It was the end of a tremendous summer of war when on 12 September 1943 in Lyon a little book came out. Its title La France , pays de mission ? would become as famous as it was emblematic of the situation in which the Church found herself. The authors were perfectly aware of that situation, two chaplains of the Jeunesse ouvrière catholique commissioned by the Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Emmanuel Suhard, to write a report on the religious situation among Parisian workers: “Make no mistake: tomorrow it will not just be our country but the whole world that will be called 'mission country'; what we live today, the people will live in their time”, wrote Henri Godin and Yvan Daniel.
It was that analysis, lucid and impassioned, that Benedict XVI invoked, summarizing with efficacy the sense of this Synod Assembly and underscoring the uninterrupted journey of the Church in the modern world. On the basis of that awareness and the convergence of different developments in Catholicism throughout the 20th century, the intuition of John XXIII arose to convene a council long thought of by his predecessors. And among the most fruitful outcomes of Vatican II – the 50th anniversary of which we have just celebrated – is without a doubt the institution, desired by Paul VI, of the Synod of Bishops, a real expression of that collegiality inherent in the Christian tradition.
Around the Successor of the Apostle Peter - assiduously present at the Synod's debates, where he “listened and gathered much food for reflection and many propositiones ” Benedict XVI – the entire Catholic world was “represented and, thus, involved”. One can never recall enough how the Greek term sýnodos refers to the idea of a journey travelled together; this is a concept that the Pope made explicit speaking of “the beauty of be Church, of being so precisely today, in this world just as it is, in the midst of this humanity with its labours and its hopes”. Using language that meant to draw you back to the time of the Council, the Bishop of Rome confirmed that the journey of Christians is not only characterized and witnessed by their communion, but is actually completed, in openness and friendship, together with the women and men of our time.
Nothing is closed, therefore, there is no pessimism in the words of Benedict XVI, but the awareness that humanity today is like the blind Bartimaeus of the Gospel, who St Augustine speculates “had fallen from some position of great prosperity” and who, according to the Pope “could represent those who live in regions that were evangelized long ago, where the light of faith has grown dim and people have drifted away from God”, becoming in this way “beggars for the meaning of existence”. This Synodal Assembly reflected and discussed the necessity of proclaiming the Gospel which needs new methods and a “new language attuned to the different world cultures” and “pastoral creativity”. Benedict XVI at the end prayed with the words of Clement of Alexandria, referring to that light that shown at once for all, “purer than the sun, sweeter than life on this earth”.