Vatican, Pope Francis opens the Synod of Bishops: “Church needs purification”

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The Synod of Bishops opened this morning in the Vatican, with an opening mass officiated by Pope Francis in which the new cardinals, created in last Saturday’s Consistory, and over 25 thousand people also participated, according to data from the Press Room of the Holy See. Present at the mass were the 464 participants in the Synod, of which 365 were members and 54 were women with the right to vote for the first time. Also present were the 20 delegates of the Eastern Churches and the two Chinese bishops appointed by the Pope. “Dear brother cardinals, brother bishops, sisters and brothers, we are at the opening of the Synodal Assembly. And we do not need an immanent gaze, made up of human strategies, political calculations or ideological battles. We are not here to carry out a parliamentary or a reform plan. The Synod is not a political gathering, it is not a parliament, but a convocation in the Spirit. We are here to walk together with the gaze of Jesus, who blesses the Father and welcomes those who are tired and oppressed”, he declared the Holy Father in the homily of the Mass. There is also a reference to Saint Francis, celebrated on October 4. “How difficult is this internal and external dispossession of everyone, especially of the institution. The Synod serves to remind us of this : our Mother Church always needs purification, to be repaired”, declared the Pontiff. Today the apostolic exhortation “Laudate Deum” was also published, the second part of the encyclical “Laudato si'”, in which the Pontiff integrates his warnings on the degradation of the planet, global warming and its serious consequences.

The Church is a hospitable place

Pope Francis then continued in his homily by arguing how “Jesus’ welcoming gaze invites us too to be a hospitable Church. Not with the doors closed.” For this reason, the Holy Father underlines, “in a complex time like ours, new cultural and pastoral challenges emerge, which require a cordial and kind interior attitude, in order to be able to confront ourselves without fear”. “In the synodal dialogue, in this beautiful ‘march in the Holy Spirit’ that we undertake together as the People of God – he continued – we can grow in unity and friendship with the Lord to look at today’s challenges with his gaze ; to become, using a beautiful expression of Saint Paul VI, a Church that ‘converses’”. For this reason, according to the Pontiff, the “Church must be ‘with a gentle yoke’, which does not impose burdens and which repeats to everyone: ‘Come, you who are tired and oppressed, come, you who have lost your way or feel far away, come, you who have closed the doors to hope: the Church is here for you! The Church of doors open to everyone, everyone, everyone’”.

The Church must not close

For the Pope, the Church’s hospitality also means that it must not be closed. “Faced with the difficulties and challenges that await us, the blessing and welcoming gaze of Jesus prevents us from falling into some dangerous temptations: from being a rigid Church, a customs office, which arms itself against the world and looks backwards; of being a lukewarm Church, which surrenders to the fashions of the world; of being a tired Church, closed in on itself”. Francis also repeated a concept already formulated in the past, during the pre-Conclave general congregations. “Many times God knocks on the door, but from inside the Church, so that we let him come out and proclaim the Gospel”.