Letter #148, 2023, Wednesday, October 25: Francis

    Here is the text of the address of Pope Francis to the Synod on Synodality this morning, October 25.

    I mentioned in my last letter that I would include this text in full, then included only a brief excerpt.

    So here, as a type of amendment to that letter, is the complete text of this statement by Pope Francis to the Synod.

    The statement was delivered in Spanish; this is my own, unofficial translation into English. I also make some observations, marked as notes… —RM

    Statement of Pope Francis to the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops

    October 25, 2023

    By Pope Francis

    This afternoon, during the course of the 18a General Congregation of the 16th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, the Holy Father Francesco gave an intervention whose text is published below:

    I like to think of the Church as a faithful people of God, saint and sinner, a people summoned and called with the force of the beatitudes and of Matthew 25. Jesus, for his Church, did not assume any of the political schemes of his time: neither Pharisees, nor Sadducees, nor Essenes, nor Zealots. No “closed corporation”; it simply takes up the tradition of Israel: “you will be my people and I will be your God.”

    I like to think of the Church as this simple and humble people who walk in the presence of the Lord (the faithful people of God).

    This is the religious sense of our faithful people.

    And I say faithful people so as not to fall into the many ideological approaches and schemes with which the reality of the people of God is “reduced.”

    Simply faithful people, or also, “holy faithful people of God” on the way, holy and sinful.

    And the Church is this.

    One of the characteristics of this faithful people is their infallibility; yes, she [this “faithful people”] is infallible in believing. (“In credendo falli nequit,” [“in believing cannot err”] says Lumen Gentium 9).

    [Note: Here I looked up the Vatican II text on the Church as the “Light of the nations” (Lumen Gentium) to see the context for this quotation, and found that it is not in Lumen Gentium 9, but rather in Lumen Gentium 12. This paragraph reads as follows:

    Populus Dei sanctus de munere quoque prophetico Christi participat, vivum Eius testimonium maxime per vitam fidei ac caritatis diffundendo, et Deo hostiam laudis offerendo, fructum labiorum confitentium nomini Eius (cf. Hebr 13,15). Universitas fidelium, qui unctionem habent a Sancto (cf. 1Io 2,20 et 27), in credendo falli nequit, atque hanc suam peculiarem proprietatem mediante supernaturali sensu fidei totius populi manifestat, cum “ab Episcopis usque ad extremos laicos fideles”(22) universalem suum consensum de rebus fidei et morum exhibet. Illo enim sensu fidei, qui a Spiritu veritatis excitatur et sustentatur, Populus Dei sub ductu sacri magisterii, cui fideliter obsequens, iam non verbum hominum, sed vere accipit verbum Dei (cf. 1 Thess 2,13), “semel traditae sanctis fidei” (Iud 1,3), indefectibiliter adhaeret, recto iudicio in eam profundius penetrat eamque in vita plenius applicat. (link)

    Which, translated into English, means (link):

    12. The holy people of God shares also in Christ’s prophetic office; it spreads abroad a living witness to Him, especially by means of a life of faith and charity and by offering to God a sacrifice of praise, the tribute of lips which give praise to His name.(110) The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One,(111) cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole peoples’ supernatural discernment in matters of faith when “from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful” (8*) they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals. That discernment in matters of faith is aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth. It is exercised under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority, in faithful and respectful obedience to which the people of God accepts that which is not just the word of men but truly the word of God.(112) Through it, the people of God adheres unwaveringly to the faith given once and for all to the saints,(113) penetrates it more deeply with right thinking, and applies it more fully in its life.”]

    Infabilitas in credendo. [“Infallibility (or errorlessness) in believing.”]

    And I explain it like this: “When you want to know what Holy Mother Church believes, go to the Magisterium, because the Magisterium is in charge of teaching (the content of) the faith to you, but when you want to know how the Church believes, go to the faithful people.”

    An image comes to mind: the faithful people gathered at the entrance to the Cathedral of Ephesus [Note: he is speaking of the convoking of the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. (see link). Ephesus was a city with an especially profound devotion to the Mother of Jesus, hence the people favored granting the highest title of honor to Mary. The bishops at the Council of Ephesus, spurred on by the people, condemned Nestorius, the Archbishop of Constantinople, for teaching that Mary was the “Christ-bearer” but not the “God-bearer,” and the Council proceeded to proclaim the dogma that Mary was the “Theotokos,” the “God-bearer.”]

    History (or legend) says that people were on both sides of the road to the Cathedral while the Bishops in procession made their entrance, and that in chorus they repeated: “Mother of God” [i.e., Theotokos,” “God-bearer” as the appropriate title for Mary], asking the Hierarchy to declare dogma that truth that they already possessed as the people of God. (Some say that they had sticks in their hands and showed them to the Bishops). I don’t know if it’s history or legend, but the image is valid.

    The faithful people, the faithful holy people of God, have a soul, and because we can speak of the soul of a people we can speak of a hermeneutics, of a way of seeing reality, of a conscience.

    Our faithful people are aware of their dignity, they baptize their children, they bury their dead. [Note: Sadly, in many places in the Catholic world, more and more parents who were baptized and raised as Catholics no longer baptize their children (I say this because the statistics show a large decline in baptisms in many countries (link to a 2019 article which shows that “membership in Michigan’s Catholic parishes has dropped by 17% since 2000, according to data collected by Georgetown University. But the declines in Catholic sacraments and education has been much more dramatic, with the number of Catholic weddings, baptisms and First Communions down by half.”); the Pope in his address, therefore, is seemingly speaking of a “faithful people” who did once exist, but who now in many places, and increasingly — under the influence of an omnipresent modern secularization (de-sacralization), which the Pope has sometimes referred to as a type of “ideological colonization” — do not actually act in the way he seems to believe they do still act. And if this is so, then the Pope’s argument that in these people there reposes an infallible faith, a faith which cannot err, would seem to be weakened… In other words, his conclusion, that the simple Christian faithful carry forward the orthodox teachings of the faith without error, is based on a fact, a practice (that “they baptize their children”) which, in our “post-Christian” world of today, is, sadly, but increasingly, not a true fact.—RM]

    The members of the Hierarchy come from that people and we have received the faith of that people, generally from our mothers and grandmothers, “your mother and your grandmother,” Paul tells Timothy, a faith transmitted in feminine dialect, like the Mother of the Maccabees who spoke “in dialect” to her children.

    And here I like to emphasize that, in the faithful holy people of God, faith is transmitted in dialect, and generally in feminine dialect.

    This is not only because the Church is Mother and it is precisely women who best reflect it (the Church is a woman), but because it is women who know how to wait, how to discover the resources of the Church, of the faithful people, they take risks beyond the limit, perhaps with fear but courage, and in the chiaroscuro [half-dark, half-light] of a day that begins they approach a tomb with the intuition (not yet hope) that there may be some life. [Note: Here Francis seems to be alluding to the women who came to the tomb of Jesus on the first Easter morning.]

    The woman of the faithful holy people of God is a reflection of the Church.

    The Church is feminine, she is a wife, she is a mother.

    When ministers exceed their service and mistreat the people of God, they disfigure the face of the Church with sexist and dictatorial attitudes (just remember the intervention of Sister Liliana Franco.) (link).

    It is painful to find in some parish offices the “price list” of sacramental services in supermarket style.

    Either the Church is the faithful people of God on the way, saint and sinner, or it ends up being a company of varied services.

    And when pastoral agents take this second path, the Church becomes the supermarket of salvation and the priests mere employees of a multinational.

    It is the great defeat to which clericalism leads us.

    And this with a lot of shame and scandal (it is enough to go to ecclesiastical tailor shops in Rome to see the scandal of young priests trying on cassocks and hats or albs and roquettes with lace).

    Clericalism is a whip, it is a scourge, it is a form of worldliness that dirtyes and damages the face of the Lord’s wife; enslaves God’s faithful holy people.

    And the people of God, the faithful holy people of God, continue forward with patience and humility, enduring the contempt, mistreatment, and marginalization on the part of institutionalized clericalism.

    And how naturally we speak of the princes of the Church, or of episcopal promotions as career advancements!

    The horrors of the world, the worldliness that mistreats the holy faithful people of God.

    [End, Pope Francis’s address to the Synod of Pope Francis today, in English translation]    

    Here is the same address in the original Spanish:

    Me gusta pensar la Iglesia como pueblo fiel de Dios, santo y pecador, pueblo convocado y llamado con la fuerza de las bienaventuranzas y de Mateo 25. Jesús, para su Iglesia, no asumió ninguno de los esquemas políticos de su tiempo: ni fariseos, ni saduceos, ni esenios, ni zelotes. Ninguna “corporación cerrada”; simplemente retoma la tradición de Israel: “tu serás mi pueblo y yo seré tu Dios”.

    Me gusta pensar la Iglesia como este pueblo sencillo y humilde que camina en la presencia del Señor (el pueblo fiel de Dios). Este es el sentido religioso de nuestro pueblo fiel. Y digo pueblo fiel para no caer en los tantos enfoques y esquemas ideológicos con que es “reducida” la realidad del pueblo de Dios. Sencillamente pueblo fiel, o también, “santo pueblo fiel de Dios” en camino, santo y pecador. Y la Iglesia es ésta.

    Una de las características de este pueblo fiel es su infalibilidad; sí, es infalible in credendo. (In credendo falli nequit, dice LG 9) Infabilitas in credendo. Y lo explico así: “cuando quieras saber lo que cree la Santa Madre Iglesia, andá al Magisterio, porque él es encargado de enseñártelo, pero cuando quieras saber cómo cree la Iglesia, andá al pueblo fiel.”

    Me viene a la memoria una imagen: el pueblo fiel reunido a la entrada de la Catedral de Éfeso. Dice la historia (o la leyenda) que la gente estaba a ambos lados del camino hacia la Catedral mientras los Obispos en procesión hacían su entrada, y que a coro repetían: “Madre de Dios”, pidiendo a la Jerarquía que declarase dogma esa verdad que ya ellos poseían como pueblo de Dios. (Algunos dicen que tenían palos en las manos y se los mostraban a los Obispos). No sé si es historia o leyenda, pero la imagen es válida.

    El pueblo fiel, el santo pueblo fiel de Dios, tiene alma, y porque podemos hablar del alma de un pueblo podemos hablar de una hermenéutica, de una manera de ver la realidad, de una conciencia. Nuestro pueblo fiel tiene conciencia de su dignidad, bautiza a sus hijos, entierra a sus muertos.

    Los miembros de la Jerarquía venimos de ese pueblo y hemos recibido la fe de ese pueblo, generalmente de nuestras madres y abuelas, “tu madre y tu abuela” le dice Pablo a Timoteo, una fe transmitida en dialecto femenino, como la Madre de los Macabeos que les hablaba “en dialecto” a sus hijos. Y aquí me gusta subrayar que, en el santo pueblo fiel de Dios, la fe es transmitida en dialecto, y generalmente en dialecto femenino. Esto no sólo porque la Iglesia es Madre y son precisamente las mujeres quienes mejor la reflejan; (la Iglesia es mujer) sino porque son las mujeres quienes saben esperar, saben descubrir los recursos de la Iglesia, del pueblo fiel, se arriesgan más allá del límite, quizá con miedo pero corajudas, y en el claroscuro de un día que comienza se acercan a un sepulcro con la intuición (todavía no esperanza) de que pueda haber algo de vida.La mujer del santo pueblo fiel de Dios es reflejo de la Iglesia. La Iglesia es femenina, es esposa, es madre.

    Cuando los ministros se exceden en su servicio y maltratan al pueblo de Dios, desfiguran el rostro de la Iglesia con actitudes machistas y dictatoriales (basta recordar la intervención de la Hna. Liliana Franco). Es doloroso encontrar en algunos despachos parroquiales la “lista de precios” de los servicios sacramentales al modo de supermercado. O la Iglesia es el pueblo fiel de Dios en camino, santo y pecador, o termina siendo una empresa de servicios variados. Y cuando los agentes de pastoral toman este segundo camino la Iglesia se convierte en el supermercado de la salvación y los sacerdotes meros empleados de una multinacional. Es la gran derrota a la que nos lleva el clericalismo. Y esto con mucha pena y escándalo (basta ir a sastrerías eclesiásticas en Roma para ver el escándalo de sacerdotes jóvenes probándose sotanas y sombreros o albas y roquetes con encajes).

    El clericalismo es un látigo, es un azote, es una forma de mundanidad que ensucia y daña el rostro de la esposa del Señor; esclaviza al santo pueblo fiel de Dios.

    Y el pueblo de Dios, el santo pueblo fiel de Dios, sigue adelante con paciencia y humildad soportando los desprecios, maltratos, marginaciones de parte del clericalismo institucionalizado. Y con cuánta naturalidad hablamos de los príncipes de la Iglesia, o de promociones episcopales como ascensos de carrera! Los horrores del mundo, la mundanidad que maltrata al santo pueblo fiel de Dios.

    [End, Spanish original of the Pope’s remarks this afternoon to the Synod]    


    Note: You may view a brief video here on our Inside the VaticanPilgrimages Instagram page which has inexplicably “gone viral,” now with more than 1 million views; it is a brief comparison of the images of the face of a suffering man on the Holy Shroud of Turin, Italy (link), the Holy Face of Manoppello, Italy (link and link and link) and the Holy Sudarium of Oviedo, Spain (link). —RM

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