The devil is launching attacks to divide the Church, and we must fight back with the weapon of the Holy Spirit, a cardinal from the Democratic Republic of Congo said at Mass on Friday.
Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, OFM Cap., was the main celebrant of a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for synod participants on Oct. 13.
“If we have the courage to look at our current reality as a Church, it won’t be hard to see how the Evil One is at work, influencing our way of being and acting. The Evil One wants to see us divided; he might even use some of us for his cause,” the archbishop of Kinshasa said, encouraging people to fight back with “the weapons of synodality.”
Ambongo’s homily drew on the day’s Gospel passage, in which Jesus explains why and by what power he drives out demons.
The reading “reminds us that the devil is still present and active in our world,” the cardinal said. “His strength lies precisely in the strategy of making himself invisible and appearing in the most seductive and reassuring forms. Knowing his prey well, the devil launches his attacks from the most sensitive realities.”
He quoted Pope Benedict XVI, who said, “the Evil One always seeks to spoil God’s work, sowing division in the human heart, between body and soul, between the individual and God, in interpersonal, social and international relations … The Evil One sows discord.”
“That’s why we must courageously fight the Evil One, using the weapons of synodality,” he continued, “which require unity, walking together, prayerful discernment, listening to each other and to what the Spirit has to say to the Church.”
“We are called to combat this powerful adversary with an equally powerful weapon at our disposal: the Holy Spirit, protagonist of this new way of being Church — the synodal Church.”
Ambongo also said the Synod on Synodality is a time to ask God for forgiveness for the Church’s failures, including the sin of sexual abuse.
“The Church needed this time of grace and discernment, a time to look back on the road we’ve traveled, with its glories and failures, and draw lessons for a new beginning,” he said.
Quoting from paragraph 23 of the synod’s Instrumentum Laboris, or working document, he said, “‘The face of the Church today bears the signs of serious crises of mistrust and lack of credibility. In many contexts, crises related to sexual abuse, and abuse of power, money, and conscience,’ are counter-testimonies that have even risked driving people away from the Church.”
He pointed out that in the day’s first reading, the prophet Joel invites the ministers of the altar to mourn, fast, and “spend the night in sackcloth,” because “the house of your God is deprived of offering and libation.”
“Joel’s prophecy corresponds in some ways to the synodal experience we are living here in Rome these days,” he said. “Coming together as one family from every continent, in the beauty of unity in cultural diversity, we are also invited to weep and mourn before this altar, at the tomb of St. Peter, for our weaknesses as Church.”
“Yes, brothers and sisters,” the cardinal emphasized, “we are here to weep and ask God’s forgiveness for our faults. But the best way to weep is with the courage to embark on the path of repentance and conversion, which opens the way to reconciliation, healing, and justice.”
Ambongo is participating in the Synod on Synodality assembly at the Vatican Oct. 4-29 in his capacity as president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa And Madagascar (SECAM).
In February, Pope Francis visited Ambongo’s country, where the predominantly Christian population is more than 40% Catholic.
Two other bishops from DRC, Archbishop Marcel Utembi Tapa of Kisangani and Bishop Pierre-Célestin Tshitoko Mamba of Luebo, are also attending the synod gathering in Rome.
Friday’s Mass, which marked the beginning of a new discussion topic for the synod, was concelebrated by Cardinal Cristóbal López Romero, the archbishop of Rabat, Morocco, and by Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga of Bangui, Central African Republic.
Students from the Pontifical Urban University, which educates priests, religious, and laypeople mainly from mission countries, provided the choir and helped during the liturgy.