“It was a wonderful train journey, in which the train was the Church. The train of God which moves in History”. Mons. Saulo Scarabattoli is one of the two priests called by Pope Francis to partake in the work of the Synod on Family. He uses the metaphor of the railway tracks to explain what it felt like to partake in this historic moment “from within” and to tell how work unfolded in it. “Don Saulo”, as many people call him in Perugia and Umbria, has always been very attentive to family-related questions, promoting marriage-preparation courses which are highly attended. When Interris.it asks him to answer a few questions, he does not back away.
So, don Saul, how was this journey?
“A beautiful experience, full of contents and reflection. You see, the train is the Church, which runs on safe railway tracks, represented by the doctrine. But if the train does not stop, we lose the possibility to meet people. This is precisely what the Synod was about: stopping the train and getting off, going among people, talking to those who are traveling with us along the path of life. Hear their needs, hopes, disappointments, and fears. It was essential. Family is not an abstract concept: some of them are happy, others in difficulty or even broken. They need a word to comfort them, but this can happen only if we stop at the station and get off the train”.
A beautiful image, don Saul. Nonetheless, there are differences, on board that train there were many of them. The final number, 1,400 amendments to the text to be delivered to the Holy Father, is a tangible testimony of them. More clashes or more encounters, on those cars?
“What you define as amendments, using a secular formula, we interpret as comments. The term they are identified with is ‘modes’. But we must not be deceived by the numbers: it is often a matter of shades, connected to different geographical and anthropological approaches on fundamental issues whose basic assumptions are shared. Let us put it this way: the Synod has an architect, who is the Pope, then there are the engineers who certify and monitor its solidity, that is, the theologians. Then, it is up to the rapporteurs to move things, the furniture, and figure out the best arrangement. But those things are small embellishments for a much bigger construction. It is only the result of pastoral attention”. A slap in the face of all those people who talk about intractable disputes.
How have you felt, as a humble priest, in the midst of so many bishops?
“We, pastors, are as doctors in hospital wards, we live our lives next to those who suffer, every day, sharing their pains and hopes. To collect a smile or a tear, but first and foremost, to ‘be there’. Therefore, there is no embarrassment in staying among our bishops, to whom we brought testimony about what is happening in the hospital wards”.
Sticking to the journey metaphor, I am rather positive that inside that train it was impossible not to hear the clamor that came from the outside about one scoop or another, or an alleged scoop, which filled the pages of the newspapers around the world… What was the impact of this outer “noise” on you?
”Imagine our thoughts, inside, as tuned to different radio stations. On channel 1 there was Our Lord, who was the main program which accompanied the whole Synod. There were also some radio stations that crackled, from which came noise. We just did not tune in to those ones, we have preferred to focus on others, some of them even silent, but expressing real needs and giving voice to mute requests of help. To the latter the Synod paid very much attention”.
In short, this train called Synod where will it go?
“The railway track is solid, the expert driver is the Pope, the journey was designed by the Eternal Father. We are in safe hands”.
To conclude, we cannot but think back to Pope Francis’ words: “Times are changing, even Christians, in accordance with Jesus’ will, must ‘assess’ the times and change along with them. Without fear, strong in ‘truth’, otherwise we fall into ‘quiet conformism’ which makes us stay immobile”. And the train of the Synod, far from having stopped, has come a long way and has still a long way to go.