VATICAN CITY — To listen to the Holy Spirit, members of the Church must listen to each other and especially to those who are marginalized, Pope Francis said, explaining how dioceses are to help the Church prepare for the Synod of Bishops.
This means that, for example, “the poor, the homeless, young people addicted to drugs, everyone that society rejects are part of the synod” because God says they are part of the Church, he said.
“So often the ‘rejects’ become the ‘cornerstones’ and those who are ‘far off’ become ‘near.’ The marginalized, the poor, those without hope were elected to the sacrament of Christ. This is the way the Church is,” he said.
The pope spoke to members of his diocese, the Diocese of Rome, in the Paul VI audience hall Sept. 18 as the global Church gets set to begin a “synodal journey” toward the 2023 assembly of the Synod of Bishops, discussing the theme, “For a synodal church: communion, participation and mission.”
Pope Francis is scheduled to open the synod process at the Vatican Oct. 9-10, and the bishop of every diocese should open the process in his diocese Oct. 17.
The pope apologized for speaking at great length, but he said that as the bishop it was important he explain how the synodal process should work and why.
Essentially, he said, it will be a period of mutual listening in which everyone — cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and laypeople — plays a leading role and “nobody can be considered a plain bit player.”
The purpose is not to collect everyone’s individual opinions, he said, but rather to hear what the Holy Spirit is quietly — and perhaps surprisingly — saying through them.
This will require everyone to dialogue in a way that is “familial,” where everyone recognizes their common humanity, reconciles differences and reaches out in order to encounter and engage with others, he said.
“One of the evils of the Church, rather, a perversion, is this clericalism that separates the priest, the bishop from the people. A bishop and priest disconnected from the people is an administrator, not a shepherd,” the pope said.
“Do not be afraid to enter into dialogue and allow yourselves to be shocked by the dialogue. It is the dialogue of salvation.”