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Pope Francis to Synod on Synodality: ‘Do not sadden the Holy Spirit’

Synod on Synodality delegates in small groups listen to Pope Francis’ guidance for the upcoming weeks on Oct. 4, 2023. / Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

Vatican City, Oct 4, 2023 / 17:25 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis in his opening remarks for the Synod on Synodality on Wednesday offered guidance to participants on how the monthlong assembly will proceed.

Pointing synod delegates to texts by St. Basil on the Holy Spirit, the pope emphasized the importance of listening over speaking.

He said the Church is “paused” just like the apostles were when together in the upper room before Pentecost, except they were hiding in fear and “we are not.”

“It’s a pause of the listening Church. And that’s the most important message,” he said Oct. 4 in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.

The opening session of the Synod on Synodality took place on Wednesday afternoon. Unlike past synods, which took place in an auditorium-style room called the “new synod hall,” in the 2023 synod, participants are sitting at round tables in the large hall where Pope Francis often holds audiences with members of the public.

The Oct. 4–29 synodal assembly is also utilizing new technology, including tablets for participants. Video cameras and microphones at every table allow speakers’ contributions to be shared on screens at the tables of other members. Simultaneous translations are also available in the principal languages.

The 364 delegates are seated at tables of about 12 people, divided by language: English, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, or French.

In the first general congregation, or meeting of all the participants, Pope Francis said a synod on the topic of synodality “is not easy but it is beautiful.”

He said after the Amazon synod in 2019, a survey was sent to the world’s bishops to get their opinions on important topics to discuss as a Church. Synodality, Francis said, was the first most popular answer, followed by the priesthood, and an unspecified social issue.

“Most of the bishops of the world saw the need to reflect on synodality,” he stressed.

Repeating his frequent appeals that the synod is not a parliament or a Church meeting on pastoral care, Pope Francis underlined the priority of listening to the Holy Spirit over speaking.

He said “empty words” are one of the things that sadden the Holy Spirit the most, and that gossip is one of the most common sins in the Church.

“I insist on this: do not sadden the Holy Spirit,” the pope said.

Francis also told participants there should be “a certain fasting from the public word” during the synod.

Addressing the media, he recalled “pressure” at the 2019 Amazon Synod for the ordination of married men to the priesthood, so-called “viri probati,” and the “public opinion” at the two synods on the family about allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive holy Communion.

“Now, there are hypotheses about this synod,” he added. “What will they do … women priests. These are things they say outside.”

The session opened with the praying of the Liturgy of the Hours, which included a reading from the Gospel of St. Matthew for the memorial of St. Francis of Assisi.

Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak, one of 10 delegate presidents, gave the first speech of the day. Pope Francis’ remarks were followed by speeches from synod Secretary General Cardinal Mario Grech and synod Relator General Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich.

In the morning, Pope Francis celebrated the opening Mass of the synod in St. Peter’s Square.

On Oct. 5, the synod will proceed with small-group discussions, called “conversation in the Spirit.”

Reading a quote from St. Basil included in a collection of patristic texts he chose to share with synod participants, the pope recalled the importance of harmony.

The great work of the Holy Spirit is harmony, he said, adding that “if there’s no harmony, there’s no Holy Spirit.”

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