” The last will be first. The word of the poor at the heart of synodality”: learning from the most fragile

The last will be first. The word of the poor at the heart of synodality


Ed. Emmanuel, 200 p., €17

For several years, a group of teachers from the Center Sèvres (Jesuit Faculties of Paris) has been studying theological questions in greater depth by seeking to take into account the experience and the voices of people in precarious situations. The opening, in October 2021, of the synodal process scheduled to last until 2023 led them quite naturally to wonder about the place given to them: “How could such a listening exercise be authentic if we left out the voices of the poorest? », asks François Odinet at the opening of this collective, the fruit of a study day organized last January at the Center Sèvres.

The book alternates substantive contributions from people involved in various capacities in the coordination of the synodal process or in listening to the poorest, testimonies collected during a round table, as well as texts from the group “Place et parole des poor” written for the gathering “Diaconia 2013. Let us serve fraternity”.

Become a learning church

At the end of the book, Nathalie Becquart, number two of the General Secretariat of the Roman Synod, offers a rereading of the whole. “The Ciase report revealed that the victims possessed experiential knowledge. It is the same with the poorest: they testify to the possible life in the heart of the most difficult situations, they often experience what is the Easter journey which constitutes our Christian identity. We can learn from them this Easter dynamic”, writes the Xaviere nun.

“Synodalism invites the Church to become a learning Church”, she notes again. But to learn from the poorest, it is not enough to welcome them with generosity. “It is not enough, either, to create an event where we ask the poorest to speak”, warns François Odinet. Solicit and collect their word presupposes “already, to attest effectively that they are legitimate to speak, and that the Church has need of their thoughts, continues the theologian.

The poor and excluded far from being silent

Unless they speak, but the Church does not know how to hear them because she is “without ears” suggests Giacomo Costa in a text entitled “How can those who are not heard participate in a synod? “. “Very often, however, the poor and excluded are far from being mute: they are very audible, even noisy. Their cry does not then take the form of a groan, but that of a protest (…). However, this protest is met with reactions of closure and rejection, especially from those who have something to lose by changing the status quo.», writes the Italian Jesuit. A statement that sheds light on the reluctance of some for the synodal approach.

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