October 5, 2023

Verbatim: Pope Francis' homily ahead of the Synod on Synodality


Pope Francis’ homily delivered in St. Peter’s Square ahead of the Oct. 4 opening of the Synod on Synodality.

Thinking of this celebration and particularly of you, dear brothers, who would become Cardinals, a text from the Acts of the Apostles came to mind. It is a fundamental text: the story of Pentecost, the baptism of the Church… But my thoughts were really drawn to one detail: the expression spoken by the Jews who “were dwelling in Jerusalem.” They said: We are “Parthians and Medes and Elamites”. ... This long list of peoples made me think of the Cardinals, who thanks be to God, are from all parts of the world, from the most diverse nations. ...

Meditating on this, I became aware of a kind of “surprise” hidden in this association of ideas, a surprise in which, with joy, I seemed to recognize the humour of the Holy Spirit, so to speak. ...

What is this “surprise”? Normally, we pastors, when we read the account of Pentecost, identify ourselves with the Apostles. It is natural to do so. Instead, those “Parthians, Medes, Elamites” etc., associated in my mind with the Cardinals, do not belong to the group of disciples. They are outside the Upper Room; they are part of the “crowd” that “gathered” upon hearing the noise of the rushing wind. The Apostles were “all Galileans,” while the people who gathered were “from every nation under Heaven,” just like the Bishops and Cardinals of our time.

This kind of role reversal gives us pause for thought and, when we look closely, it reveals an interesting perspective. It is a matter of applying to ourselves… the experience of those Jews who by a gift of God found themselves protagonists of the event of Pentecost, that is of the “baptism” by the Holy Spirit that gave birth to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church….

This word from the Acts of the Apostles makes us reflect that, before being “apostles,” before being priests, Bishops, Cardinals, we are “Parthians, Medes, Elamites” etc. And this should awaken awe and gratitude in us for having received the grace of the Gospel among our respective peoples of origin….And this came to us “in our language,” from the lips and the gestures of our grandparents and our parents, of catechists, priests and religious… Every one of us can remember concrete voices and faces. The faith is transmitted “in dialect.” Don’t forget this: the faith is transmitted in dialect, by mothers and grandmothers.

Indeed, we are evangelizers to the extent we cherish in our hearts the wonder and gratitude of having been evangelized, even of being evangelized, because this is really a gift always present, that must be continually renewed in our memories and in faith. Evangelizers who have been evangelized, not functionaries.

Brothers and sisters, dearest Cardinals, Pentecost — like the Baptism of each one of us — is not a thing of the past; it is a creative act that God continually renews. The Church… lives this ever-present mystery. She does not live “off of her name,” still less does she live off of an archeological patrimony, however precious and noble. The Church, and every baptized member, lives the today of God, through the action of the Holy Spirit. ...

From this reflection, drawn from a fruitful “surprise,” I would simply like to draw a consequence for you, brother Cardinals... I would like to express this with an image, that of the orchestra: the College of Cardinals is called to resemble a symphony orchestra, representing the harmony and synodality of the Church. …

A symphony thrives on the skillful composition of the timbres of different instruments: each one makes its contribution…Each sound must contribute to the common design. This is why mutual listening is essential…. The conductor of the orchestra is at the service of this kind of miracle…. his job is to help each person and the whole orchestra develop the greatest creative fidelity: fidelity to the work being performed, but also creative, able to give a soul to the score, to make it resonate in the here and now in a unique way….

Vatican City

Sept. 30, 2023

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