Address of H.E. Mario Cardinal Grech to the Holy Father during the Consistory

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Consistory for the Creation of Cardinals

28 November 2020

Address of H.E. Mario Cardinal Grech

Altar of the Chair, St Peter’s Basilica

Vatican City

(traduzione dall’originale in lingua italiana)

Your Holiness,

Called together in a Consistory during such a grave time for all of humanity due to the current pandemic, we wish to extend our thoughts to all of our brothers and sisters who are suffering. The dramatic circumstances that the Church and the world are living, challenge us to offer a reading of the pandemic that might help each and every person to see also in this tragedy an opportunity to “rethink our styles of life, our relationships, the organization of our societies and, above all, the meaning of our existence.”[1]

As a “sacrament or as a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race,”[2] the Church is called to open ways, or better she herself needs to set out anew on the journey.[3] This is the lesson from the Second Vatican Council in the second chapter of Lumen gentium that recovers the idea of the People of God on a journey.[4] According to the New Testament, the condition of the Christian is that of a pilgrim, who lives in the world as a stranger, well aware that fulfilment can only be reached in the Kingdom of God.[5] Once again, at the beginning of a new millennium, the Spirit seems to be saying to us that we must return to being “those who belong to The Way.” (cf. Acts 9:2)

A Church that journeys is a Church that “journeys together.”[6] The People of God are not a sum of individuals; rather they are “God’s faithful, holy people.”[7] If they walk ‘together’ they will not take the wrong road because as all of the faithful possess the capacity of ‘infallibility in credendo,’ the sensus fidei that you often invite us to is listening in order to discern “that which the Spirit is saying to the Church.”[8] These were the solicitations you gave, your holiness, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the institution of the Synod, when you traced the profile of the Church as constitutively synodal.[9]

A synodal Church is a “Church that listens.”[10] Mutual listening, as listening to the Holy Spirit, is perhaps the truest realisation of that “open or incomplete thought, always open to the maius of God and the Truth, always developing,”[11] which you, Your Holiness, emphasise as the disposition of a good philosopher, a good theologian, and evidently also of a ‘good bishop.’ One here is not speaking of some form of relativism. Rather, what one understands here is the dynamism of Tradition itself, by virtue of which “the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfilment in her.”[12]

Within this dynamism is clarified the profile of the synodal Church and synodality as a pattern and style of the Church. This is the vision that you, Holy Father, strongly propose to us. The Constitution Episcopalis communio[13] seeks to implement it, interpreting the Synod of Bishops not as an event anymore, but as a process in which the People of God, the College of Bishops and the Bishop of Rome are involved in synergy, each according to its proper function. I would like to emphasise the indispensable role that the People of God play in this process. In this way, the sensus fidei recuperates its active function, allowing it to practice listening as the principle of a Church that is truly and completely synodal.

Synodality introduces every aspect of the Church’s life and mission in a dynamic of circular fruitfulness. The particular Churches, the provinces and ecclesiastical regions, the Church universal, in which even the College of Cardinals offers its part, all are inserted in that synodal process which manifests “a dynamism of communion which inspires all ecclesial decisions.”[14]

This is the basis of the task that together we are called to carry out, and which the Secretariat of the Synod seeks to serve. It can collaborate in facilitating the connection between the various levels of the exercise of synodality. Its primary contribution is specifically that of listening. I have already written to all the bishops, offering our availability, and many, from every part of the world, confirmed the importance of mutual listening. But I believe and desire that the Secretariat may be able to do more, for example, supporting the bishops and the episcopal conferences in maturing in a synodal style, without interfering, but accompanying the processes underway at various levels in the Church’s life.

This could be the way in which the Secretariat of the Synod can participate in the dynamism of the “Church which goes forth”[15] in a world that, in the dramatic circumstances in which we are living, has even more need that the Church truly be the “universal sacrament of salvation.”[16]

Sustaining us is hope, the Holy Spirit’s gift for difficult times. In The Portal the Mystery of Hope, Charles Péguy imagines hope as “a girl from nowhere,” the smallest of the sisters, between faith, compared to a bride, and charity, viewed as a mother. He concludes:

“The Christian people don’t pay attention, except the two older sisters. The first and the last… They are blind who cannot see otherwise. That it is she in the middle who leads her older sisters along.”[17]

“Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of hope!”[18] May Mary, Star of the Sea, whom we Maltese venerate under the title of Madonna Ta’ Pinu, grant us this hope.

To you, Holy Father, who desired to choose us for a more direct service to the Church, we ask that you bless us.

 

***

[1] Francis, Encyclical, Fratelli tutti, n. 33.

[2] Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen gentium, n. 1.

[3] Antonio Machado, in his famous poem writes: «Caminante, son tus huellas/ el camino, y nada más;/caminante, no hay camino:/ se hace camino al andar./ Al andar se hace el camino/y al volver la vista atrás/se ve la senda que nunca/ se ha de volver a pisar./ Caminante, no hay camino/ sino estelas en el mar»: “Wanderer, it is your footprints/ winding down, and nothing more;/ wanderer, no roads lie waiting,/ roads you make as you explore./ Step by step your road is charted,/ and behind your turning head/ lies the path that you have trodden,/ not again for you to tread.”

 (Campos de Castilla. in Proverbios y cantares, XXIX,1912). Psalm 77, calling to mind the story of Exodus: “When your way led through the sea, your path through mighty waters, and no one saw your footprints, You guided your people like a flock, by the hand of Moses and Aaron. (Ps 77:20)

[4] The Apostle Peter addresses the first Christian communities as “exiles of the diaspora” (1 Pt 1:1) who reside for a short time a strange land, invites them to “conduct [themselves] with fear throughout the time of [their] exile.” (1 Pt 1:17)

[5] In a re-reading of the condition of contemporary man, Duccio Demetrio says that today one must “know how to exist in the vicissitudes of change, in the unpredictability of the path, even in losing along the way. In a the wearisome changing of journeys, of the soil in which we trust, of the guides to whom we were handed over. To walk without rest is to avail oneself to continuing to learn.” D. Demetrio, “Metaphors of walking,” in Filosofia del camminare, Milan 2005.

[6] Pope Francis in his discourse on the 50th anniversary of the Synod of Bishops reflects on this synodal journey. “The world in which we live, and which we are called to love and serve, even with its contradictions, demands that the Church strengthen cooperation in all areas of her mission. It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium.”

[7] Cf. The letter of Pope Francis to Cardinal Ouellett, President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. (19 March 2016)

[8] Cf. Francis, Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium 119.

[9] Cf. Francis, Address on the 50th Anniversary of the Institution of the Synod of Bishops. (17 October 2015)

[10] Ibid.

[11] “A Jesuit must always be a person of incomplete thought, of open thought. There have always been moments in the Company of Jesus of closed and rigid thinking, more instructive and ascetic than mystical. Rather, the Jesuit must always think in continuation, looking toward the horizons with Christ at the centre. This is the true strength which pushes the Company to be in search, creativity and generosity.” Interview in Civiltà Cattolica, 164[2013] vol. 3, 3918, 455. “The good theologian and philosopher has an open that is, an incomplete, thought, always open to the maius of God and of the truth, always in development…  [Apostolic Constitution, Veritatis Gaudium, 3]

[12] Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution, Dei Verbum, n. 8.

[13] Francis, Episcopalis Commnio, (15 September 2018).

[14] Francis, Address on the 50th Anniversary of the Institution of the Synod of Bishops. (17 October 2015)

[15] Cf. Francis, Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Guadium, n. 24.

[16] Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen Gentium, n. 48.

[17] Charles Péguy, The Portal the Mystery of Hope.

[18] Francis, Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Guadium, n. 86.