Pope Francis encourages Italian bishops as the conference begins ‘synodal journey’

By Courtney Mares for CNA

Pope Francis speaks to Italian bishops’ conference meeting in Rome on May 24, 2021. / Screenshot

Rome Newsroom, May 24, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis met with Italy’s bishops Monday as the national bishops’ conference began a general assembly to “start a synodal journey.”

The pope gave unscripted remarks as he opened the Italian bishops’ spring assembly on May 24, speaking to a conference hall full of bishops for roughly five minutes before the live video feed of his speech was abruptly cut off by Vatican Media.

Before Pope Francis began speaking, he could be heard over the microphone asking those on stage if journalists were present in the room. When the response was negative, the pope replied: “Good, so we can speak freely.”

Earlier in the day, Pope Francis visited the offices of the Vatican Dicastery of Communication and spoke live on Vatican Radio about the importance of Vatican media reaching the people.

The pope said: “There are a lot of reasons to be worried about the Radio, L’Osservatore, but one that touches my heart: How many people listen to the Radio? How many people read L’Osservatore Romano?”

“Because our work is to reach the people: that what we work on here, which is beautiful, it is great, it is laborious, reaches the people, both with translations and also with short waves.”

Pope Francis speaks to Vatican Radio on May 24, 2021. / Vatican Media
Pope Francis speaks to Vatican Radio on May 24, 2021. / Vatican Media

In the broadcast portion of Pope Francis’ unscripted remarks to the Italian bishops, the pope said that Italy’s synodal journey must “begin from the bottom up” in parish communities.

“This will require patience. It will require work. It will require us to let the people speak so that the wisdom of the people of God may emerge because a synod is not something other than making explicit what Lumen Gentium states,” the pope said.

Pope Francis also told the bishops that he was happy with the steps they had taken regarding diocesan tribunals and stressed the importance of seminary formation.

“There is a very great danger in making mistakes in formation,” he said. “We must use prudence in admitting seminarians.”

The pope returned to Vatican City after his visit to the Italian bishops’ conference meeting at the Ergife Palace Hotel and Conference Center in Rome, where he also prayed evening prayer with the assembled bishops to open their 74th General Assembly.

Italian bishops' conference spring general assembly in Rome opened May 24, 2021. / Screenshot
Italian bishops’ conference spring general assembly in Rome opened May 24, 2021. / Screenshot

The theme of the assembly taking place May 24-27 is “Announce the Gospel in a time of rebirth: To start a synodal journey”.

Cardinal Bassetti, the president of the Italian bishops’ conference, told the pope at the start of the assembly that the bishops’ national “synodal path wants to walk in harmony with that of the Synod of Bishops.”

“It is also an opportunity for our churches in Italy. In fact, in every particular church, the holy and Apostolic Church of Christ is truly present and at work.”

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