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SynodWatch RoundUP for Oct. 11; No human is clandestine; Catholic with a tiny, tiny “c”; Listen to Grace

At today’s press briefing Paolo Ruffini and Sheila Pires were joined by Canadian Cardinal Lacroix, Grace Wrackia from Papua New Guinea, and Luca Casarini, an Italian migration activist.

Today general discussions focused on poverty, migration, abuse, the role of women, and sexual identity.

Dr. Ruffini reported on a “small ‘working group’” held on Tuesday at the Casa Santa Marta, where some of Rome’s poor were invited to lunch with Pope Francis and Papal Almoner, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski.  Those who took part in the meal were also asked what they expected from the Church. “Their answer was: ‘Love. Just love’.”

There are general congregations yesterday and today, devoted to small group reports with free interventions, where people can react to what they heard.

We are at the Module B1 which is divided into 5 sections/questions.  Today the participants talked about B1.4 and B1.5.

Sheila touched on the highlights of the day.  One theme that came up was the desire for a church that is poor, that walks with the poor.  The poor have many faces.  We also discussed migrants, climate change, women, the participation of men in the church, the abuse of women, and more.  Some bishops asked for assistance from other bishops who are doing well in providing assistance to migrants.  They also looked at the social doctrine of the church where the poor are excluded.  Another topic that came out quite strongly was to strengthen relationships to the Eastern churches.   And the question of how to put this synodal process into practice was also discussed.

Ruffini said there were a lot of discussion about “truth and love.”  The topic of sexuality was brought up.  Some said that there is no need to talk about sexuality.  But others said that there is no room for “homophobia.”  And there was much discussion about love, acceptance, and truth.

Canadian Cardinal Lacroix spoke about Vatican II.  “What we are living and experiencing is in continuity,” he said.  John XXIII was prophetic and offered the words the pope spoke at the opening of the Second Vatican Council.

It is but natural that in opening this Universal Council we should like to look to the past and to listen to its voices, whose echo we like to hear in the memories and the merits of the more recent and ancient Pontiffs, our predecessors. These are solemn and venerable voices, throughout the East and the West, from the fourth century to the Middle Ages, and from there to modern times, which have handed down their witness to those Councils. They are voices which proclaim in perennial fervor the triumph of that divine and human institution, the Church of Christ, which from Jesus takes its name, its grace, and its meaning.

Grace Wrackia from Papua New Guinea, explained that the Catholic Church has been in the region for about 150 years.  “It is a country of 1000 tribes, 800+ languages.”  We see each other as family.  Melanesian spirituality is very important to us.  We build relationships beyond those who look like us and extends us into a very big community.  And my ancestors are proud of our identity.  We live synodality.  We live in communion.  A village comes together to makes big decisions together.  Everyone speaks.  Women speak.  As she recalled her beautiful way of life, she made it clear, “We have been listening.  And now we want to speak because we have something to offer this synod.”

No human being is clandestine

Vatican media captured the testimony of Luca Casarini beautifully.  His words were powerful and moving.  Casarini is an Italian

Mediterranea Saving Humans

activist and former proponent of the Tute Bianche movement. Casarini was influential in the development of the “white overalls” movement, that practiced social and civil disobedience while dressed in white overalls.  He was arrested at the G8 Summit in Genoa for his participation in violent protests.  Under an NGO he established in 2018, Mediterranea Saving People, he and his crew continue to set sail in the only civil rescue ship flying the Italian flag.  In thirteen missions they have recovered two thousand shipwrecked survivors. But also corpses in the waves. Pope Francis wanted him at the synod because of their courageous work.  “There are some groups of people who are dedicated to saving people at sea. I invited one of them to participate in the Synod. They tell you terrible stories”, Francis told journalists, returning from Marseille, to explain Casarini’s participation.

Casarini began by describing himself as “a privileged man”, because “in a world where there is a race to see who kills the most people, a world dominated by hatred, to come to the aid of a life, to embrace brothers and sisters in the middle of the sea is an infinite gift that changes lives. It has changed mine…”

“In the middle of the sea we meet these brothers and sisters, and at that moment you meet two poverties.”

On the one hand, there is the economic and social poverty that forces people “to leave their land, their family, their memory”, their only riches; on the other hand, the desolating poverty of a part of the world that now considers “horror normal”.

“We are no longer able to cry for a child who dies,” Mr. Casarini said. “These two poverties help each other and make room for something we should desperately seek today in the world of hatred: love. This is how I met Jesus and God.”

Catholic with a tiny, tiny “c”

I have always loved the idea that the words catholic, with a small “c” means universal.  But today, I witnessed someone who found a way to make that “c” so tiny it hardly seems “catholic” in any sense of the word at all.  After the powerful words of Luca Casarini were offered, it was stunning and embarrassing to see a tone-deaf journalist from LifeSite News stand up and ask if participants at the synod are expected to adhere to Catholic teaching. There was a kind of silent shock.  Could anyone be so petty in the face of such a profoundly moving testimony?  There was some uncomfortable movement and it took a bit of time to sort out who would answer.  The cardinal bent over backwards to say that the synod was not about doctrine and he continued to talk about the discernment process for a few moments. I was feeling more like a mother who gives her child “the look” when the child continues to misbehave.

Edward Pentin, asked who would be writing the final synthesis of the synod report.  And, wow! he asked if Luca Casarini was “sorry” for “illegally” rescuing migrants.

Casarini replied, “For Genoa, I underwent eight years of trial and was acquitted in all three levels of prosecution,” He said that he “could not understand” Pentin’s accusation.

“For me, no human being is clandestine… I understood that I was under investigation because I helped 38 people from 38 days in the middle of the sea. The biggest stand-off Europe has ever known. Among these people was a girl who was raped by five Libyan guards before going to sea. For 38 days she did not even see a doctor. Did I commit a crime? Arrest me, I’m glad I did it.”

Another journalist asked asked him if he felt “out of place” at an event like the Synod, punctuated by various rituals and spiritual moments.

“I always feel out of place and inadequate in every context”, he smiled. “I really do consider everyone present at the Synod my brothers and sisters, I am learning to turn anger and resentment into piety.”

“I am trying to learn is to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. That we should not expect to solve everything ourselves, but it is the Holy Spirit who acts. So crazy things can happen… like the fact that I am at the Synod.”

The journalist from America Magazine asked if the conversations around polarizing topics like sexual identity and others have gone more smoothly than in the past and what accounts for that.  Ruffini explained that his experience was not polarized.  People were free to speak and there was a sense that we needed to have more encounter in order to understand the experience of others.  And they are getting encouragement from Cardinal Grech to remember that tensions within a family are normal.  The cardinal agree that it is good to listen and to consider new ideas.  “Everyone can express themselves and they will be listened to.”

Listen to Grace

Grace Wrackia

A journalist from Belgium asked about indigenous communities, Catholic missionary activities, and the past sins of colonialism in places like Papua New Guinea.  He wanted to know what evangelization should look like today.  We need to walk together, but not without truth or justice.

Grace Wrackia from Papua New Guinea gave a most eloquent response!  I want to fall down on my knees in gratitude.

In those early years when Christianity first came to Papua New Guinea, that evangelization as how those missionaries knew how to do it…Now there is a new evangelization where we are more aware of each other‘s culture.  So when missionaries come to us now, they come with an open mind respecting the cultures that are already in our land. And evangelizing according to how we, the local people, the indigenous people, believe; respecting our land, respecting our waters, and respecting the way we have been living as a community for thousands of years.  So I would say in those  previous years, those early years of missionary activities, it was different.  And now it will not be the same method of evangelization because now we know each other.  So for the Gospel to take root in this time and era,  evangelization will have to take a new form.  And one of them is listening to us, the indigenous people and not just us listening to the foreign missionaries.

Now I don’t know about you, but hearing this kind of testimony changes my heart, changes my very being.  I am transformed.  Maybe you are transformed as well.