Pope opens Synod discussions: urges understanding and service

Pope Francis opens discussions at the Synod for the Amazon, reminding participants of the pastoral dimension of the gathering, and the need to focus on understanding and serving the people of the Amazon.

By Vatican News

The Synod for the Amazon opened with a procession from St Peter’s Basilica, out into the Square, through the Arch of the Bells, and into the Synod Hall. There, Pope Francis opened the proceedings with a discourse in Spanish in which he spoke of the Synod as having four dimensions: pastoral, cultural, social, and ecological.

The pastoral dimension of the Synod

The pastoral dimension, he said, is the essential dimension, “the one that embraces everything”. We need to approach this Synod “with a Christian heart and see the reality of Amazonia with the eyes of a disciple”. Only then, said the Pope, can we understand and interpret it.

The pastoral dimension allows us to consider the people of the Amazon “respecting their history, cultures, and way of living”. Because all peoples, continued the Pope, “have their own wisdom, awareness, their way of feeling, of seeing reality”.

Ideological colonization

Pope Francis warned of the ideological colonization that reduces or destroys the characteristics of a people. “Ideologies lead us to exaggerate in our attempt to understand intellectually, but without accepting”, he added. We reduce reality to categories or “-isms”. These become slogans that prejudice the way we approach a people.

The Pope gave the example of “civilization and barbarism” which only serves, he said, “to divide and annihilate” by qualifying people and putting a distance between us.

Feathers vs birettas

Pope Francis said he was “sad to hear the mocking comments” made about the indigenous man who carried the offerings at the Synod’s Opening Mass in St Peter’s Basilica on Sunday. The comments were about the feathers the man wore on his head.

“Tell me”, challenged the Pope, “what difference is there between wearing feathers on his head and the biretta” (the three-cornered hat) used by some officials in Vatican Departments?

Pragmatic vs paradigmatic

Pope Francis also warned of “proposing purely pragmatic measures” when we ought to think “in a paradigmatic way”, a perspective “that is born from the reality of peoples”.

“We have not come here to invent programs of social development”, continued the Pope, aimed at keeping cultures in a museum. We are here, he said, “to contemplate, to understand, to serve the people”.

The Holy Spirit protagonist of the Synod

We do this, continued Pope Francis, in Synod. “A Synod is not a parliament”, he explained, “it is not to demonstrate who has more power” or “who has the majority”. A Synod is “walking together under the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit”. The Holy Spirit is the protagonist of the Synod, said the Pope. He needs “to express Himself among us, with us, through us, and despite us”.

Humility and a sense of humour

Finally, Pope Francis urged participants to “reflect, dialogue, listen with humility… and speak with courage, with parrhesia”. To participate in the Synod is “to enter into a process”, he said, not just “to occupy space in the room”.

We need to be respectful, he added, and to be prudent in the way we communicate, not to spoil the Synod process by creating conflicting messages: “a Synod from the inside and a Synod from the outside”.

“And please”, concluded Pope Francis, “let’s not lose our sense of humor”.

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