In October 2021, Brother Alois, prior to Taizé, was invited to address the opening of the Bishops’ Synod on Synodality in Rome. Addressing the Synodal Fathers and Pope Francis, he said the following: Thank you, Holy Father, for having convened this synod. In Taizé we were touched to be invited to its opening. Thank you also for the tradition of inviting delegates from other Churches. It will be valuable to hear from them about their practice of synodality, its benefits and limitations.
This synodal process comes at a crucial time when we are witnessing two contradictory developments. On the one hand, humanity is becoming more clearly aware that we are all connected to each other and to the whole of creation. On the other hand, polarisations are increasing at social, political and ethical levels, and are causing new fractures in societies, between countries, and even within families.
Unfortunately, between our Churches and within our Churches, differences also tend to become separating polarisations when our witness to peace would be vital. How can we advance Christian unity? I recently put this question to Rev. Larry Miller, former General Secretary of the Global Christian Forum. He replied: “It is not to start by saying, ‘This is who we are and why we are right’. Rather, it is by recognising our weaknesses and asking other Churches to help us receive what we lack. This is receptive ecumenism, which allows us to welcome what comes from others.” Isn’t this pastor’s view correct? We all carry the treasure of Christ in clay jars and it perhaps shines out even more when we humbly acknowledge what we lack.
Within the Catholic Church itself, the synod will bring to light great diversities. These will be all the more fruitful in the search for communion, not in order to avoid or hide conflicts, but to nourish a dialogue that reconciles.
To encourage this, it seems to me desirable that there should be on the synodal journey moments to breathe, like halts, to celebrate the unity already achieved in Christ and to make this visible.
In this regard, Holy Father, since you invite us to dream, I would like to share a dream. Would it be possible that one day, in the course of the synodal process, not only delegates but the people of God, not only Catholics but believers from the various Churches to be invited to a large ecumenical gathering? For through baptism we are brothers and sisters in Christ, united in a communion that is still imperfect but real, even when theological questions remain unanswered. Such a gathering, here in Rome and at the same time elsewhere in the world, would have at its heart a simple celebration of listening to the Word of God, with a long moment of silence and intercession for peace. Could young people be the facilitators? Could such a celebration be extended into exchanges between the denominations? We would discover that we can become peacemakers by being united in Christ.
Our experience in Taizé encourages me to make such a proposal. In our community, coming from different denominations, we live under the same roof. For more than sixty years, we have welcomed young people from different Churches or who are simply seeking meaning in their lives. Far from agreeing on a lowest common denominator, we are constantly pushed to go to the source of the Gospel, to Christ who, through the Holy Spirit, leads us together to the Father of all human beings without exception.
At an initial preparatory gathering in Taizé a little later, Brother Alois explained:
In fact, the proposal I made at the time was simple: let us meet, not just those taking part in the synod in Rome in October next year (2023), not just Catholics, but all those who belong to Christ, for a prayer vigil.
And by November 2022, on the initiative of Taizé, working together closely with the Secretariat of the Synod in Rome, as well as the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity and the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life, some fifty ecclesial realities of all denominational origins, were already involved in the preparation of this gathering: Churches and ecclesial federations, communities and movements, youth pastoral services.