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This is not a top down Church

HONG KONG (SE): In a wide-ranging conversation about secularism, war, fundamentalism and his latest apostolic exhortation, The Joy of Love (Amoris Laetitia), Pope Francis spoke about the role and purpose of synodality in the Church, saying that he is not there to dictate, but to listen to local Churches, harmonise them and to discern.

In a veiled reference to the war of words raging among a smallish minority of bishops and others over The Joy of Love, he said that a synod of the Church cannot hold onto the image of a pyramid structure in which what St. Peter says is done.

“The pope accompanies the Church,” he said. “He listens to her, he learns from reality.”

Pope Francis added that what is contained in The Joy of Love was approved by more than two-thirds of the bishops present at the Synod on Family Life, which he called a guarantee of its integrity and teaching.

However, some seem not to subscribe to this theory that Pope Francis is putting forward.

Bishop Athanasius Schneider, from Kazakhstan, is one of the latest. He said in an interview with French television on December 7, “We are witnessing today a bizarre form of schism.”

Bishop Schneider claimed in the interview that because of the war of words raging over the latest apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis, the Church is facing a crisis of faith that he can only compare with the fourth century Arian schism.

Although it was never actually declared a schism, the Arian heresy proclaimed that in his identity Jesus is quite distinct from the Father and therefore in a position subordinate to him.

Without naming names, the Soviet Union-born bishop of German ethnicity accused influential priests of breaking away from tradition and working to suppress any discussion about their aim, which he says straight out is to promote a gospel of sexual liberty.

He also accused them of using evil means, ruses and deception, as well as masterful rhetoric, dialectic, intimidation and moral violence in order to push for communion for the divorced and remarried in some circumstances, something of which he seems not to approve.

He then asked people to pray that Pope Francis would lift his game and come out of the shadows of the Vatican walls and give clear and proper direction in order to avoid what he termed this spreading and developing schism.

In an effort to make critics face the music for their comments and defend what they are saying, Peter Cardinal Turkson, the prefect of the new Vatican dicastery for Integral Human Development, suggested to the National Catholic Register, “For all of these people who’ve said things, written things, each in their own different contexts, a great thing that could happen is have them all on stage.”

In making himself clearer on synodality, Pope Francis said, “The Synodal Church, let me take this word. The Church is born from the community, it is born from the foundation, it is born from baptism; and it is organised around a bishop, who brings it together and gives it strength; the bishop, who is the successor of the apostles.”

He continued, “But in all the world there are many bishops, many organised Churches and there is Peter. Therefore either there is a pyramidal Church, in which what Peter says is done, or there is a synodal Church, in which Peter is Peter, but he accompanies the Church.”

He said that The Joy of Love was well prepared, with international consultation. It has a rich variety of nuances, which is typical of the Church. “It is unity in diversity. This is synodality,” he explained.

He stressed that synodality is not descending from high to low, but listening to the Churches. “Amoris Laetitia is the result of two synods in which all the Church worked, and which the pope made his own. It is expressed in a harmonious way.”

He then made the point that the way to move forward is not by the pope giving orders, but through the process of synodality, which fundamentally means listening without condemning.

“But it is one thing to debate like brothers and another to condemn a priori,” Pope Francis added, saying that there must be freedom of expression and others must be left free to express their thoughts and opinions.

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