Synodality means communion,
not ‘populism,’ pope says

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY — Synodality is not a reorganization of church structures but rather a path of ecclesial communion that seeks to open minds and hearts to the will of the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis said.

In a video message to members of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America May 26, the pope said synodality does not imply “a more or less democratic, much less a ‘populist’ way, of being a church. These are deviations.”

“Synodality is the dynamic dimension, the historical dimension of ecclesial communion founded on the Trinitarian communion, which, appreciating simultaneously the ‘sensus fidei’ of all God’s holy faithful people, apostolic collegiality and unity with the Successor of Peter, must animate the conversion and reform of the church at every level.”

The commission members were meeting in Rome May 24-27 to discuss the theme of synodality, which is also the theme of the next Synod of Bishops.

The pope said he believes the pastoral reality in Latin America is one in which “synodality took root a long time ago.”

Recalling the rise of liberation theology in Latin America, “which played a lot with Marxist analysis,” the pope noted that early published works emphasized its Latin American roots but “almost 80% of the notes were written in German.”

“They did not have the slightest idea. It was an ideological interpretation of what is a grounded Latin American path. And I say ‘grounded’ because Latin American spirituality is tied to the earth and cannot be separated from it.”

But to face the pastoral and social problems today, he added, the church must “relearn to walk together” and in doing so, “it is always important to maintain an incomplete way of thinking.”

“I am allergic to thoughts that are already complete and closed,” the pope said.

The Holy Spirit, he said, can inspire true change only when “our thoughts are incomplete; when they are complete, it doesn’t work.”

“When someone is a know-it-all, the gift cannot be received. When we think we know everything, the gift does not educate us because it cannot enter our hearts,” he said. “In other words, there is nothing more dangerous for synodality than thinking that we know everything, that we understand everything, that we control everything.”

As part of the Roman Curia, the Pontifical Commission for Latin America has an important role in helping to “remove us a little bit from some of our clerical habits and customs, both here in the Curia and in every place where there are Latin American communities.”

He also encouraged the commission’s members to promote “true synodality” and warned that “synodality without communion can become ecclesiastical populism.”

“Synodality should lead us to live more intensely ecclesial communion, in which the diversity of charisms, vocations and ministries are harmoniously integrated, animated by the same baptism, which makes us all sons and daughters” in Christ, the pope said.

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