Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, gave an address entitled “Synodality and Pope Francis: The Church that Walks Together” at The Catholic University of America this week, during the School of Canon Law’s 11th annual Frederick R. McManus Memorial Lecture.
The archbishop, who was born in France, previously served as apostolic nuncio to Haiti, Uganda, and Mexico, before being appointed to his current role by Pope Francis in 2016. During his Nov. 2 lecture, he defined synodality as “a way of living the faith” that involves speaking honestly and listening with humility.
“Synodality is a dynamic, living process and an experience of joining together,” he said. “The synodal church is one that listens and one that realizes that listening is more than simply hearing … Synodal listening is a reflection of each person’s dignity and an expression of respect for the legitimate concerns and sufferings of the people of God.”
Archbishop Pierre drew several of his remarks from Pope Francis’s 2013 encyclical Evangelii Gaudium, in which the Pope shared four principles for the Church to follow: “Time is greater than space, unity prevails over conflict, realities are more important than ideas, and the whole is greater than the part.”
By keeping those principles in mind, members of the Church can remember to work patiently — without becoming discouraged by conflict or distracted by idealism — for solutions that consider the realistic needs of everyone, from those in the pews to the highest Church leaders.
The idea of synodality draws on many aspects of the Catholic faith, Archbishop Pierre said, including the Holy Trinity, the incarnation of Christ and the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, and the life of Mary, who “through attentive listening and an openness to God, fulfilled her mission of bringing salvation to the world.”
In order to become a synodal Church, Archbishop Pierre said individuals must be able to confront and recognize difficulties in life and possess a sense of self-awareness about their own behaviors and abilities. He also said it is important for all members of the Church to take on an attitude of co-responsibility, so that the Church can remain “entirely lively and spiritual.”
“Synodality captures the idea of working together for the fulfillment of the faith,” he said. “It advises individuals to share in responsibility for the Church and her mission. Both the Church’s contribution to the individual and each person’s contribution helps the whole body of Christ to preserve the good and help them be the Church Christ calls them to be.”