ROME — In his final remarks during the Oct. 6-27 Synod of Bishops on the Amazon, Pope Francis Saturday called on Catholics not to be bogged down by “intraecclesiastical” debates that have been front and center in the past few days, including debates over married priests and women deacons.
There are some “elite” Catholics, he said, who will focus on the “little things,” failing to see the forest for the trees, focusing on “disciplinary things” that though important, are not at the core of the synod.
Instead, he urged on Catholics to focus on the four diagnoses the synod made: Cultural, social, pastoral and ecological.
“There’s a group of elite Christians who want to get into intraecclesiastical matters, meaning, say this side won or that side won,” he said. “We all won with the diagnosis.”
Francis quoted a 1914 piece by French writer Charles Peguy: “Because they don’t have the courage to be with the world, they think they are with God. Because they don’t have the commitment to the choices that people make, they think they are opting for God. Because they don’t love anyone, they think they love God.”
During his remarks, which were off-the-cuff, Francis praised the discussions during the synod, but he criticized the final document’s reflection on women, saying that it “falls short” when it comes to the role of women in the transmission of the faith.
“We haven’t yet comprehended what women mean for the Church and we stay on the functional side” he said, in terms of their merits to be on commissions and other positions in the Church.
“The role of women in the Church goes much further than functionality,” he said.
He also revealed that it’s possible that the next synod will be on synodality, noting that even though the bishops are learning to work in a synodal way, together, discerning and listening, there’s still much to be done.
On the post-synod apostolic exhortation, he said that he will be writing one, even though it’s not mandatory, and that he hopes to have it before the end of the year, assuming he has “time to think.”
Talking about the reflection on the pastoral situation in the Amazon, he thanked Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston for being “courageous” and for putting his “finger in the wound,” by denouncing the “social injustice” experienced by indigenous peoples not being able to do a proper seminary process, calling for indigenous seminaries for those studying to become priests.
Lastly, he also said that he “receives the request” to renew a commission that looked into the historical role of female deacons or to create a new one. Speaking about the panel he created in 2016, Francis said that the members hadn’t reached a conclusive decision, but that with the help of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith, he will once again have people looking into it, saying that he heard the request posed for women “to be heard.”