VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis opened the Ordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family with a reminder that it's not a forum whereby leaders come to an agreement, but a journey of openness to the Holy Spirit and “apostolic courage” against worldly temptations that can lead people away from the truth.
“The synod is not a conference or a parlor, nor is it a parliament or a senate where we come to an agreement,” he said. Rather, it is the Church journeying together “to interpret reality with the eyes of faith and the heart of God.”
Addressing the synod fathers on the first day of talks of the three-week gathering, the Pope said participants must “assume apostolic courage of evangelical humility and of confident prayer” in order to give the Holy Spirit space to carry out his actions.
Such “apostolic courage,” he said, “is not intimidated by the seductions of the world, which tend to put out the light of truth from the hearts of men,” thereby leading them away from God.
Pope Francis went on to say that unless the bishops open themselves to guidance by the Holy Spirit, their decisions will become mere “decorations,” which serve to “cover and hide” the Gospel, rather than glorify it.
This year's synod on the family, which runs through Oct. 25, is the second and larger of two such gatherings to take place in the course of a year. Like its 2014 precursor, the focus of the 2015 Synod of Bishops will be the family, this time with the theme: “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and the Modern World.”
Pope Francis' Oct. 5 address to participants gathered in the Vatican's Paul VI Synod hall continued to describe the role of the synod as the Church interrogating her own fidelity to the deposit of faith.
In this way, he said, the Church demonstrates that she is not simply a “museum” to be looked at, but “a living source from which the Church drinks, while “satisfying the thirst” and “illuminating the deposit of life.”
The Holy Spirit speaks through the many languages represented by the synod fathers who are open to being “guided by the God who always surprises,” the Pope said.
He also appealed for the participants to have an evangelical humility whereby they empty themselves of their “own conventions and prejudices,” listening to one another without judgments, finger-pointing or a sense of superiority.
The Pope concluded by reiterating that the function of the synod is not to arrive at a consensus, nor is it a place of negotiations, agreements or compromises.
Through apostolic courage, evangelical humility and trustful prayer, he said, may the Holy Spirit “guide us, illuminate us and cause us to put before our eyes, with our personal opinions, faith in God, the good of the Church and the salus animarum (salvation of souls).”