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Pope Francis delivers his homily at the Mass opening the assembly of the Synod of Bishops in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican, October 4 (CNS/Lola Gomez)

Pope Francis has opened a long-anticipated Vatican summit on the Church’s future, encouraging its participants to reject the temptations of doctrinal rigidity and to embrace a vision of the Church that is open and welcoming to all. Source: NCR Online.

“The blessing and welcoming gaze of Jesus prevents us from falling into some dangerous temptations: of being a rigid Church, which arms itself against the world and looks backward; of being a lukewarm Church, which surrenders to the fashions of the world; of being a tired Church, turned in on itself,” Francis said in a homily in St Peter’s Square that marked the start of the month-long Synod on Synodality. 

Some 450 delegates from all over the world have descended onto Rome for the occasion, representing a wide array of views and often sharp divisions on some of the hot-button issues facing the Church, such as clergy abuse, the role of women’s ministry, inclusion of LGBTQ Catholics and other questions surrounding the structure of Church authority.

While the Synod will allow widespread debate on these issues, the Pope used his opening homily to caution against relying on “human strategies, political calculations or ideological battles” and instead urged “unity and friendship” in the weeks ahead.  

“This is the primary task of the Synod: to refocus our gaze on God, to be a Church that looks mercifully at humanity,” he said. 

“A Church that is united and fraternal, that listens and dialogues; a Church that blesses and encourages, that helps those who seek the Lord, that lovingly stirs up the indifferent, that opens paths in order to draw people into the beauty of faith. A Church that has God at its centre and, therefore, is not divided internally and is never harsh externally,” he continued.

Following the Mass, the Synod delegates gathered for their first working session, where they heard again from Francis and then from the two primary cardinals leading the Synod assembly. 


Opening momentous Vatican summit, Pope Francis begs church to ‘not impose burdens’ (By Christopher White, NCR Online)


Pope addresses fears around synod: ‘Not a political gathering’ (OSV News)
Pope urges Synod of Bishops not to ‘barricade itself behind preconceived notions’ (Crux)

Pope to Synod: The Holy Spirit guides us toward harmony and respectful listening (Vatican News)