A guest post from Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, the English language assistant to the Holy See Press Office at the Vatican, and served as English-language spokesperson at the recent Synod of Bishops in Rome.
Thanks to all of you who took such interest in the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops and provided media coverage in different ways: print, electronic, television and radio. I did my best to try to respond to your many requests over the past three weeks. I appreciated very much the sensitivity and understanding you demonstrated in your coverage. I would simply like to remind you of some things I wrote over the past month regarding the Synod of Bishops.
1) This was a unique experience of a Synod in that it was extraordinary - a preparatory synod - for the major one that will take place next October also on the theme of the family. Therefore the process begun last fall with the questionnaire, followed by the past two weeks of Synod, continuing through the World Meeting of Families next September in Philadelphia and culminating in the 2015 Synod, offers the church many opportunities for deepening the reflections and thoughts that were shared over the past months. This Synod and its documents are works in progress. We have only just begun the process of synod: walking together.
2) One of the great gifts of the Second Vatican Council was the establishment of the Synod of Bishops 49 years ago. After 4 years of intense debate, hard work and newly formed friendships, solidarities and rich collaboration, the Fathers (participants) in Vatican II expressed their strong desire to then-Pope Paul VI (now Blessed Paul VI) to found the Synod of Bishops that would allow the teachings, spirit and dynamism of the Council to continue. In the normal course of history, the Synodal structure grew tired and lost some of its original dynamism. Pope Francis, building on the foundation of his predecessors, desired to reawaken the Synodal structure and allow it to deepen its roots in the Conciliar experience and spread its wings to lead the Church forward on her journey. Using the rich imagery of Pope Francis, I would like to think that the recent Extraordinary Synod was a golden opportunity to take the Synodal structure out of the Intensive Care Unit (some thought it was Palliative Care) of the great Field Hospital of the Church and return it to the General patient wing of the Field Hospital we call Church!
3) The lenses through which we can best understand what just took place in Rome are the masterful texts of Pope Francis: his homily at the opening mass of the Synod on October 5, his opening address to the Synodal Assembly on Monday October 6, his amazing concluding address to the Synod on Saturday October 18 and the very moving homily at the Synod's concluding mass on Sunday, October 19, 2014.
4) Rather than be overly concerned with the smaller picture of normal, synodal intrigues, details and minutiae that are part and parcel of any gathering when human beings (especially Church people!) come together, I encourage you to take the wide angle view of what has just transpired at the Vatican, and what will continue to take place around the world as the Synod Fathers and participants bring home their documents, stories, hopes, dreams, frustrations and desires for the Church and for the world.
5) The Synodal adventure and drama continues and offers to the entire world a great story. It is a work in progress. Thank you for helping us to tell the story, and even better, to become part of it. What has taken place here in Rome these past weeks not only relates to Catholic Christians, but to all men and women of good will who seek to leave the world a better place, and who recognize that the future of humanity passes through the family, in all that family means for us today.
Allow me conclude by quoting from Pope Francis' homily at yesterday's mass of Beatification for Pope Paul VI, the author of the Synod of Bishops:
"On this day of the Beatification of Pope Paul VI, I think of the words with which he established the Synod of Bishops: by carefully surveying the signs of the times, we are making every effort to adapt ways and methods to the growing needs of our time and the changing conditions of society (Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio Apostolica Sollicitudo)."