Monday morning, Pope Francis addressed the opening session of the Synod of Bishops on the family and said the work of the synod must be marked by frankness and courage. He said, “the synod is a journey undertaken with a spirit of collegiality, courageously adopting parrhesia, pastoral and doctrinal zeal, wisdom and frankness and always putting the good of the Church and families and the health of souls before our eyes… We (synod) fathers should practice apostolic courage, evangelical humility and faithful oration.”

Parrhesia is one way of saying “free speech.” It is actually a figure of speech meaning to speak candidly, something that Pope Francis urged the synod fathets to do last year, and is urging them to do again in this second synod on the family.


The Holy Father started by saying, “I should mention that the Synod is neither a convention, nor a visiting room, nor a parliament or senate, where people make deals and reach compromises. The Synod is rather an Ecclesial expression, i.e., the  Church that journeys together to read reality with the eyes of faith and with the heart of God; it is the Church that interrogates herself with regard to her fidelity to the deposit of faith, which does not represent for the Church a museum to view, nor even something merely to safeguard, but is a living source from which the Church shall drink, to satisfy the thirst of, and illuminate, the deposit of life.”

Francis went on to say, “The Synod moves necessarily within the bosom of the Church and of the holy people of God, to which we belong in the quality of shepherds – which is to say, as servants. The Synod also is a protected space in which the Church experiences the action of the Holy Spirit….”

However, the Pope warned that “the Synod will be a space for the action of the Holy Spirit only if we participants vest ourselves with apostolic courage, evangelical humility and trusting prayer: with that apostolic courage, which refuses to be intimidated in the face of the temptations of the world – temptations that tend to extinguish the light of truth in the hearts of men, replacing it with small and temporary lights; nor even before the petrification of some hearts, which, despite good intentions, drive people away from God; apostolic courage to bring life and not to make of our Christian life a museum of memories; evangelical humility that knows how to empty itself of conventions and prejudices in order to listen to brother bishops and be filled with God – humility that leads neither to finger-pointing nor to judging others, but to hands outstretched to help people up without ever feeling oneself superior to them.”

Francis stressed the importance of prayer, of being silent “in order to listen to the gentle voice of God, which speaks in silence. Without listening to God, all our words are only words that are meet no need and serve no end. Without letting ourselves be guided the Spirit, all our decisions will be but decorations that, instead of exalting the Gospel, cover it and hide it.”

The Pope closed by thanking staff of the Synod of Bishops, the presidents delegate on duty, the Realtor General and he also had the following words for the media: “I want to address a special thanks to the journalists present at this time and to those who follow us from afar. Thank you for your enthusiastic participation and for your admirable attention.”