"Who will you listen to as you walk along the way?" (Synod of Bishops)

Sunday afternoon I shared the message at the end of the III Extraordinary Synod on the family. As title I chose:

Monday, Frank de Gouveia (bishop of the diocese of Oudtshoorn, South Africa) shared the reflection below as a result of the title of the post.

Walk with us towards the next synod!
"The photo which Bhubesi has shared with us is one Archbishop Stephen Brislin took of the people sitting next to him at one of the earlier sessions of the Synod.


Now that this Synod is over they have asked us to walk with them toward the next Synod. As you walk along with them who will you be in conversation with? On the right of the photo is Asia: open, serene, hopeful, looking to the future In the middle is Africa: happy, satisfied and yet … a bit uncertain. And then there is Europe: tired, old, reflective, eyes downcast. Behind them, in the top right-hand of the photo is a Synod father scratching his head!

Now who will you listen to as you walk along the way? Who will you share your own thoughts with? I suppose Pope Francis would say: Walk with them all, in turn. Each one has something to contribute.

Listen. Really listen. Not just to the immediate word that conveys the top layer of the other’s thought. But allow the other to find their true voice. Listen them into speech. Where you stop them with your own opinion is where they stop. The best gift you can give them (and consequently also to yourself and to the whole Church) is to listen to them so that they can descend deeper and deeper into their own truth. And then speak frankly of what the Spirit is saying to you.

The Synod was just the pause button, now the real conversation continues. It is often said that it is the journey not the destination, that is important. So let us start walking again; staying focused, respectful, frank and honest so that we are all prepared to receive what the Lord will give us at the next Synod. If we are true to the journey then we will come to the right destination, whether that is Emmaus, or the new Jerusalem or just one family living a happier, healthier and holier life."

Second part
I was then asked on Twitter: "Will the voice of the laity be listened to with true compassion by the soul of the synod fathers on this journey?"

During the weekend, talking with one of the priests in the diocese of Manzini, we were sharing that for some it seems that a synod on the family was about two topics: same sex unions and divorce. It's a pity. It was and should still remain much wider than that. 

In Southern Africa when we talk about family, we think of challenges brought by "child headed families" due to HIV/Aids (Swaziland has the highest percentage of HIV+ in the world), teenage pregnancies, the reality of "sugar daddies" and "sugar mummies", single parents, the reality of three out of ten children living with their fathers and the need to develop a ministry to men, migrant labour (taking one of the parents to live and work far away), unemployment, polygamy, abuse and much more. 

Their voices needs to be heard by everybody. Hope we can all work together so that they can be also part of the "news".

As bishop Frank asks, "who will you listen to as you walk along the way?"
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Bishop of the Diocese of Manzini (Swaziland)

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