Explaining The “Path Of Synodality”
From Pope Francis’ address to the bishops on occasion of yesterday’s “Pallium Mass”
The Second Vatican Council, in speaking of the hierarchical structure of the Church, states that the Lord “established the apostles as college or permanent assembly, at the head of which he placed Peter, chosen from their number” (ibid., 19). Confirming in unity: the Synod of Bishops, in harmony with the primacy. We must walk on this path of synodality, grow in harmony with the service of the primacy.
The pallium, while being a sign of communion with the Bishop of Rome, with the universal church, with the Synod of Bishops, also commits each of you to being a servant of communion.
It is at first difficult to really understand what is really meant here, even if this homily was certainly not off-the-cuff. Particularly the grammatical structure of “confirming” through “primacy” seems very adventurous to me, and without a proper meaning. Still, by flexing one’s synapses one can understand what the Pope (probably; more or less; in some way) wanted to say: that he envisions a path of increased synodality, by which the bishops remain not only in harmony, but at the service of the primacy of the, erm, bishop of Rome. This is repeated in the second phrase I have mentioned: being a servant of the communion means at the same time being at the service of the primacy of the bishop of Rome. If the latter isn’t there, the former isn’t either.
As so often with this Pope, this is the Seventies all over again. Like your typical communist apparatchik, or Western agit-prop, of those years, the Holy Father wants to have all the power and all the decisions, but by letting it appear that they both come from the “collective” (you remember the “collectives”? If not, you’re still young…), or the “group”.
Notice the typical Seventies pattern: it is fine to “grow” in synodality, as long as your “growing” is the one I want. If this is not the case, you aren’t serving the “communion”, because you are working “against the group”.
You may ask: fine, he is the Pope, but where is the need for that? Why all the talk about synodality if in the end he is the one making the decisions? Isn’t he the Pope and, therefore, the one entitled to decide anyway?
Well, yes and no. In a proper way, of course he is. But you see, he doesn’t want to; or at least, he does not want to appear to.
As in a Communist Party of the Seventies, or in a students’ collettivo of the same period, things must never be allowed to appear as they are. “Harmony”, “growth”, the “walking” of the “permanent assembly” will be stressed. A “collective” endeavour. The “people” (in this case, “of God”) clearly, clearly is the one from which ultimately everything emanates.
Path Walking. Harmonic Growing. “Confirming in Unity”.
It must not be said the Pope – or the party secretary, or the head agitator – is autocratic! God forbid! We live in the years of post Vatican II, where the Pope doesn’t behave like that anymore! No siree!…
In a sense, it is reassuring. If my interpretation is correct, what Francis is saying is that there will be all the rhetoric about collegiality the bishops and the public can bear, provided in the end things go as they always did. Ah, human nature… plus ça change…
I sometimes think this way of talking is exactly the one that John Paul I would have chosen if he had decided – as some seem to think – to suppress the excesses of Vatican II. Taking the name “John Paul”, and promising how much he would have remained faithful to the path of his two predecessors, he would have been able to remake everything from a position of strenght or, as they would have said in the Seventies, from the “head of the movement”.
Alas, Francis does not give any impression of wanting to suppress anything wrong, rather to amplify it, and I suspect he actually wants to make sure he can go on with his work without undue interference from his lieutenants; obviously, apart from the smoke screens of the “G8”, the “synodality”, the “harmony”, and the “walking”.
Yes, this is another one straight from the Seventies.
One feels younger already.