ROME — As the 2015 Synod of Bishops nears its end, it seems increasingly clear that on many matters, including the contested issue of Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried, the prelates gathered in Rome may not find consensus and thus will basically leave it up to Pope Francis.
Two leading Latin American prelates say that’s perfectly fine with them, adding that many of the perceived battle lines during the synod were mostly evident among Anglo-Saxon bishops and less so among bishops from other places.
“We’re presenting our proposals to the Holy Father, but in the end, the decision is his,” said Archbishop Roberto González Nieves of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
González believes the 270 bishops who have been in Rome since Oct. 4 are leaving the door open to change, and that doesn’t worry him at all.
“The Church belongs to the Lord, [and] at the end of the day, he holds our hands, never abandons us,” he said.
Cardinal Alberto Suárez Inda of the Mexican diocese of Morelia said he’s looking forward to Francis writing a document, technically known as an “apostolic exhortation,” to build on the work of the synod, even if it’s not yet clear that the pontiff will.
“The pope will receive the conclusions, the fruit of the sharing of the bishops,” Suárez said.
“We ask that the Holy Spirit enlighten and assist him, so he acts with great wisdom and prudence, so that [the exhortation] is a fruit of the synodality of the Church.”
“Synodality” is a Catholic term referring to shared authority and collaboration. Both González and Suárez spoke to Crux during the synod’s third week.
González said he believes Francis is open to giving regional and local bishops “certain discretion to make some decisions in their cities and their countries,” citing polygamy as one example.
“This is a problem for the African countries, but as such, we don’t have it in Latin America, at least not openly and with the governments’ support,” he said, adding that he’d be in favor of decentralization, but always “in communion with the successor of Peter.”
González suggests that a decentralized approach to certain issues doesn’t invalidate the Church’s universality.
“We can all grow, in this globalized world, in the context of the universal Church, and respecting the differences between countries,” he said.
Suárez, created a cardinal by Pope Francis in February, believes history’s first Latin American pope will act on the synod’s recommendation creatively, like a “stream of water [that] never stops to give the world the freshness of the Christian doctrine, but in dialogue with the new cultural and social realities, guided by the Gospel.”
Both Latin American prelates, veterans in the synod process, dismissed the alleged “battle fronts,” which they said were mostly visible among the Anglo-Saxon bishops.
González described the atmosphere in the synod as one “full of respect,” adding that differing opinions don’t imply that there’s a division among the bishops, but rather, different ways of living the Church’s pastoral approach.
“I believe we all agree in the doctrine, but the way of applying it varies,” González said.
His Mexican counterpart said that by its nature, the synod aims to help the pope.
“It’s a consultation so that the pope, with the bishops, illuminates the path of the people,” Suárez told Crux on Thursday. “It’s not opposing one against the others, but a way of living the papacy, of being in solidarity with the shepherds of the particular Churches that can bring their pastoral experiences.”
Suárez believes it’s normal that certain concerns were raised during the synod process, but he believes that in the end there will be peace, because Francis has been an example of prudence, patience, and respect, “so that everyone could freely express their testimony and their love for humanity.”
Differences aside, Suárez believes that the sharing of experiences among the bishops was was enriching, and will lead bishops to not only “make families the objects of pastoral attention, but the active subjects of apostolate and transmission of the faith.”
The Mexican cardinal hopes that, when all is said and done, the synod serves as a reminder of the key role families have in society.
“They’re the place where life begins, where new generations are educated, and society is built.”
“Family is the cornerstone of society, and this is what the synod tried to reaffirm,” Suárez said. “Family has to be the center of attention not only for the Church, but for all, because without families, humanity has no future.”