Delivering an ‘intervention’ in the final week of the 16th General Assembly of the Synod on Synodality, Pope Francis described the Church as God’s faithful people, infallible in belief.
“I like to think of the Church as this simple and humble people walking in the Lord’s presence (the faithful people of God),” he said.
“This is the religious sense of our faithful people. And I say faithful people so as not to fall into the many ideological perspectives and models with which the reality of the people of God is ‘reduced’.
“Simply the faithful people, or also, ‘the holy, faithful people of God’ on the way, holy and sinful. And this is the Church.
“One of the characteristics of this faithful people is its infallibility…when you want to know what Holy Mother Church believes, go to the Magisterium because its task is to teach it to you. But when you want to know how the Church believes, go to the faithful people.
“Our faithful people have an awareness of their dignity, baptising their children, burying their dead.”
Warning against “machismo and dictatorial attitudes” he said it was “painful to find in some parish offices the ‘price list’ for sacramental services, similar to a supermarket”.
“Either the Church is the faithful people of God on the way, holy and sinful, or it ends up being a business offering a variety of services,” Pope Francis said.
“And when pastoral ministers take this second path, the Church ends up being the supermarket of salvation, and priests mere employees of a multinational company.
“This is the great defeat to which clericalism leads us with great sorrow and scandal. It is enough to go into the ecclesiastial tailor shops in Rome to see the scandal of young priests trying on cassocks and hats, or albs and lace robes.
“Clericalism is a thorn, it is a scourge, it is a form of worldliness that defiles and damages the face of the Lord’s bride; it enslaves the holy, faithful people of God.”
The Pope’s address came as the Synod released a ‘Letter to the People of God’, thanking them for their prayers and participation in the consultation process.
‘Together, in the complementarity of our vocations, our charisms and our ministries, we have listened intensely to the Word of God and the experience of others,’ the letter said.
‘Using the conversation in the Spirit method, we have humbly shared the wealth and poverty of our communities from every continent, seeking to discern what the Holy Spirit wants to say to the Church today.
‘Our assembly took place in the context of a world in crisis, whose wounds and scandalous inequalities resonated painfully in our hearts, infusing our work with a particular gravity, especially since some of us come from countries where war rages.
‘When homeless people near St Peter’s Square were asked about their expectations regarding the Church on the occasion of this synod, they replied: ‘Love!’ This love must always remain the ardent heart of the Church, a Trinitarian and Eucharistic love…
‘And now? We hope that the months leading to the second session in October 2024 will allow everyone to concretely participate in the dynamism of missionary communion indicated by the word ‘synod’.
‘This is not about ideology, but about an experience rooted in the apostolic tradition.’
The letter stressed the importance of listening to ‘those who have been denied the right to speak in society or who feel excluded, even by the Church’ and to those who have been victims of abuse committed by clergy.
It referred to victims of racism and indigenous peoples whose cultures have been scorned.
Adelaide First Nations leader John Lochowiak, who is chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council, was one of only four lay Australian Catholics invited to participate in the month-long Synod.
He met and chatted with Pope Francis several times during the proceedings, using those opportunities to encourage him to visit Australia.
“We talked about the Synod and the Church being more connected to community…he asked about the referendum,” Mr Lochowiak said.
“I tried to talk him into coming to Australia.
“He’s a truly spiritual man, a saint – caring, intelligent and happy!”
At the conclusion of the first session of the Synod, a 42-page Synthesis Report was published. It provides reflections and proposals on topics such as the role of women and the laity, the ministry of bishops, priesthood and the diaconate, the importance of the poor and migrants, digital mission, ecumenism, and abuse.
The report will go back to local churches around the world for further consideration and ahead of the next session.
About 5000 people attended the closing Mass for the Synod on Synodality’s first assembly in
St Peter’s Basilica on October 29.
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