Pope Francis: Global synodal path ‘a great opportunity to listen to one another’

CNA Staff   By CNA Staff


Pope Francis listens to a boy called Emanuele at St. Paul of the Cross parish, Rome, on April 15, 2018. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Jan 24, 2022 / 04:18 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said on Monday that the two-year global consultation process leading to the Synod on Synodality is “a great opportunity” for Catholics to listen to one another.

Writing in his World Communications Day message, released on Jan. 24, the pope expressed concern that people were “losing the ability to listen,” both in the Church and wider public life.

“A synodal process has just been launched,” he wrote. “Let us pray that it will be a great opportunity to listen to one another.”

“Communion, in fact, is not the result of strategies and programs, but is built in mutual listening between brothers and sisters.”

Pope Francis formally invited the world’s Catholics last October to take part in a consultation process leading to the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 2023.

In his new message, entitled “Listening with the ear of the heart,” the pope reflected on biblical passages illustrating the importance of listening.

“Among the five senses, the one favored by God seems to be hearing, perhaps because it is less invasive, more discreet than sight, and therefore leaves the human being more free,” he wrote.

“Listening corresponds to the humble style of God. It is the action that allows God to reveal himself as the One who, by speaking, creates man and woman in his image, and by listening recognizes them as his partners in dialogue.”

The pope lamented what he described as an absence of listening in public discourse.

“The lack of listening, which we experience so often in daily life, is unfortunately also evident in public life, where, instead of listening to each other, we often ‘talk past one another,’” he observed.

“This is a symptom of the fact that, rather than seeking the true and the good, consensus is sought; rather than listening, one pays attention to the audience. Good communication, instead, does not try to impress the public with a soundbite, with the aim of ridiculing the other person, but pays attention to the reasons of the other person and tries to grasp the complexity of reality.”

“It is sad when, even in the Church, ideological alignments are formed and listening disappears, leaving sterile opposition in its wake.”

The pope signed the message on Jan. 24, the Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, patron of writers and journalists.

He urged members of the media to develop their listening capacities.

“Communication does not take place if listening has not taken place, and there is no good journalism without the ability to listen,” he said.

“In order to provide solid, balanced, and complete information, it is necessary to listen for a long time. To recount an event or describe an experience in news reporting, it is essential to know how to listen, to be ready to change one’s mind, to modify one’s initial assumptions.”

The pope suggested that listening to society was more critical than ever due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“So much previously accumulated mistrust towards ‘official information’ has also caused an ‘infodemic,’ within which the world of information is increasingly struggling to be credible and transparent,” he said.

He particularly encouraged journalists to tell the stories of migrants.

“Everyone would then be free to support the migration policies they deem most appropriate for their own country,” he wrote.

“But in any case, we would have before our eyes, not numbers, not dangerous invaders, but the faces and stories, gazes, expectations and sufferings of real men and women to listen to.”

Quoting the German Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed by the Nazis in 1945, the pope underlined that there was also a great need for listening in the Church.

He said: “It is the most precious and life-giving gift we can offer each other. ‘Christians have forgotten that the ministry of listening has been committed to them by him who is himself the great listener and whose work they should share. We should listen with the ears of God that we may speak the word of God.’”

World Communications Day, established by Pope Paul VI in 1967, will be celebrated this year on Sunday, May 29, the day that some countries will mark the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, transferred from the preceding Thursday.

The theme of this year’s commemoration, the 56th, is “Listen!”

Concluding his message, Pope Francis compared the Church to a choir.

“With the awareness that we participate in a communion that precedes and includes us, we can rediscover a symphonic Church, in which each person is able to sing with his or her own voice, welcoming the voices of others as a gift to manifest the harmony of the whole that the Holy Spirit composes,” he said.

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  1. We read “that listening to society was more critical than ever due to the coronavirus pandemic.” Yes, to the neglected ministry of truly listening to one another. At the diocesan synods, we might even be reminded of this reflection dating back to the early days of pandemical pandemonium–and the needs of “society”–following the Second Vatican Council and then the permanently deformative and later 1960s.

    discovering their spiritual emptiness,
    look to the Church
    not for a breezy bon mot,
    but for the hard truths of
    Mystical life, fasting and prayer.
    Lapsed Catholics,
    tiptoeing back into Church
    on Sunday morning,
    look not for a communal meal
    and a handshake,
    but for a holy Sacrifice
    and the promise of redemption.

    Our faith is like a strong drink,
    or a plate of hearty food.
    We can make it easier to accept,
    by watering it down
    and taking out the spices.
    But who wants a watery drink,
    or a tasteless dish? (“If the salt
    has lost its savor…”)
    Our society [!] is begging for red meat.
    If we offer a thin soup, instead,
    we shall rightly be rejected.

  2. Dissonance in musical composition from Flamenco to Beethoven quartets, Boccherini’s Night Music of the streets of Madrid has its magic. Certainly, what Francis says of a symphonic Church has its value.
    All show some flair of the poetic however slight. A composer may take a theme and offer variation, and are very good ones like Rachmaninoff’s on Paganini. Now if the composition is the work of the Holy Spirit its character may be dominant, or lost in translation. “Pope Francis formally invited the world’s Catholics last October to take part in a consultation process leading to the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 2023” as CNA notes.
    The purpose of this phase is to promote dialogue at the continental level about the text of the first Instrumentum Laboris and deepen discernment within the specific cultural context of each continent, May 21, 2021. The outcome of universal listening by all is to be the Church we dream of.
    What dreams are realized in life can be exquisite as Beethoven’s discordant string quartet the grosse fuge 133. Condemned when first performed, now considered among the great masterpieces, Stravinsky hailing it the most modern of compositions. Does Francis envision the most discordant blended with the traditional as harmonious in a new Church, embracing man as man is found, compassionate and salvific reflective of the Holy Spirit’s revelation to the Synodal process? That of course is true if Christ were the composer.
    What we know as true when discerning is what the intellect apprehends as consistent with Christ. That consistency is exclusive to what he revealed to us in his own words, in his own witness to that truth, in his unique, perennial commission to the witness of the Apostles.

    • Synodality as “symphonic?”

      Or…the sound of an uncertain trumpet. As long a the German “synodal way” et al remain in the mix, no amount of background noise can remove the cacophonic contradiction.

      • Or … after many twists and turns and obstructions, our journey will end joyfully with much blessings from the Holy Spirit. This is what many of us are praying for.

  3. The pope’s Message posits listening as an important component in dialogue. Such a basic understanding is true, good, and elementary. The problem occurs when there is a ‘failure to listen.’ To accuse another of a failure to listen is unjust because ‘listening’ cannot be measured. The ability to listen is defined as listening with the ‘ear of the heart.’ Francis’ understanding of anatomy and of theology are innovations with little scriptural, anatomical, or theological support.

    Similarly, the pope’s positing man as an equal partner with God in communication has no Scriptural support. God is omnipotent, and man is God’s creation. Man is not in any sense equal to God, listening or otherwise.

    When popes and other Catholics teach as Jesus taught, many will listen; in turn, their fervor would teach others. The average Catholic of today, in such a post-Christian age, is weakly catechized and weak in faith. He will likely not attend to messages of simple idiosyncrasy. Maybe such Catholics will be accused of failing to listen. Perhaps they will be excused because born without the essential ear.

  4. meirom, Pope Francis did not say “man is an equal partner with God”. I do not know why you deliberately inserted the word “equal” in the quote. Perhaps, I do know.
    Did not Abraham dialogue with God? Dis not the human, Jesus, do the same? And did not Jesus listen to the lepers, the blind man, the man who was possessed and to many others? Anyway, I am absolutely sure that God listens to me when I communicate with Him in prayer. “Ask and you shall receive”.

    • He has on numerous other occasions. In his process theology, Francis has gone so far as to suggest that God, Who is in the process of learning, can learn from his creation.

  5. The Pope might want to read the book of Ruth and the story about King Solomon and his foreign wives, both migration stories, that had radically different outcomes.

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