Pope at vigil: May God grant Synod the “gift of listening”
By Joseph Tulloch
Pope Francis has addressed the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square for an ecumenical prayer vigil.
The faithful – who hail from across the denominational spectrum, and include the heads of many Christian Churches – have gathered to entrust the upcoming General Assembly of the Synod to the Holy Spirit.
In his address, delivered toward the end of the vigil, Pope Francis meditated on the topic of silence, stressing in particular three values it holds for Christians today.
Silence and God’s voice
“Silence,” the Pope began, “lies at the beginning and end of Christ’s earthly existence. The Word, the Word of the Father, became 'silence' in the manger and on the cross, on the night of the Nativity and on the night of his Passion.”
Indeed, he noted, God seems to prefer silence to “shouting, gossiping and noise”. When he appears to the Prophet Elijah, God does not appear in the wind, earthquake, or fire, but in a “small still voice.”
The truth, after all, Pope Francis said, “does not need loud cries to reach people’s hearts.”
For this reason, he said, we too, as believers, need “to free ourselves from so much noise in order to hear his voice. For only in our silence does his word resound.”
Silence and the life of the Church
The Holy Father then turned his attention to the Acts of the Apostles, which say that after Peter’s speech to the Council of Jerusalem “the whole assembly kept silence.”
This reminds us, Pope Francis said, that “silence, in the ecclesial community, makes fraternal communication possible”; it is only when we fall silent to listen to others that the Holy Spirit is able to “draw together points of view.”
Moreover, silence “enables true discernment, through attentive listening to the Spirit’s sighs too deep for words, which echo, often hidden, within the People of God.”
Pope Francis therefore encouraged those gathered in St Peter’s Square to ask the Holy Spirit to “bestow the gift of listening” on the participants in the upcoming Synod meetings.
Silence and Christian unity
A final aspect of silence, the Pope said, is that it is “essential for the journey of Christian unity.”
This, he said, is because silence “is fundamental to prayer, and ecumenism begins with prayer and is sterile without it.”
Thus, “the more we turn together to the Lord in prayer, the more we feel that it is he who purifies us and unites us beyond our differences.”
Pope Francis brought his address to an end with a prayer that we might “learn again to be silent: to listen to the voice of the Father, the call of Jesus and the groaning of the Spirit.”
“Let us ask,” he said, “that the Synod be a kairós of fraternity, a place where the Holy Spirit will purify the Church from gossip, ideologies and polarization," and "may we know, like the Magi, how to worship in unity and in silence the mystery of God made man, certain that the closer we are to Christ, the more united we will be among ourselves.”
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