Pope Francis’s representative to this country came and saw the work of Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri, and he talked to the nation’s bishops about what he saw.
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the papal nuncio, addressed the U.S. Catholic bishops at their spring assembly June 15, six weeks after coming to Jefferson City to rededicate the Cathedral of St. Joseph.
He encouraged the bishops to continue working toward Pope Francis’s vision of a synodal Church — one that habitually and deliberately listens to people at every level of society.
“Recently, when I visited a diocese for the rededication of the Cathedral, the first thing I was shown was the new Catholic Charities facility, which houses a food pantry, classrooms, basic health services, and immigration assistance,” the archbishop stated.
He noted that in his travels throughout the United States, he had recognized how valuable such charitable service organizations are to bishops and the people of their dioceses.
“The whole world, including the Holy See, knows the magnitude of the charitable work that is done by the Church in the United States,” he told the bishops.
“I’m sure every one of you could say something about the charitable services that your own dioceses are offering, and what great work they are doing,” he said.
He emphasized that such work doesn’t happen without sodality — “people who immerse themselves in the local reality, who enter the lives of those on the peripheries, and who help them navigate to a better life.”
He spoke to the bishops about the Vatican’s vision for how embracing synodality — with Jesus Christ as their “true north” — can help them carry out the Church’s evangelizing mission with their people.
“The purpose of walking this synodal path is to make our evangelization more effective in the context of the precise challenges that we face today,” Archbishop Pierre said in his June 15 address.
The archbishop referred to Pope Francis’ homily opening up the Synod of Bishops nearly two years ago, remarking that “synodality” is a way of being church following the example of Jesus Christ.
He listed three key ways: “encounter with the Lord and one another”; listening to people, particularly the religious and existential concerns behind their questions; and “discern(ing) with them” what change is needed “to live a more abundant life.”
Synodality, he explained, “is a way of being Church that allows us to discern the path on which the Spirit of God is calling us.”
He assured the U.S. bishops that synodality “is not a new ‘program’; nor is it a disguise for a plan to change Church doctrine.”
He explained that “Jesus Christ and his kingdom are the ‘true north,’” but the Church can only find its proper path when bishops “immerse ourselves in the reality of our people and listen carefully to the questions and concerns of their hearts.”
“Like Christ himself, we must go on mission into the world with an openness to discovering what is actually there — not merely imposing what we already know,” he said.
The Church must “engage with people’s real experiences,” he said. That way, he added, “If they ‘come to church’ to encounter Christ, it will be because Christ has first come to them. Let us, therefore, be ambassadors for Christ.”
Peter Jesserer Smith, national news and features editor for OSV News, and Kate Scanlon, a national reporter for OSV News, contributed to this report.