NASHVILLE, Tennessee — The Catholic faithful must “be the light of the world today” both in the church and in society, said Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the US.
“This is what I think Pope Francis wants us to be,” he told the Tennessee Register, newspaper of the Diocese of Nashville.
The archbishop visited the diocese to celebrate a Mass July 25 at the Cathedral of the Incarnation for eight religious women making their perpetual religious profession as members of the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia.
Pierre sat down for an interview about three of the most important current conversations in the church: the upcoming World Synod of Bishops on synodality, the US church’s National Eucharistic Revival, legalized abortion across the country.
“We are living in a time of difficulties due to synchronizations, due to the fragmentation of society, so the church has to be a church in today’s world, not in yesterday’s,” he said. “Many people dream of the past, but we cannot exist in the past. Jesus is incarnated in human reality today.”
The pope’s desire for Catholics “to be the light of the world today” does not mean that “he is changing the doctrine of the faith,” Pierre said. “The story is the same, precisely, the Gospel is the good news, when it tells us to rediscover who we are and where we are going.”
As for the synod, dioceses around the world have been holding listening sessions with the faithful for many months in preparation for it.
The Pope “wants to put the church in a kind of synodal mentality, which should be the path of the church. We must work together,” said Pierre.
Synodality “has always been the way of the church, so why is the Pope asking us to do this now?” he continued. “We live in a time where… communication and education are lacking, especially in the communication of faith. … To communicate, we need to be connected and work together.”
In his homily when he first launched the synodality process, Pope Francis outlined three key points for the synod, the first being meeting each other.
“We must organize real meetings between us. This is necessary today, even in families,” said Pierre. “There is now a process of individualism, of synchronization, of isolation of people.
“Parents don’t talk to children and children are informed of their own future not by parents but by other sources.”
The second key point is to listen to each other once the meeting has taken place.
“The process of listening is not just the need to listen. … There is another dimension, which we have forgotten as a church,” said Pierre. “We need to listen to the Holy Spirit who lives in the church and this is a process that needs prayer and attention.”
The third key point is “we listen to each other and together we try to discern where to go,” he continued. “And the purpose is to be evangelized. … For that, we need … strong leadership. This is what synodality is all about.”
Pierre said the US Catholic Church’s National Eucharistic Revival, with the goal of having Catholics truly understand that belief in the Real Presence in the Eucharist is foundational to faith, is another way to achieve that mission of be a synodal church.
The revival, which will culminate in the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis in 2024, is the bishops’ response to surveys showing that belief in the Real Presence in the Eucharist is declining among professing Catholics.
“The bishops are the shepherds. They are supposed to guide people and help people to be evangelized. Eucharistic renewal should not be isolated from the rest of the church process,” he said.
“Evangelizing is promoting, helping people to have a personal encounter with Christ, the Son of God”.
“What is the Eucharist?” the nuncio continued. “The Eucharist is Jesus giving himself so that we become the body of Christ and the body of Christ is ourselves, the church. To become the body of Christ…we need to be fed by the body of Christ. This is what the Eucharist is all about.”
He said the US bishops undertook this initiative because “they realize that maybe we don’t fully understand what it means to be church.”
“The church without the Eucharist is not the church, and the Eucharist without the church is not the Eucharist,” he explained.
The archbishop added: “We really need… to be renewed in the experience that we have every day through the liturgy, catechesis… listening to the voice of God and discerning who we are” in communion with God and living in the world as witnesses. “from the presence of God.”
Perhaps this witness is needed more now than ever in this country after the court’s reversal of Roe and the division between those who oppose abortion and those who consider it a right.
“There is no right to abortion,” said Pierre.
The church “will not solve all the problems of society”, but it is “witness to the beauty of human reality, to the beauty of life, to the life of the mother, to the life of the child”, he added. “We have to educate people and help people, because life is not that easy, to find solutions.”
“The church has a kind of global vision of the problem. We save life because life is sacred. That is all. It is created by God,” said Pierre. “But we also know that no life will come without a mother, without family, without love, so there is a problem in our society.”
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Peterson is on the staff of the Tennessee Register, newspaper of the Diocese of Nashville.