Synod means “walking together” In ancient Greece, as attested by Polybius in II sec. a. C., it is identified as an assembly of a public nature. Democracy is a “walk” done together. The word was then assumed into the theological and ecclesiastical vocabulary (for example, the “Synod of Bishops”) and was no longer used by secular society. And instead, synod — today more than ever — must return to also being a secular and civil word.
It is always more tiring to walk together. Our social and political life focuses on the viral ego proclaimed via bullhorn.
“One is equal to one” seems to end up certifying the loss of the proper value of addition. We believe only in the multiplication of the ego itself. The political leader has become a prime number that catalyzes consensus but remains divisible only by himself or herself without relationships of participation and sharing. And so, he or she ends up by answering only by instinct, and by speaking in primitive cries (or something very similar).
The synod speaks of power but offers in it a radically different approach. It consists of sums, multiplicity, of differences welcomed, of listening, of shared stretches of road and even at different paces, of pauses.
One thing however is clear: you don’t do this walk together either by contract or by a recipe, but only if you think about it within a common future, of building together. If we swallowed “toads”, walking together is also therapeutic: it makes them jump out, it does not squeeze them in the belly for fear of looking them in the face. If we do not free ourselves of fear, we are doomed.
Pope Francis, in 2015, speaking in Havana recalled that one time he went to visit a very poor area in the Argentine capital. The parish priest presented to him a group of young people who were constructing some buildings:
“This one is an architect, he is Jewish, this one is a communist, this one is a practicing Catholic, this one…”. The Pope commented: “They were all different but they were all working together for the common good”.
This is synodality.
Francis even calls it “social friendship”, that knows how to connect rights with responsibility. And in Cuba he added: “A country is destroyed by enmity…killing the ability to unite”.