The Synod opened with a great concelebration in St Peter's Square. Beforehand Benedict XVI had proclaimed two new Doctors of the Church, including the fourth woman in just over forty years. The Synod then began its work with the prayer that punctuates Christian time. It was not a formality but a choice that was meant to reflect a reality, the Pope said in his off-the-cuff meditation on the liturgical texts. He spoke with his characteristic concern to understand properly the meaning of the words of the prayer he had just recited with the bishops, who had come from every part of the world, and to make it understood.
At the heart of the Synodal Assembly is the Greek word evangelion, already evidenced in Homer, which in Jesus' time, meant an imperial message from the sovereign, and which, for this reason, brought salvation. Thus it was a term that the first Christian writers borrowed from the vernacular and transformed. Consequently the Evangelist Luke fits the birth of the Child into the history of the world, connecting it with the edict of the Emperor Augustus, the Pope said. And he immediately added that if God broke the silence and spoke, it was necessary to ask oneself how to transmit and to witness to his word, which is first of all the Logos, the incarnate Word.
The search for a new way to proclaim the Gospel – the New Evangelization dear to John Paul II, remembered by his Successor with significant affection – is actually the central theme of the Synod and of the Year of Faith which is about to begin, half a century after the Second Vatican Council, convoked by John XXIII and led by Paul VI with equal concern. Consistent with an almost two-thousand-year-old history which, despite human limitations, is marked by a desire for faithfulness. Against this background Benedict XVI presented the two new Doctors of the Church, John of Avila, a humble and cultured reformer priest, and Hildegard of Bingen, a wise woman and nun who, in investigating creation contemplated God and was able to sustain her Church.
The Synod and the Year of Faith are therefore opening under the banner of the new Doctors, with an appeal for the essential. In his meditation a true and proper key to the intepretation of the Synod reflection and debate – Benedict XVI insisted on the content of the faith: in the incarnate Word God spoke and speaks ceaselessly to men and women, he wants to enter them and to involve them. Here then is the meaning of the term confessio, different from professio. Faith that matures in the heart and embraces all the senses, over and above the intellectual dimension, must in fact be brought to the world and witnessed to in it.
It is only with this readiness to witness to the truth and to suffer for it that it is possible to be credible. Confessio will therefore be followed by caritas, often described in the liturgy as ardour and as a flame. For this reason the Pope mentioned a saying (logion) of Jesus, preserved by Origen: “Whoever is close to me is close to the fire”; the fire, namely, of God's presence that sets ablaze and transforms, the fire of the Gospel to be spread every day throughout the world.