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The Synod and Justice

Overhead Shot of the Vatican

Those who are committed to the Church’s social mission will be particularly interested in that section in the Synthesis Report of the first assembly of the Synod on a Synodal Church which considers the Church’s relationship with people who are poor.

The report says that people living in poverty ask for love which means much more than providing welfare. It involves respect, acceptance and recognition. Such respect, acceptance and recognition affords them the dignity of being empowered to determine for themselves their own means of growth.

The preferential option for the poor requires us to be of one mind with Christ who closely identified himself with those who are poor.

Poverty is faced by many different groups of people from indigenous peoples and migrants and refugees to abandoned older people and exploited workers.

Those who are spiritually poor lack a sense of meaning. When the spiritually poor encounter the materially poor, they begin to walk together and find ways to address each other’s needs.

Standing with those who are poor means caring for our common home at the same time. The material poverty of many is intimately connected to the ecological crises we all face including climate change.

The Church must address the causes of poverty and exclusion. This requires action to protect the rights of those who are poor and excluded. This may require public denunciation of those who are responsible for this poverty and exclusion.

Christians have a duty to participate actively in building up the common good and defending the dignity of life. This requires involvement in the public life of the community.

The suffering of those who are poor is at one with the suffering of Christ. A synodal Church, in seeking to draw closer to Christ, must walk with those who are poor and excluded to learn from them about Christ who is the way.
Some matters for consideration which emerged from the assembly were:

• There is a danger that we may distinguish between the Church and those who are poor – “them” and “us”. The Church must try to put those who are poor at the centre and learn from them;• The Church must maintain a dynamic tension between its prophetic denunciation of injustice and its advocacy of policy change with policy makers;
• Church organisations which provide social services such as education and health care must see themselves as an expression of the Christian community;
• The Church must be consistent in its commitment to justice by ensuring that it is just in its treatment of all its workers;
• In a synodal Church, there must be sharing of resources between local Churches in different regions, creating bonds of unity.

Some of the proposals put forward by the assembly included:

• A greater awareness of the Church’s social doctrine should be promoted;
• The experience of encounter and serving those who are poor should be an essential part of formation at all levels;
• A stronger commitment to serving those who are poor should be part of a rethinking of diaconal ministry;
• Church teaching, liturgy and practice must more explicitly and carefully integrate the biblical and theological foundations of integral ecology.