By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, October 26, 2015

Thoughts on Synod 2015

Now that the synod on the vocation and mission of the family has drawn to a close, I had the opportunity Sunday afternoon to head out for one of my favourite walks in Rome - up and over the Janiculum Hill and then into and around Doria Pamphili park. On Sunday afternoons these places are favoured haunts of Roman families. As I walked I saw family after family doing what families love to do together: taking a stroll, playing and running with the kids, having a picnic on the grass, etc. Each of these families will have their own stories of joys and difficulties, happiness and sorrow. It is precisely for them - and for all families - that Pope Francis called Bishops together for the synod. He wants the Church to draw near to families, to listen to them and accompany them, especially when they find themselves in difficulty or in some manner estranged from the Church. He asked the Bishops to share with him their thoughts on how best to do this.

Indeed, if there is one word which marked the synod deliberations it would be "accompaniment." How do we walk with the families of today? That is a challenging question, given the variety of experiences that mark family life in our world today. That variety was on full display at the synod. Perhaps the most fascinating dimension of the event for me was meeting and hearing from people from every country on the planet. Yet, in spite of this diversity, what I witnessed was a remarkable unity among all present, a oneness fashioned by the common desire to proclaim the beauty of the family as authored by God, to understand anew its vocation and mission today, and to draw near to any in difficulty with the light and hope of the Gospel of our Lord.

You might be surprised to hear me speak of unity, given some of the media coverage of the synod. The schedule of meetings was such that I was not able to follow everything said by the many media organizations present. From the little I could follow, I often found myself wondering what synod they were talking about. There were reports of raucous debate and infighting among Bishops, from which one might have thought we were throwing tomatoes at one another in the synod hall. I also heard suggestions of plots to undermine the work and hopes of the Pope, orchestrated by Bishops who were against him. Gracious! Reminded me of a DaVinci novel. Of course, there were different ideas expressed with regard to how we best reach out to and accompany our people, and naturally I didn't always agree with what I heard, just as others would not have thought my ideas had much merit. Yet this should come as a surprise to no one. It is how we discern together, and the final document represents a remarkably broad consensus. We have now presented it to Pope Francis for his discernment, and we trust in the wisdom of his judgement. When Bishops gather it is cum Petro et sub Petro, that is to say, in communion with the Successor of Peter and in obedience to his leadership. This was very much in evidence and at work throughout the synod proceedings.

All in all, a very good experience. Now we head back home, and I'm really looking forward to getting back to Edmonton. Let's continue to pray for our families, especially any who are struggling. May the Church draw near in order to to lead them to a new encounter with the person of Jesus Christ. Only in Him do we find the reason for our hope.