The International Theological Commission in the document, Synodality in the Life and Mission of the Church (SLM), speaks of the relationship between synodality and social diakonia stating, "Synodality manifests the 'pilgrim' character of the Church. The image of the People of God, summoned from among the nations, expresses its social, historical and missionary dimension which corresponds to the condition and vocation of the human being as homo viator (on the way)”.
The Church therefore places herself alongside persons and peoples who seek and journey towards happiness, justice and peace. The expression social diakonia designates the Church’s works of charity, the service of love of neighbor exercised in a community way, but also the Church’s social ministry that Pope Paul VI summed up in the spirituality of Justice, Peace to which was later added the Integrity (or defense) of Creation (JPIC).
This ministry has its source in the Word of Yahweh to Moses facing in the desert the bush "which burns and is not consumed", I heard the cry of my people and I decided to come down to free them. This is the call that since then has resounded in the hearts of the faithful who are considering the problems of society - war, injustice, economic disorder, etc. - with the eyes of God. JPIC spirituality is the lived and witnessed experience of God's compassion for the sufferings and problems of the world.
This is how the document SLM proclaims it in a striking way at n° 118: “The People of God journeys through history in order to share with all the leaven, the salt, the light of the Gospel. That is why evangelization also involves the path of dialogue which we take with our brothers and sisters of the various religions, world-views and cultures which search for truth and commit themselves to build up justice.”
This proclamation rings a little false - it has to be said- looking at what is happening between the Churches of Christ, Orthodoxies of Russia and Ukraine, and the Christians who call themselves "pacifists" in the name of the Gospel during this ongoing war.
Pope Francis, faithful to the Vatican tradition of not condemning or supporting one of the warring camps, never named Russia, even when it was well known who he was talking about: "He who makes the war forgets humanity […] and puts partisan interests and power above all else. It is based on the diabolical and perverse logic of weapons […]”.
Patriarch Kirill at the start of the invasion on February 24 was in agreement with Francis. "I take the suffering of people caused by the current events with deep and sincere pain," he said. “As Patriarch of All Russia and Primate of a Church whose faithful are in Russia, Ukraine and other countries, I deeply sympathize with all those affected by this tragedy.”
However, on February 27, he followed Putin's lead in arguing, "Russians and Ukrainians are essentially one people, Ukraine as a nation is an artificial construct." He further distanced himself from Pope Francis by saying that Ukraine's political situation "was intended to allow the forces of evil that have always fought against the unity of Russia and the Russian Church to gain the upper hand". Finally, on Sunday March 6, he took note of the division in the Orthodox Churches, making himself an accomplice of Putin, of whom he has always been a close ally, by describing the Ukrainian conflict as a clash of civilizations, of which one of the stakes would be homosexuality.
This division, we must remember it, had already begun in January 2019, when the wounds of the 2014 war were still bleeding. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, recognized an independent Orthodox Church in Ukraine, despite opposition from the Russian Orthodox Church, according to what, the Ukrainian church is a part. Patriarch Kirill then excommunicated Patriarch Bartholomew and broke communion with him and his followers. Two Orthodox Churches were taking shape in Ukraine: the newly recognized one and the one linked to the Moscow Patriarchate.
The psychosocial consequences were not long in coming: the Independent Orthodox Church sided with the Ukrainian people and condemned the Russian invasion. The clergy of the Ukrainian Church linked to Moscow considered the situation “tragic” and expressed their disagreement with their Patriarch by praying for the Ukrainian soldiers who “protect and defend our land and our people”. The Orthodox Church of Russia attached to its Patriarch considered on the contrary that "God forbids that a terrible line stained with the blood of brothers be drawn between Russia and Ukraine" (Guerre en Ukraine, la diatribe du patriarche russe Kirill contre les « valeurs occidentales »).
Insofar, we are very far from the spirit and the words of the Second Vatican Council, which, in its Preface affirmed “Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in [their] the hearts” of Christians (Gaudium et Spes n. 1). Nothing that is human is foreign to the Church. Like that of Christ, the action of the Church is called to put humanity on the march towards that new world that the social movements call "The different world which is possible" and the Gospel calls "The Kingdom of God". This is the real meaning of a synod in the 21st century (That "synod" of the first Christians towards humankind).
This reality, even without going more deeply into all its aspects, seems to contradict the somewhat emphatic affirmation of the same document SVM n° 119. “The Church’s synodal life presents itself, in particular, as diakonia in the promotion of a social, economical and political life of all peoples under the banner of justice, solidarity and peace […]. The practice of dialogue and the search for effective joint solutions by which we commit ourselves to peace and justice are an absolute priority in a situation where there is a structural crisis in the procedures of democratic participation and a loss of confidence in its principles and inspirational values, with the threat of authoritarian and technocratic aberrations."
Where does this discrepancy come from, between saying and acing, between what is proclaimed and what is lived? Christians disappointed by the ongoing divisions that further darken the horizon, think of the oft-repeated assertion, “Her social doctrine is the Church’s best-kept secret,” even among Christians of all bonds.
The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church - published in 2004 -, at its n° 10 says: “The document is presented as an instrument for the moral and pastoral discernment of the complex events that mark our time; as a guide to inspire, at the individual and collective levels, attitudes and choices that will permit all people to look to the future with greater trust and hope; as an aid for the faithful concerning the Church's teaching in the area of social morality.” […].In short, the text is proposed as an incentive for dialogue with all who sincerely desire the good of mankind.”
And in n° 13, "This document is an act of service on the part of the Church to the women and men of our time, to whom she offers the legacy of her social doctrine, according to that style of dialogue by which God himself, in his only-begotten Son made man, addresses men as his friends and moves among them.” The person "considered whole and entire, with body and soul, heart and conscience, mind and will” is the axis of the social doctrine of the Church. As long as “the transformation of the world is a fundamental requirement of our time also. To this need the Church's social Magisterium intends to offer the responses called for by the signs of the times, pointing above all to the mutual love between human beings, in the sight of God, as the most powerful instrument of change, on the personal and social levels.” (n° 55).
“In fact today, when growing awareness of the interdependence between peoples forces us to think of the world as our common home, the Church is called to demonstrate that her Catholicity and the synodal way in which she lives and works are a catalyst of unity in diversity and of communion in freedom. This is a significant contribution that the life and synodal conversion of the People of God can make to the promotion of a culture of encounter and solidarity, respect and dialogue, inclusion and integration, gratitude and gift.” (SVM n° 118).
John Steinbeck once said, “To the man without conscience, the man tortured for his conscience must seem ridiculous. For the thief, honesty is just a weakness. Do not forget that the monster is only a variant and that, in the monster’s eyes, the normality is monstrous.” If synodality wants to be “the historic form of its journey in communion” and if the Church, People of God wants to be “on the way to the end of time and to the ends of the earth” (ib. 50 -51). it is to be regretted that it failed to form the conscience of its faithful and to “convert the society structures of sin” (John Paul 2). Vis-à-vis the current reality, paraphrasing Pascal, "Consciousness [being] the best book in the world", it is the one we should have consulted so that the conflict in act would have find solutions through dialogue and not in a war.