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 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