A Synodal Church

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ let us walk with Pope Francis on his journey, listening and praying with all Baptised people for a Synodal Church. The word synod derives from the ancient Greek term for coming together. It’s about co-operation. So for us at Parish, Diocesan and every level we shall be searching together through prayer and discussion to know God’s will and the way to achieve it. The aim of the synod is to bring a greater degree of openness, collaboration and mutual listening to the Church.

On 10th October 2021 in St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Pope Francis celebrated a Mass to open the process. Officially then, it began in dioceses all over the world with opportunities for mutual consultation at every level and among many different organisations. Feedback from the dioceses will lead to the Assembly of the world Synod of Bishops in 2023 entitled “Synod on Synodality, Communion, Participation, Mission”.

But, for the initial preparatory phase of the universal synod the fundamental questions put to us are:-

  • How does this “journeying-together” take place to-day on different levels (from the local to the universal one) allowing the Church to proclaim the Gospel ?
  • Is it taking place at all in your local Church or has our preoccupation with Covid 19 and all the restrictions attached, curtailed our efforts to engage?
  • What steps is the Spirit inviting us to take in order to grow as a synodal Church?
  • What does God want from the Church in Ireland at this time? This last question is surely the lead question for the Irish Synodal Pathway.

A synodal Church is one that listens.

Maybe we can begin to listen more, discuss further around social matters that arise in community/ workplace/ home and take a much more active part in Pope Francis’ courageous effort to open up a Church that is smothered in deep fog! Let us move forward with ears and eyes wide open to see and hear the needs in our locality and respond with generosity thus transforming situations and the lives of countless people and our Earth. This is what it means to be truly missionary- LISTEN, RESPOND, TRANSFORM !

When the General Assembly meets in 2023, (and it is hoped there will be more than Bishops there) its task will be to prayerfully consider how to move forward as “a more synodal Church in the long-term”. Pope Francis is calling on all Baptised Catholics from all over the world to come with him “on a journey” as a Synodal Church. He said, “may we be pilgrims in love with the Gospel and open to the surprises of the Holy Spirit. When we listen and are guided by the Holy Spirit our path will become clear”. The Gospel urges the Church to return to missionary boldness. So, Church leaders need to pay much more attention to people’s doubts and take them seriously. The faithful must be listened to at all levels, within Parishes and Dioceses, Episcopal and Continental Conferences. The Gospel also urges the Church to be compassionate, courageous, enthusiastic; to speak out; to be bold and listen intently to all peoples including the marginalised, the poor, refugees and the cry of Earth.

The following quote is from the Preparatory Document for the Synod. As a baptised member of a more synodal Church are you happy with it? It offers an opportunity for discussion and debate. So, let’s begin!

“The Assembly and debate in each diocese will end with the sending of a Document of the respective Episcopal Conferences; the latter will write a national Document and also transmit to the Vatican the diocesan texts. With that data, the Synod’s General Secretariat will elaborate a first working Document that the Bishops’ Continental Conferences will study. Thus the process will continue with pre-synodal meetings at the Continental level, to give the broadest possible participation and the seven final Documents will serve to prepare the Instrumentum Laboris (Working Instrument) that will be given to the Assembly of Bishops”[1]in October 2023.

The Quiet Revolution of Pope Francis- A Synodal Catholic Church in Ireland? by Gerry O’Hanlon SJ offers a new programme of renewal for the Catholic Church in Ireland. It is an excellent read. It addresses the challenges facing the life of the Church in a secularised culture and outlines how parishes and dioceses can implement the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and the synodal vision of Pope Francis. For Pope Francis three characteristics of a synodal Church stand out. A synodal Church would be a more fraternal Church- a common home; a place of relationships and coexistence in diversity. A synodal Church would be able to listen and learn from other Christians and admit mistakes and a synodal Church would be prophetic. Francis is modelling a Church that stands alongside the marginalised and speaks truth to power. He invites us to walk with him.

A Holy Family Consecrated Secular