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Pope Francis’ preface to book on ‘Conversation in the Spirit’

Pope Francis offers the preface to a new book, entitled Conversation in the Spirit – The art of discernment and the practice of synodality, by Jesuit Fathers Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves and Óscar Martín López, which is published by the Vatican Publishing House (LEV) on April 30, as reported in Below is Pope Francis’ message and preface.

By Pope Francis

Dear brothers, thank you for sharing this book with me before it’s published. From what you say in the introduction regarding its genesis, I see that Óscar was able to pull his partner away from the world of economics in which we had stuck him in this house, to return him to more spiritual themes. It is beautiful that a book on conversation in the Spirit was born from the spiritual conversation between its authors.

Although the discussion is mainly focused on the conversation in the Spirit, which is the methodology adopted in the synodal path, I really appreciate that you did not stop at the method and its functioning. I appreciate that you provide the reader with sufficient historical references to grasp the depth of this method and everything it brings into play in order to truly transform itself into an experience of listening to the Spirit.

You point out that the synodal method is a spiritual experience, in which words and listening aim to ensure that the Holy Spirit is the true protagonist. The unrolling of the book gives us the opportunity to realize that the synodal path that we have undertaken as a Church constitutes a personal, community and an ecclesial spiritual experience, and therefore requires the individual work of each one within himself.

The idea of ​​conversation as “pouring into a common channel” deserves to be further developed in the future. In fact, this conception of conversation allows different points of view to be brought to enrich that common thread. A greater dose of conversation in civic and ecclesiastical life would do us great good. In the conversation in the Spirit we find a participatory path oriented towards communion and the renewal of the mission, which encourages the participation of all and welcomes in communion and unity the great diversity that we all are.

Conversation in the Spirit, discernment and synodality consist, above all, in listening. The synodal path undertaken by the Church is a path of in-depth listening. The attitude you suggest, of “open and vulnerable listening”, is fundamental and very necessary, in fact it allows the Spirit to move us and make us change, to make us choose and to lead us to concrete decisions. If everyone remains locked in the positions they had previously adopted, there will be no true conversation, nor true listening to the Spirit. He/she will not find anything that he/she can learn or assimilate from others and will be afraid of any decision that involves changes. In fact, it is only when we truly listen to each other that we emerge enriched and deepen our communion and mission.

The chapter on interior dispositions seemed particularly essential to me. As I have said on more than one occasion, our intention is not to convene a parliament or even to carry out an opinion poll. We want to walk together as sisters and brothers, listening to the Holy Spirit. He is the true protagonist of the Synod. Listening to the Spirit requires a certain internal attitude. Conversation in the Spirit, discernment and synodality can only take place if we try to empty ourselves to fill ourselves with the Spirit, if our freedom loosens our material, ideological and emotional moorings, allowing the Spirit to guide us more effectively; if we cultivate within ourselves attitudes of humility, hospitality and welcome, and at the same time we ban self-sufficiency and self-referentiality. Only in this way can our communion and our mission be strengthened.

You dedicate the last chapter to the concrete way to conduct the conversation in the Spirit. You explain the method, the way of conducting it, the aspects that require particular attention. This chapter should not be read as if it were the culmination of the book. Every method is a means to an end, not the end. The Instrumentum laboris also refers to the need to adapt the method to various situations, so that it is truly helpful. The importance of the previous chapters consists precisely in allowing the methodology to be prepared and applied well.

The Instrumentum laboris underlined the need for training in conversation in the Spirit. It seems to me that the book you presented provides useful materials for this purpose. I thank you very much for your commitment and I am sure that it will be an excellent help in many ecclesial environments.

May Jesus bless you and the Virgin protect you, and please don’t forget to pray for me.

The Vatican, 21 July 2023

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