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Pope’s Homily at the Opening Eucharist of the Synod on Synodality

A man, a rich man, goes to meet Jesus while He "went along the road" (Mk 10:17). Many times the Gospels present Jesus to us "on the road", while He joins the journey of man and listens to the questions that inhabit and stir his heart. Thus, He reveals to us that God does not dwell in sterile places, in quiet places, far from reality, but He walks with us and reaches us where we are, on the sometimes bumpy roads of life. And today, opening this synodal path, we begin by asking all of us - Pope, bishops, priests, religious and lay brothers and sisters - do we, the Christian community, embody the style of God, who walks in history and shares the events of 'humanity? Are we ready for the adventure of the journey or, fearful of the unknowns, do we prefer to take refuge in the excuses of "no use" or "it has always been done this way"?

Making a Synod means walking on the same path, walking together. Let us look to Jesus, who first meets the rich man on the road, then listens to his questions and finally helps him to discern what to do to have eternal life. Meeting, listening, discerning – three verbs of the Synod on which I would like to dwell.

Meet. The Gospel opens by narrating an encounter. A man goes to meet Jesus, kneels before Him, asking Him a decisive question: "Good Teacher, what must I do to have eternal life?" (v. 17). Such an important question requires attention, time, willingness to meet the other and to let oneself be challenged by his restlessness. The Lord, in fact, is not detached; He does not show Himself annoyed or disturbed; on the contrary, He stops with him. He is available at the meeting. Nothing leaves Him indifferent, everything fascinates Him. Meeting faces, meeting eyes, sharing the story of each one – this is the closeness of Jesus. He knows that an encounter can change life. And the Gospel is studded with encounters with Christ that lift and heal. Jesus was not in a hurry;He did not look at his watch to finish the meeting early. He was always at the service of the person He met, to listen to him/her.

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Focus on a Holier Church

Cardinal Oswald Gracias

At the special event to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis gave a magisterial address with his reflections on the Synod and the Church. I remember walking back from the function with the Chilean Cardinal, and discussing the new insights the Holy Father had given. The Pope stressed that Synodality flows from the teachings of Vatican II and that the Church of today is called to be a Synodal Church.

The most evident structure to begin this new thrust was the Synod of Bishops. Topics for the Bishops' Synod are chosen by the Holy Father in consultation with the bishops of the world. After the consultation, the Secretary General of the Synod takes the list to the Holy Father with the recommendations of the Synod Council. The major point of discussion at our deliberations was whether we should discuss Synodality itself, or take another theme of universal importance and discuss it in a Synodal way. In other words: Should Synodality be just the process, or the process and also the object of the process. After much debate on this issue, the topic of Synodality was chosen. We later learnt that this was also the personal preference of the Holy Father.

Synod: Walking together brings its own challenges. Can we all really walk together? Aren't we so different? Is there commonality in the Church universal? And of course, the elephant in the room: are we beginning a democratisation of the Church? Is this the Church that Our Lord intended to found? It is evident that such a process has its own inherent challenges. I am reminded of the reflections of St John Cardinal Henry Newman regarding sensus fidelium which become very relevant here. Discernment is vital for this process. It is the Holy Spirit who should guide us for all decisions. But how do we ascertain this? How to discern what truly is the will of God?

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Encountering Christ together through the synodal process

Archbishop William E. Lori

This month, the Church throughout the world will initiate a synodal process. Words such as "synod" or "synodal process" or "synodality" might sound unfamiliar, so let me begin with a brief explanation of what they mean, and why they are important.

The word "synod" (and its variants) refer to certain types of church meetings, yet they mean so much more. The root meaning of these words, as reflected in Scripture, has to do with "journeying together," walking together in the way of the Lord, or better yet, joining together as disciples in walking along the way which Jesus, as Messiah and Lord, has traced for us. "Synod" refers to important meetings, such as a diocesan synod or the worldwide synod of bishops.

The word "synodality" refers to a way of going about the Church's mission, not as partisans or isolated individuals, but rather as the People of God, joined together in Christ and listening to the Holy Spirit.

Expressions of synodality already exist in the Church's life. Since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), structures have been put in place designed to invite discussion, dialogue and discernment. For example, parishes are to have Pastoral Councils and Finance Councils. Moreover, pastors are to work collaboratively, not only with fellow clergy and staff, but also with parishioners, and be ready to invite them to use their gifts and talents for the good of the whole parish.

Other examples of synodality come to mind such as the archdiocesan Presbyteral Council and clergy convocations. Some years ago, I re-established the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, and it has been hard at work ever since. The Board of Financial Administration (BOFA) discusses the financial and administrative challenges the local Church faces. There are also regional meetings of clergy, catechists, youth ministers and others. From time to time, there have been regional meetings for both clergy and laity to discuss issues such as pastoral planning and sexual abuse. Currently, a diocesan-wide discussion and dialogue around the issue of racism is underway.

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What is Synodality?

Bp Robert Barron

It was a great privilege for me to participate in the Synod on Young People in the fall of 2018. Along with about 300 other bishops and ecclesial experts from around the world, I spent four weeks in Rome exploring the complex question of the Church's outreach to the young.

About three weeks into the Synod process, a sub-committee of writers presented a preliminary text, meant to reflect our deliberations, questions and decisions to that point. This draft represented, for the most part, an accurate account of our work, but there were a few pages that troubled a number of us. More or less out of the blue, a vigorous defence of "synodality" appeared in the text, though we had never, either in general session or in the small language groups, so much as discussed the theme. Moreover, the language was so imprecise that it gave the impression that the Church is a kind of free-wheeling democracy, making up its principles and teachings as it goes along. Rather alarmed by this section of the draft, a number of bishops and archbishops, myself included, rose to speak against it. We wondered aloud how to square this language with the teaching authority of the bishops, the binding quality of the Church's dogmatic statements, and the practical process of governing the people of God. Mind you, none of us who expressed concern about the language of the text was against synods as such; after all, we were happily participating in one. It was the vagueness and ambiguity of the formulation that bothered us.

Just after our interventions, a well-known and deeply-respected cardinal asked to speak. He opined that our objections were baseless, and that the texts in question were not threatening to the authority of the bishops or the integrity of the Church's doctrine; though, to be honest, he provided no real argument for his position. When he sat down, applause rang through the Synod Hall, and we moved on to another topic. At the time, I thought, "Well, you win some, and you lose some ."

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The Spanish Jesuits in Bombay

Fr. Myron J. Pereira SJ

1921-2021: A quick look at their enormous contribution to the local Church

The Jesuits of three different countries planted and nurtured the faith in Bombay and along India's west coast. The first were the Portuguese in the region of Salsette and Vasai, from 1548 to 1739. Next, Jesuits from Germany, Austria and Switzerland established a network of schools and colleges, parishes and missions from 1853 to 1919. Finally, missionaries from Spain carried forward the Society's educational and pastoral mission from 1921 to the 1950s.

This year 2021 therefore marks 100 years, when on November 26, 1921, Archbishop Alban Goodier welcomed the first three Spanish priests and two brothers to India, calling their arrival in Bombay, "one of God's greatest blessings in these tragic days."

When and how the Spanish came

The Great War (1914-18) proved disastrous for the ministry of the German Jesuits in Bombay and Poona. The priests were herded into detention camps, and later expelled from India.

The Jesuit Superior-General, Fr Ledochowski, was in a quandary. In place of the Germans, he had wanted to send American Jesuits to Bombay, but the British colonial authorities vetoed this plan. Too many Americans had Irish names, and Britain was facing violent protests in northern Ireland over its misrule.

So in one of the most decisive commands ever issued under obedience, Ledochowski asked the Spanish Jesuits, who had worked in the Philippines for centuries, to move out entirely and re-locate to India. As one bishop put it, "No one except the Jesuits could receive such an order of obedience with such submission."

The Spaniards arriving in India quickly divided themselves into two groups; one moved into rural Gujarat, and the other into urban ministry in Bombay. At that time, Gujarat was the "mission field" of Bombay.

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OBITUARY - A Loyal Priest and Pastor

I am happy to have known Fr Joaquim D’Costa, since the mid-60’s when he entered St Pius X College, Goregaon, along with a group of candidates from the Pilar congregation, who decided to join the Bombay Archdiocesan seminary. They desired to continue their priestly studies comprising the mandatory Philosophy and Theology after having completed their early spiritual formation at Goa. He was ordained in 1965 and incardinated into the Archdiocese of Bombay and served the diocese to the very end.

From the start, I remember him vividly, as he always displayed a genuine reciprocity and mutuality in his relationships with other seminarians and took to me as a close friend. He was an industrious and diligent student and always eager to learn and increase his knowledge about several matters, that he was not familiar with. He was quick to assess situations, act unwaveringly on principle, and discharge duties entrusted to him promptly. He volunteered his services as an assistant infirmarian to tend to seminarians who fell ill, as he was familiar with paramedical work having helped at medical community centres.

It was very clear that he was cut out to be a priest, and he was indeed a very good and faithful priest, whose life and ministry was rooted in the Eucharistic celebration of the Paschal Mystery. He served generously in a variety of parishes in the city, using his skills in music to train choirs and reaching out to the Konkani speaking segment of the congregation, breaking the Word to them in their mother tongue.

Having equipped himself with qualifications for teaching, he was appointed as a principal in several parish schools in the city of Mumbai and volunteered to serve for two years in the mission school at Port Blair. I think that, as pastor, he left his parishes better than he found them. One of the most obvious things I observed was that he was a good administrator. He responded promptly to needs and challenges, understood how to use resources, made sure the parish house and property was in good condition, and was well-liked by the people.

No less real, was his genuine pastoral love, a love which rooted in daily prayer, the Eucharist, and his devotion to the Bl. Mother was exemplary and inspiring. As pastor, he used his culinary skills to build a meal fellowship round the table in the rectory. Fr Joaquim was a gentleman, and by nature a gentle person, close to his community of brother priests. Small wonder then, he was appointed Dean to keep the deanery vibrant and kicking.

An index of Fr Joaquim’s priestly goodness was his resolve to serve as long as he could. Not unlike St. John Paul II however, Fr Joaquim kept going, doing all that he could until his physical condition left him no other choice but to retire. Here, I think, he demonstrated a true spousal love for the Church and for his people, loving them “for better or for worse, in good times and bad, in sickness and in health.” Until death do him part.

From his death bed, Fr Joaquim expressed this longing for God in his daily prayer, especially the Divine Office, the recitation of the Rosary, and his devotion to the Eucharist. Towards the end, his prayers clearly were not formalistic but rather from the heart. He was not only the Lord’s good priest, he was good also as the Lord’s disciple and surely must be in the arms of His Master and Lord, as his illness progressed and he passed away.

Fr Joaquim had many very difficult days and how grateful we should be to all those who took such good care of him. I can say for sure that, deep down, he accepted this cup of suffering, that is to say, his participation in the Lord’s suffering and death, and that he ended his days every inch the priest and victim he resolved to be. Joaquim, my good friend, may your great priestly soul rest in peace and be in the arms of your loving Master! Amen.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias

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