Faithful people ‘infallible’ in their belief, Pope Francis tells synod
Pope Francis attends the XVI General Assembly of the Synod on Synodality at the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican, Oct. 23, 2023. ROY LAGARDE
By Felipe F. Salvosa II
October 26, 2023
VATICAN— The Church is composed of both saints and sinners who are “holy faithful people” walking in God’s presence, Pope Francis reminded delegates to the 2023 Synod of Bishops on Wednesday.
“One of the characteristics of this faithful people is its infallibility; yes, it is infallible in credendo, infallible in believing,” the pope said in a speech delivered in Spanish during the month-long assembly’s 18th general congregation.
The pope cited Lumen Gentium, the dogmatic constitution on the Church promulgated following the Second Vatican Council, which spoke of a “sensus fidei” or universal consensus on matters of faith.
The “Synod on Synodality,” which wraps up its first general assembly later this week, stressed this teaching as it sought ways to achieve more participation among laypeople, especially women, in the Church leadership and decision-making.
Pope Francis reminded the Church hierarchy that they had received their faith from the people, “generally from our mothers and grandmothers,” which meant it was a “faith handed down in a feminine dialect.”
The face of the Church, who is a “mother,” is thus disfigured when “ministers go too far in their service and mistreat the people of God … with macho and dictatorial attitudes,” he said.
The pope also returned to his frequent critique of clericalism or careerism among the clergy, calling it a “whip” and a “scourge.”
He said it was “painful” to see parish offices displaying “price lists” for the sacraments, and “scandalous” to find “young priests trying on cassocks and hats or albs and lace-covered robes” in ecclesiastical tailoring shops.
In the synod’s press briefing on Oct. 25, Ghanaian delegate Dr. Nora Kofognotera Nonterah, a university lecturer, said the assembly gave African women like her the opportunity to “sit at the center of the table of discourse.”
“Inspired by the significance of the maternal role of our lady, Mother Mary, I tend to believe that African women can teach the Church how to be a mother for all, how to be a visionary mother for all her children,” she said.
Dr. Paolo Ruffini, the lay prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication, stressed the legitimacy of the 2023 Synod of Bishops, which admitted for the first time lay delegates with voting rights, including 54 women.
The participation of non-bishops, he said, is provided for in the Apostolic Constitution Episcopalis communio, which called for a more direct lay participation in synods.
It was promulgated by Pope Francis in 2018 to reform the Synod of Bishops, an advisory body to the pope established as a permanent entity by St. Paul VI in 1965 following Vatican 2.
“The presence of non-bishop members is justified on the basis of their witness: they remind everyone that this Assembly is not an isolated event but an integral part and a necessary step in the synodal process,“ Ruffini said.
The synod, which had conducted consultations at various levels of the Church since 2021, is expected to come up with a synthesis document upon the conclusion of the 2023 general assembly on Oct. 29.
It will be sent to the dioceses for another round of consultations before synod delegates go back to the Vatican for a second and final session in 2024, in which they are expected to come up with more concrete recommendations that could be adopted by the pope in a teaching document called an “apostolic exhortation.”
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