Tag Archives: synod

The Synod – End of Part One

“A Synodal Church in Mission – Synthesis Report”

The Synod was meeting through most of October in Rome. Now the “Synthesis Report” of this First Session of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is available!

This important document, which will be used to prepare for the Second Session in 2024, offers reflections and proposals on a wide range of topics, including the role of women and the laity, the ministry of bishops, priesthood, and the diaconate, the importance of the poor and migrants, digital mission, ecumenism, and abuse.

The Synthesis Report is structured in three parts:

1. The face of the synodal Church: presenting the practice and understanding of synodality and its theological underpinning.

2. All disciples, all missionaries: deals with all those involved in the life and mission of the Church and their relationships with one another.

3. Weaving bonds, building community: synodality is presented mainly as a set of processes and as a network of bodies enabling exchange between the Churches and dialogue with the world.

You can download the report here.

The Synod in Rome

Recently Cardinal Nichols wrote a letter about the Synod, from which these are extracts:

Pope Francis wants us to rediscover our life in the Church as a communion of life with God and with one another. He wants us to be a sacrament for the whole world, the outward sign that leads people to the inward grace of faith in Jesus Christ, known and lived within the communion of the Church. We must learn to listen more closely to one another, ready to work out, prayerfully, what we need to do to fulfil this mission – seek to enhance our service of others, acknowledging that every single person is endowed with gifts and abilities for this work.

Over the last two years, there have been various expressions of this Synodal journey, in our parishes, in the Diocese as a whole, and at the level of the Church in every continent. Now all this comes together this October, in a Synod of Bishops in Rome, to assess the journey thus far and to fashion clearly the next steps to be taken. These findings can then be reviewed by us all, before a further Synod of Bishops that takes place in October 2024.

The Pope has chosen a significant number of lay men and women, priests and religious, from each continent, to be members alongside those bishops chosen by Bishops’ Conferences around the world. Their method will be the one the Pope has put before us all: prayerful listening of the heart, careful discernment of all that is put before them, faithfulness to the teaching of the Church, explored and presented with great love, and shaped by praise of the Father, fidelity to the Son, seeking the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

This Synod meeting is not an ecclesiastical UN Assembly, nor a Church parliament or convention, nor a referendum on the teaching of the Church. It is to be ‘a grace-filled event, a process of healing guided by the Holy Spirit’, a setting out on a journey ‘with the Lord always coming to meet us’ (Pope Francis, 10 October 2021).

How can we become a listening Church, profoundly open to all, humble and seeking forgiveness.

Can we be a Church of encounter and dialogue which seeks to hold together, often in tension, fidelity to the truth expressed in her teaching and a compassionate love for every person?

How can we be a Church of deep respect for all that is truly human, seeking to bring the gifts and talents of every person into the mission given by Christ?

How can we be a Church which is constantly restless because we are incomplete, yet a sign and instrument of the union of all with God?

The Synod must consider what processes, initiatives, and structures can help us in becoming a truly missionary Church.

We can be part of this historic process in the thoughts and resolutions of our own hearts.

How can we be more attentive to each other, listen with our hearts to the distress and the joy of those around us, make our community more welcoming?

How can we find ways of enabling the talents and abilities of everyone to become part of our outreach, of that invitation to come to know the Lord?

Every moment and every place is, for us, a time and location for mission. May the coming month of October be a time of grace for our Church, both in the great gathering in Rome and in the circles of our lives here at home.

The Synod moves on – the world!

An important document called the Instrumentum laboris will be the basis for the work of the participants in the General Assembly of the Synod on Synodality, which begins in the Vatican in October 2023 and concludes with a second Assembly one year later. It brings together the experiences of dioceses around the world over the last two years, when Pope Francis set in motion a journey to discern what steps to take “to grow as a synodal Church.” It has some sixty pages that incorporate the experiences of local Churches in every region of the world – Churches that are experiencing wars, climate change, exploitation, inequality, and ‘waste’.” Churches whose faithful suffer martyrdom, in countries where they are minorities or where they are coming to terms “with an increasingly driven, and sometimes aggressive, secularisation.” Churches wounded by sexual abuse, or abuses of power and conscience,” whether economic and institutional – wounds that demand answers and “conversion.”

“Indeed, the purpose of the synodal process is not to produce documents but to open horizons of hope for the fulfilment of the Church’s mission.”

The Instrumentum laboris is composed of an explanatory text and fifteen worksheets that reveal a dynamic vision of the concept of “synodality.” Section A highlights the experience of the past two years and indicates a way forward to become an ever more synodal Church; Section B – entitled “Communion, Mission, Participation” – focuses on the “three priority issues” at the heart of the work to be done in October 2023. These are elaborated in three main themes:

• Growing in communion by welcoming everyone, excluding no one;

• recognizing and valuing the contribution of every baptised person in view of mission;

• and identifying governance structures and dynamics through which to articulate participation and authority over time in a missionary synodal Church.

“Rooted in this awareness, is the desire for a Church that is also increasingly synodal in its institutions, structures, and procedures.” It notes that a synodal Church is first and foremost a “Church of listening” and therefore “desires to be humble, and knows that it must ask forgiveness and has much to learn…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 have pushed the Church to undertake a demanding examination of conscience so that ‘moved by the Holy Spirit’ the Church ‘may never cease to renew herself’, in a journey of repentance and conversion that opens paths of reconciliation, healing, and justice.”

A synodal Church is also “a Church of encounter and dialogue” with believers of other religions and with other cultures and societies, “not afraid of the variety it bears,” but on the contrary, “values it without forcing it into uniformity.” The Church is synodal when it is unceasingly nourished by the mystery it celebrates in the liturgy, experiencing everyday “radical unity” in the same prayer, in the midst of a “diversity” of languages and rites.

Other significant passages concern the question of authority – is it rooted in service?; the need for “integral formation, initial and ongoing” for the People of God; as well as the need for “a similar effort” aimed at the renewal of the language used in the “liturgy, preaching, catechesis, sacred art, as well as in all forms of communication, including through new or traditional forms of media.”

Fr Matthew, based on a summary by Salvatore Cernuzio.

The Synod moves on – Europe

The Synod is moving on. The European stage of the Synod took place at Prague 5 – 12 February 2023, and the first part of the actual Synod takes place in Rome in October. We’ll look at the Working Document for that in a week or two. Both documents will appear in full on our 3churches.org website Synod page.

The concluding European document was published April 17. It describes the Assembly as “the first time in Europe that the People of God – bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated men and women, lay men and women – gathered to listen to one another and dialogue in an atmosphere of prayer and listening to the Word of God.” Participants had “a profoundly spiritual experience through the synodal method.” This enabled them to “love the Church even more deeply, in spite of the wounds it has inflicted, for which it must beg forgiveness in order to be able to pursue the path of reconciliation, heal memories and welcome the wounded.” The introduction includes a sketch of the challenges facing the Church in Europe, such as the abuse crisis, the Ukraine war, migration, and secularization.

A main section outlines “seven points of reference” for building a synodal Church in Europe:

1. Journeying with Christ, filled with his Spirit.

2. Rediscovering the common baptismal dignity.

3. Synodality serving and enhancing mission.

4. Growing as a Church in dialogue.

5. Facing open wounds, overcoming prejudices, reconciling memories.

6. Attending to families, women, and young people.

7. Building the synodal method into Church structures and processes.

Alongside the seven points of reference, the document identifies seven “tensions that run through the Churches in Europe.” These are:

1. Truth and mercy.

2. Tradition and aggiornamento.

3. Liturgy as a focal point to observe tensions in the Church.

4. Understanding the mission.

5. Co-responsibility of all, in the diversity of charisms and ministries.

6. The exercise of authority within a synodal Church.

7. Unity in diversity: Between local and universal.

The document acknowledges that “during the assembly, not only differences of opinion emerged, but also mutual accusations.” Some called for “quick and radical changes”, while others “expressed the concern that adopting changes would risk the integrity of the Church’s teaching.” It suggests that the liturgy is “a mirror” that clearly reflects these tensions, and that the differences among Europe’s Catholics result in contrasting views of mission. Some consider that the task of a missionary Church is the strengthening of catechesis and the growth of religious practice, while “Others understand mission as going out into the world to make God’s love tangible for all people, especially for marginalized and those who were hurt by the Church; others again add that the Church should be a home for all people, especially the young.” It refers to divisions over calls for married priests, women priests, and women deacons, but suggests there is “a great convergence” among Europe’s Catholics on the need to promote “the real and effective co-responsibility of the People of God, overcoming clericalism.” The document calls for clarity and transparency, and asks for appropriate institutions and canonical structures to assist the Church in putting synodality into practice.

Fr Matthew