The Extraordinary Synod of 1985

The overriding message of the Extraordinary Synod would seem to be a reminder that the Church is a mystery — the description taken from Chapter II of Lumen Gentium — and a reminder of the Church as Communion. This was meant to correct an excessive emphasis on the hierarchical structure of the Church. The hierarchical structure is of course essential but it must be seen in terms of the Church being the sign and sacrament of man’s reconciliation with the Triune God through Christ.

The universal call to salvation, and thus to holiness, is conveyed through the Church which is the conduit of grace. The splendid progression in Lumen Gentium from baptism to the other sacraments, linking the sacramental priesthood with apostolic succession and the primacy of Peter, makes clear the salvific point of the hierarchical Church. In a final press con­ference on December 9, Archbishop Schotte drew special at­tention to the notion of the Church as Communion. Thus, theologians who had suggested that it was above all ec­clesiology that should concern the synod, seemed to have had their wishes fulfilled.

Lumen Gentium culminates in a chapter on Mary as Mother of the Church. The Extraordinary Synod had a Marian tone from the beginning and its culmination on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception seemed particularly fitting. The Holy Father noted this in his homily at the concluding Mass, in his Angelus address immediately after, and in his visits to the statue of Mary as Immaculate Conception in the Piazza di Spagna and at vespers in St. Mary Major that afternoon.

The pope had every right to be pleased. The Extraor­dinary Synod had been the occasion for feeling anew the spirit of Vatican II, of appraising what we have made of it until now, and then, transcending the contention and quarreling of which we have all been guilty, underscoring the truth Leon Bloy un­forgettably expressed in The Woman Who Was Poor. There is only one tragedy, not to be a saint.