The Rev. Maurizio Patriciello is known in Italy as a human rights campaigner and an advocate for victims of illegal toxic dumping in the country’s southern Campania region. This piece on the recent Synod of Bishops originally appeared in the Oct. 28 edition of L’Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops. The following is an English translation by Crux, which Patriciello gave Crux permission to use on the condition that his blessing be extended to all its readers.
Maybe it’s because my ideas aren’t that big, or because of how little faith I have or how many commitments distract me every day, but I looked on the work of the recent Synod of Bishops with joy. I didn’t feel the anxiety of those who fear that the castle in which they’ve taken refuge may crumble.
I thank all those who were involved on the inside for the good work of the synod, and also those who defended various positions from the outside. I have great respect for all. I appreciate their seriousness, their effort, and their love for Christ and the Church. I pray that there will be ever more faith in the one, true protagonist of every event in the life of the Church: the Holy Spirit.
The 2,000 years that separate us from Christ have taught us many things. Today, we can’t even imagine what happened at the Council of Nicea [in the early fourth century], in the days when the dogma of the Holy Trinity was proclaimed. How many people back then, who were very well-intentioned and holy, thought that the Church was moving toward heresy?
Often we complain about an absence of democracy in the Church. Then, when the Church adopts a process that we might call more “democratic,” which requires study, preparation, taking positions, and the clash of ideas – at times, sharply – we’re caught off guard.
In that situation, sometimes we want to take refuge in old certainties that have never been placed in discussion. We worry too much about the fate of our beloved Church. Perhaps without intending to, we risk sinning for a lack of faith and hope.
Shouldn’t we remember, and it can never be said enough, that in the end the last word will belong to Peter and to Peter alone? Whatever he decides, everyone – cardinals, laity, bishops, theologians, priests – will submit. That is, the Church will submit.
We have to be careful to avoid the sin of pride, which is useless and dangerous. Everyone has their own ideas regarding the many important issues that are being discussed. However, it’s important to remember that the same Church that proclaimed Padre Pio a saint also raised Pope John XXIII to the honor of the altar. The two never met, but it’s well known that the ‘Good Pope’ wasn’t very enthusiastic about the Capuchin brother, who was equally good.
That’s the beauty of the Church, which lies in the multiplicity of its gifts and spiritual paths.
In the early days after the synod, I haven’t liked reading arguments suggesting anxiety, even fear, about the future of the Church. I don’t understand who, or what, we’re supposed to fear. Revealed truths can’t be changed, simply because they don’t belong to us. No one owns them, including the pope, and the Spirit will certainly watch over both us and these truths.
The Synod of Bishops on the family felt the need to read the ‘signs of the times,” a term from the Second Vatican Council. The fact that many people have suffered and paid an excessive price for being in ‘irregular’ situations can’t be denied. The Church wants to be close to everyone, including those who wounds can never be healed. For those wounds, just like ours, the Church wants to pour out soothing wine and oil.
Should the Church do that? Surely we can all agree it should. But how? On that point, things aren’t yet clear. Let’s confess our smallness and try to understand these questions with prayer, study, an exchange of ideas and the effort to ‘walk together’.
That’s precisely the point of the synod, which will only reach conclusion next year. It will happen with the Holy Spirit and with Peter, without whom we wouldn’t be prepared to follow even an angel who comes down from Heaven.
We’ve been asked to show the virtue of patience, so let’s exercise it, with both humility and strength. Let’s remain united with Christ and with Pope Francis.
In the meantime, as we’ve always done, let’s continue to show mercy towards our brothers and sisters in difficulty, as the Church has always commanded. Let’s do it with even more openness and understanding, even when we’re compelled to say ‘No.’ Let’s remember that we’re servants, and useless servants at that.
Let’s be ready and willing to change, if the Church asks us to. Every change comes at a price, and we all know it. None of us, however, needs to grind an axe, because none of us actually owns one. The only ‘axe’ we ought to have at heart doesn’t belong to us.
The Lord, much better than us, knows how to divert the stream so the good grain can be ground, without ever exhausting the source.