BALTIMORE – The effort of American Catholic bishops to equip parishes and communities to support pregnant and parental mothers in need illustrates a âsynodal approachâ, according to Pope Francis’ representative in the United States.
“The Church must be resolutely pro-life,” Bishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, told the general assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on Tuesday. “We cannot give up our defense of innocent human life or the vulnerable person.”
The French-born prelate’s comments came as he addressed the bishops about synodality and the need for apostolic discernment at their annual fall meeting in Baltimore.
The Synod of Synodality began in October as a two-year global process of listening and dialogue that invites lay Catholics to participate and provide feedback. The process begins with a diocesan phase, continues with a continental phase and ends with a universal phase where bishops and others will meet in Rome.
According to Bishop Pierre, “true reform, while necessarily remaining faithful to the living Tradition of the Church, must also involve concrete actions”.
âI believe that synodality is a response to the challenges of our time and to the confrontation, which threatens to divide this country, and which also has its echoes in the Church,â he declared. âIt seems that many are unaware that they are engaged in this confrontation, staking out positions, rooted in certain truths but which are isolated in the world of ideas and not applied to the reality of the lived experience of faith of the People of God in their situations. “
Bishop Pierre defined synodality as a âway of lifeâ and a âway of living the faith permanently at all levels: in your dioceses, parishes, family and peripheriesâ.
Synodality, he stressed, involves listening to one another and to the Spirit, is led by God and by mission, and requires common apostolic discernment by uniting to seek the will of God. .
The Apostolic Nuncio recognized a number of problems facing the Church. He first highlighted the âpro-life issueâ.
A âsynodal approach to the question would be to better understand why people seek to end pregnancies; what are the root causes of choices against life, and what are the factors that make these choices so complicated for some; and, to start forming a consensus with concrete strategies to build the culture of life and the civilization of love, âhe explained.
He cited the Walking with Moms in Need program as a concrete example. The project, managed by the USCCB, encourages Catholics to support and âput themselves in the shoes ofâ local pregnant women and parents in difficult circumstances.
âHe tries to walk with women; to better understand their situations; working with pro-life agencies and social services to meet the concrete needs of pregnant women and their children, âhe said. The program “helps parishes identify and meet all the needs of mothers and their unborn children, not only during pregnancy, but for years to come,” says Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City , Kansas, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
Catholic churches, he added, can make a difference.
âMany pregnant women often suffer from loneliness and everyday events, such as baby showers, are not part of their reality,â continued Mgr Pierre. âParishes, by listening to some of the spiritual, social and emotional needs of people, can accompany women – even with small acts of kindness. “
“Concrete gestures, not just ideas, show the motherly and tender face of the Church which is truly pro-life,” he added.
The apostolic nuncio cited the Eucharist as a second example showing that “realities are more important than ideas”.
“We can have all the theological ideas about the Eucharist – and, of course, we need them – but none of these ideas compare to the reality of the Eucharistic Mystery, which must be discovered and rediscovered through experience. practice of the Church, to live in communion, particularly in this period of pandemic â, he declared.
Archbishop Peter’s speech came as American bishops prepare to vote on a new document emphasizing the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist. The apostolic nuncio underlined the importance of a âreal encounter with his Real Presenceâ.
âThere is the temptation to treat the Eucharist as something to offer to the privileged few rather than seeking to walk with those whose theology or discipleship is lacking, helping them to understand and appreciate the gift of the Eucharist and helping them overcome their difficulties, âhe said. âRather than remaining locked in an ‘ideology of the sacred’, synodality is a method that helps us to discover together a way forward.
He said the same could be said of race relations.
“Everyone here certainly condemns racial injustice,” he noted. âBut is it just the idea of ââracism that is wrong? To what extent, as a Church, could we respond in a tangible way to the lived reality of what certain members of society have to face on a daily basis? “
He repeated a question he asked the June meeting of bishops: âWhat type of Church are we?
In addition to the world, âthe Church is also being hurt – by the crisis of abuse, the lingering effects of the pandemic and the polarization that plagues society,â he said. “It is reality that must be engaged.”
“The Church needs concrete action, involving everyone, an action which mediates the presence of Christ in the human reality of our suffering world”, he declared. âIn my mind, the way this concrete action is implemented is through synodality. “