When Pope Francis talks about synodality, he often stresses the importance of the Holy Spirit. For example, he describes the Spirit as the “great protagonist of the Church,” repeatedly urges us to listen to “what the Spirit is saying to the Churches” (Rev 2:7) and affirms that we must welcome the newness that the Spirit can bring. Theologians have set themselves to respond to this task. A recent theological conference on synodality, held at the Gregorian University, April 27-29, 2023, highlighted the action of the Spirit in the baptized, in the Church and in the world.
It is good to dwell on the leading role of the Holy Spirit, not least for one specific reason. According to Austen Ivereigh, papal biographer, faith in the action of the Spirit is one of the two elements that we must recognize in order to grasp Francis’ idea of synodality. We propose to look at how the Western Church has sometimes hesitated to speak of the Holy Spirit. In the light of this, Pope Francis’ statements about the Holy Spirit in relation to synodality trace what might be called a “pneumatological reconfiguration of the Church.” Just as synodality involves changes (or reconfigurations) in finding the balance between hierarchical authority and the people of God as a whole, so it is also with regard to Christ and the Spirit. The focus on the Spirit that is inherent in synodality complements the Western Church’s habitual esteem for Christ with a re-evaluation of the role of the Spirit.