Nathalie Becquard is a religious of the French Congregation Xaviére. As we know, she was recently appointed undersecretary of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, the first woman and with the right to vote; also elected was a Spanish Augustinian, Luis Marín de San Martín.
We were able to share many hours of work and joint reflection in the Youth Synod and, from that, a bond was created between us, I have dared to ask her a few questions, to which she had responded kindly by giving me a space in her now increasingly full agenda.
Do you think your appointment is the result of the work done in the two previous Synods where we have listened to the Holy Spirit? What’s your opinion?
The last two synods have talked a lot about the issue of women. In the Final Document of the Synod of Youth and the Synod on the Amazon, we can read strong words calling, on the one hand, to combat all discrimination against women in society and, on the other hand, to give more responsibility to women in the Church.
Thus, in paragraph 13 of the Final Document of the Synod of Young People: “The Bible presents man and woman as equal companions before God (cf. Gn 5:2): any domination and discrimination based on sex offend human dignity”; or again in paragraph 148: “A Church seeking to live a synodal style may not do without reflection on the condition and role of women within it and, consequently, also in society. Young women and men ask for it very strongly. The reflections developed need to be implemented through a work of courageous cultural conversion and change in daily pastoral practice. An area of particular importance in this regard is the presence of women in ecclesial bodies at all levels, especially in positions of responsibility, and the participation of women in ecclesial decision-making processes, respecting the role of ordained ministry. It is a duty of justice, inspired both by the way Jesus related to the men and women of his time, and to the importance of the role of certain female figures in the Bible, in the history of salvation and in the life of the Church.”
In the same line, the Synod on the Amazon called for the Church to consult women, recognize and strengthen their participation in decision-making processes (DF 101). My appointment can therefore be read as a gesture by Pope Francis in response to the requests of the last synods.
What can we do to live synodality in the everyday Christian life without leaving everything for the time of the Synod as such?
At this current stage of the reception of Vatican II, in the historical context that is ours, we are called to strengthen and deploy synodality at all levels of the Church. It is clear that “we must move forward on this path. The world in which we live, and to which we are called to love and serve even in its contradictions, requires the Church to strengthen synergies in all areas of its mission. The way of synodality is precisely what God expects of the Church of the third millennium.”
Therefore, we are all invited to promote and implement synodality wherever we are. That is, to live our Christian faith in this synodal style which is a missionary style to proclaim the Gospel to the men and women of this time. It is, first of all, a question of giving life to synod institutions that are not only the Synod of Bishops or the diocesan synod, but also a diocesan or parochial pastoral council, a priestly council, a local, provincial or general chapter for religious communities, general assemblies and the councils of ecclesial movements…
As Pope Francis tells us, “To be a Church is to be a community that walks together. It’s not enough to have a synod, you have to be. The Church needs an intense inner exchange: a living dialogue between the pastors and between them and the faithful.” Synodality is a missionary style that is a way of life and a practice marked by listening and discernment.
To apply synodality in the day to day we need to integrate and live the spirituality of synodality that requires attitudes of faith and trust (in God, in others), listening and humility, dialogue, and freedom to seek the truth. It is about developing a true culture of encounter at the service of the common good, in accepting and respecting differences with the conviction that the Spirit speaks in each person and that we can only discern the calls of the Spirit together in this mutual listening. Synodality means moving from “I” to “we”, rediscovering the primacy of the ecclesial “we”, of the community, an open and inclusive community that walks together with Christ in the center. Synodality, by putting Christ and others at the center, builds us as the People of God
Will we have synod fathers and mothers in the next Synod? Laymen and laywomen? Do you think there will be a real synodal experience?
“A door has been opened,” Cardinal Mario Grech said in commenting on my appointment, because in fact, according to the Episcopalis Communio Constitution, the mission of Undersecretary of the General Secretariat of the Synod entails being a member of the law of the Synod and, therefore, the right to vote. This issue has been raised massively in the last two synods, and many have expressed their misunderstanding that non-clerical superior generals representing male religious orders can vote as synodal and not religious fathers, who until now could only participate in the synod as auditors or experts.
The history of the Synod of Bishops, since its creation at the end of the Council in 1965, teaches us that it evolves from synod to synod. Therefore, we can assume that evolution will continue. In particular, the next synod on synodality in 2022 is expected to lead to an important phase of preparation in the local Churches, enabling concrete synod experiences at the level of parishes, dioceses, episcopal conferences, etc., emphasizing listening to the People of God.
Certainly, I have felt the joy of many women for your appointment, what could you tell us, as a woman, to all of us?
Yes, I have been impressed and excited by the many messages I have received from all over the world after my appointment. They all expressed the joy shared by those who received the news. Many women, of course, and in particular the nuns who received this appointment as their own. But also, many men, many priests, bishops, cardinals who told me how happy they were with this decision of Pope Francis and what it symbolizes: the inscription in the very structure of the Synod of Bishops of the presence of women, of the religious – it should not be forgotten that I was appointed together with another Spanish Agustinian religious as undersecretary, Father Luis Marín de San Martín.
It is a visible sign that the Sensus Fidei is accounted for. I feel carried and supported by the prayer of many. This calls me to live this mission as a humble service being deeply connected, linked to God’s people, listening to all, especially the poorest and most suffering.
Thank you very much, Natahalie, for this cordial and deep sharing that encourages us to continue walking synodally.
Maria Luisa Berzosa, FI -Rome-