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‘Not much new’ will come out of this year’s synod, Vatican’s doctrine chief predicts

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández. / Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/ACI Prensa

ACI Prensa Staff, Oct 1, 2023 / 14:34 pm (CNA).

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, the Vatican’s new chief of doctrine, predicts that “those who expect big changes” to come out of this month’s Synod of Bishops will be “disappointed.”

But the Argentinian prelate, speaking Saturday in an exclusive interview with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, left the door open to such changes happening at a later date.

Fernández, the prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, made the remarks during the traditional courtesy visits that took place after he and 20 others received their “red hats” as cardinals from Pope Francis at a consistory in St. Peter’s Square on Sept. 30.

Speaking just days before the Oct. 4 opening of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, he predicted that those on both sides of the Church’s polarized wings will not get what they want, or fear.

“People who are afraid of strange or misplaced doctrinal advances, and people who, on the other hand, expect great changes, are going to be really disappointed,” he said.

The Synod on Synodality, he said, “is not conceived in this vein.”

“At least not this year,” he added. “Afterwards, we will see what emerges, and next year we will see what happens, but for this synod, this year, we cannot expect too much.”

Nothing for the headlines

What can be expected, the new cardinal assured, is “deepening of our self-awareness, of what we are as Church, what the Lord is asking of us, and what the world of today expects as well, and how we can better reach people with the same message we have always had.”

“If we manage to attain a light that guides us, that orients us, for the future of what we have to be before the people of God and before the world, I think that would already be immense, but it will not attract anyone’s attention. You can’t make a headline out of it,” he reflected.

The former archbishop of La Plata, Argentina, who since September holds what is perhaps the most powerful position in the Vatican after the Holy Father, suggests that “everyone, including journalists” should “lower their expectations” because, he asserted, “there will not be much new” from this synod.

Profoundly spiritual call

As for being named a cardinal, the 61-year-old Fernández told ACI Prensa that his appointment to the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith was “more shocking.”

“It implies very intense work, which I do with pleasure, because for the most part, it involves theology, which is something I am passionate about,” he explained. “I dreamed that after I turned 65, I would return to studying and teaching. In reality [with this post,] I am not going to teach, but I do have to study, and that is something I enjoy.”

The cardinal went on to praise his “very good team” of specialists and theologians at the dicastery, which, he said, gives him “more security.”

But the cardinal’s hat, “it seems to me, wasn’t indispensable,” Fernández added. “As Pope Francis has ‘his own ideas,’ he could have left me as a prefect without this title.”

Nevertheless, the call to be a cardinal has “that symbolic meaning of the donation of blood,” he said. “A call to a fuller, more courageous [surrender], more liberated from one’s own ego and one’s own needs.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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