Pope Francis appeals against polarization ahead of big Church meeting
Pope Francis appeals against polarization ahead of big Church meeting

Pope Francis appeals against polarization ahead of big Church meeting

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis said on Saturday that he hoped an upcoming global encounter at the Vatican would be a propitious time of unity and fraternity and not cause further polarisation in the Catholic Church.

The 86-year-old pontiff spoke at an ecumenical prayer vigil attended by leaders of various Christian Churches in St. Peter’s Square ahead of the opening on Wednesday of major month-long meeting in the Vatican, known as a synod, that could chart the Church’s future.

“Let us ask that the synod be a ‘kairos’ of fraternity, a place where the Holy Spirit will purify the Church from gossip, ideologies and polarization,” he said, using the ancient Greek word roughly meaning an opportune or critical moment to do something of significance.

About 18,000 people, mostly young Christians from around the world, attended, reading prayers for victims of war, injustice and sexual violence and calling for defence of the environment. Hundreds were later starting a three-day retreat north of Rome ahead of the opening of the synod.

The Oct. 4-29 synod has been in preparation for two years, during which Catholics around the world were asked about their vision for the future of the Church. A second final session will be held in October, 2024 and be followed by a papal document.

The synod has been controversial since Francis first announced it 2020. Various groups have arrived in Rome to hold news conferences, presentations and protests to illustrate their views, suggestions and demands.

Proponents have welcomed the consultations as an opportunity to change the Church’s power dynamics and give a greater voice to lay Catholics, including women, and people on the margins of society.

Conservatives say the process has been a waste of time, may erode the hierarchical structure of the nearly 1.3 billion-member Church and in the long run could dilute traditional doctrine.

About 365 “members” with voting rights will attend, along with about 100 other participants such as observers and delegates from other Christian Churches. Women will be allowed to vote for the first time.

The prayer vigil was attended Christian leaders including Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, spiritual head of the worldwide Anglican communion, and Bartholomew I, the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch of Orthodox Christianity.

Francis also spoke about the upcoming synod on Saturday morning when he elevated 21 prelates to the rank of cardinal, further cementing his legacy and significantly raising the percentage of electors chosen by him who will have the right to vote for his successor.

In his homily at that event, he called for “an ever more symphonic and synodal Church”.

Using the metaphor of an orchestra, Francis appeared to refer to divisions between progressives and conservatives in the Church, saying one section or instrument cannot play alone or drown out the others.

It was his job, as “conductor” to listen and try to achieve a “creative fidelity,” he said.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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