Synod, “The beautiful Church is the one with open doors that has a place for everyone”


In the daily briefing in the Press Room on 10 October, led by the president of the Information Commission Paolo Ruffini, talked about updating the work of the smaller circles on the second module of the Instrumentum Laboris. Redemptorist Cardinal Joseph William Tobin CSsR, Archbishop of Newark, spoke about the richness of the comparison of different experiences and cultures.

Redemptorist Cardinal Tobin, among the members of the ordinary council of the general secretariat of the Synod and recently elected to the Information Commission, in his speech he recounted his personal experience as a member of an American Catholic family of Irish origin, recalling his youthful years spent in Detroit in a multi-ethnic neighbourhood and in a multicultural environment. He pointed out that he has been a priest for 45 years, living the ministry in cultures different from the one in which he was raised. In this regard, he highlighted how it is always fascinating for him the way in which people look at experiences that they do not necessarily share, still considering them enriching. In his diocese, 16 thousand people were involved in the synodal process: “it was interesting to listen to hopes, worries, dreams and anxieties” he stated. There is complementarity: many people who share the same concerns, he said again.

Responding to a question about possible issues “dropped from above”, Cardinal Tobin said that when at the end of the pre-synodal process “people examined the reports sent to Washington, as done by the other North American dioceses, they assured that there was actually was what they had said, perhaps not with the same emphasis because everyone has their own passions, but no one felt ignored. And this, which was surprising, was also repeated at the level of the national syntheses, which were the basis of the continental meetings”. For this reason, he continued, “I think that the Instrumentum laboris just follow this process and we’ll see what happens. We started recently, but I’m confident that things didn’t come to us from above, the beauty of these processes is that they started from the bottom up and not the other way around.”

Other questions concerned the presence in a working group of the two Russian and Ukrainian women, to whom Tobin had referred, and the pastoral care of the divorced and remarried and LGBT people. The American cardinal confirmed that the issue of war in Europe emerged during the reflection, along with other conflicts. Regarding the concern of “reaching all those who do not feel at home in the Catholic Church,” he recalled that years ago he welcomed LGBTQ people who felt marginalized in the cathedral. “The true beauty of the Church is when it opens its doors,” commented Tobin “and I hope that the Synod will help us to open them even more.”

When asked about American Catholics who do not feel represented in this Synod because they identify with the traditional mass, Tobin explained that the experience of feeling distanced happens, “we have closed parishes because they have lost their original purpose. These are tough decisions to make if people feel mistreated there is an opportunity to appeal. The people who want the traditional mass are there, but they have not been exiled.” Furthermore, in response to another question, Tobin reiterated that “all members of the circles were asked to provide the language preferences of the smaller circles as elements of communion and participation.” Cardinal Grech said everyone had the opportunity to have their preferences recognized and everyone could listen and speak in the groups. We are not subject to constraints.

Subsequently, to a question regarding methodological issues and “conspiracy theories”, Cardinal Tobin responded that what may seem like an authoritarian approach is not in reality. “Francis listens carefully, is always informed and takes the unity of the Church seriously, so I am very confident in what he will decide.” Furthermore, he added, “This Synod reserves great importance for silence. Not just the media one. Every time someone speaks there is a pause of a few minutes to understand what has been said.” Finally, he concluded, there is the aspect of prayer which “pervades the whole day and specific moments. It’s not formal.”

Scala News / – 10/10/2023