A new book, presented Tuesday night at Rome’s LUMSA University, gathers together more than fifty interviews with lay people, religious, founders of movements, and intellectuals, who reflected on synodality in the wake of the Second Vatican Council.
By Michele Raviart
A new book containing more than 50 interviews with saints, priests, lay people, founders of movements, and intellectuals connected to the experience of the Second Vatican Council, offers insights into how we proclaim the Gospel. Fr. Vito Magno has edited the volume Conversione synodale. Incontri con protagonisti della Chiesa postconciliare (“Synodal Conversion: Encounters with protagonists of the post-conciliar Church”), published by Italian publisher San Paolo Edizioni. It which consists of a selection of dialogues that Rogationist Father Vito Magno has broadcast on Vatican Radio over the past fifty years. The book was presented during an event at Rome’s LUMSA University on Tuesday.
In love with the Church and the Lord
During the presentation, Fr Magno noted that the selections were chosen from among more than two hundred interviews with people who were “crazy with love for the Church and the Lord” and whose contributions “helped to ensure that the Barque of Peter did not sink” following the Council. It is no coincidence, said moderator Andrea Tornielli, the editorial director of the Holy See’s Dicastery for Communication, that the first interview is with Bishop Luigi Bettazzi, a Council Father who died in July 2023, and who inextricably linked the Synod to the great Council.
Cardinal Grech: the role of women in the Church
Bishop Bettazzi, recalled Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, maintained that the Second Vatican Council was the greatest novelty of contemporary Christianity and has yet to be fully implemented. In this sense, the Cardinal stressed, all respondents responded “in a climate of synodality,” a neologism that has come out of specialized circles precisely thanks to Pope Francis.
“Synodal conversion” is implicitly spoken of by Brazilian Archbishop Hélder Câmara, in one of the many interviews cited, when he affirmed that it is unthinkable for a priest to work alone, without the Bishop and without the faithful; or by Argentine Cardinal Edoardo Pironio, when he emphasized that the laity should not gain positions of power at the expense of the pastors in a logic of competition, but rather in an atmosphere of co-responsibility as faithful and baptized members of the Church.
This, Cardinal Grech recalled, also applies to the role of women in the Church, which, far from an “ideological or demanding approach,” must be framed in the broader context of the co-responsibility of baptized men and women. These are all issues that will be addressed starting on 4 October, when the first session of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod on Synodality, begins.
At the same time, Cardinal Grech said – citing the interview in the volume with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – it is important in the Church that one should not be “fossilized” with regard to structures and instead should distinguish between what is essential and what is contingent, and remember that new realizations are always possible.
Karram: Creating spaces where women can give their best
With the Second Vatican Council, the Church also opened up for the first time to the world of women through the presence of 23 female auditors, according to Focolare Movement President Margaret Karram. In her talk on conversion and the importance of “walking together,” she noted that women know how to love and suffer more than men.
And quoting Father Vito Magno’s interview with Chiara Lubich, “caring well for love also means suffering, which is the price of love.” With Pope Francis there has been an acceleration of the female presence in the Church, Karram said, reiterating that it is “not a question of roles or equality, but of creating spaces in which women can best make their specific contribution, having in Mary the inspiration from which to learn.”
The Synod was established in 1965, and its history is the history of the reception of the Second Vatican Council, said historian Agostino Giovagnoli of Sacred Heart Catholic University.
He pointed to several of the interviews in the volume, including the interview with Cardinal Etchegaray, in which he recalled how much the interreligious meeting in Assisi in 1986 had changed his life; or Cardinal Gantin regarding importance of Europe for the Church; or the interview with Cardinal Martini with his prophetic reflection on ecumenism hindered by nationalism.
It is the story of so many courageous men and women, Monsignor Armando Matteo, secretary for the doctrinal section of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, reiterated; men and women who prepared the ground for the synodal conversion toward which the Church is heading.