15 August 2019, The Tablet

Make room for the God of surprises

Make room for the God of surprises

October’s Synod in Rome is coming under fire from critics of the Pope, including prominent cardinals. A senior figure in its planning presents the framework of spiritual discernment in which the synodal process should be understood

It seems natural to me – and even desirable – that we should hear a variety of voices (including dissenting ones) in the Amazon Synod process. This reflects the abundant richness of the Church. In any synod journey, if we are talking about remaining faithful to its essential purpose of spiritual discernment, all well-intentioned voices are welcomed.

One of the defining features of the Amazon Synod is that it acts from the periphery towards the centre. Here, perhaps, lies the explanation for the disquiet over the synod in certain sectors within the Church – and beyond. As so often happens in the Gospel of Jesus, it is a voice from the margins that is patiently calling to the centre in a shared quest for purity of heart. And this can challenge settled positions and comfortable assumptions.

In this synod process, which will reach a climax in three weeks of discussion in Rome this October, it is the Amazon region – indeed, the South American Church as a whole, with its richly distinctive approaches to materialism, individualism, technocracy and the “throwaway culture” – that will be speaking to the Church, calling it to conversion.

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