; a Church in which we do not walk together, we do not proceed in any particular order, each claiming the right to mission," he specified.
Cardinal Grechcitó also to Pope Francis in the Evangelii gaudium (nn. 115 and 117), to underline the idea of "translating the one Gospel of Christ in the Latin American style". This "will not threaten the unity of the Church," he said, but will enrich it, "showing that Tradition is not a unison chant or a melodic line of a single voice, but a symphony, where every voice, every register, every vocal timbre enriches the one Gospel, sung in an infinite possibility of variations," the official Vatican agency reported.