Synod: Church seeking the best way for ‘journeying together’

The Vatican released today a preparatory document and a handbook for the upcoming Synod on Synodality on 9-10 October in Rome, 17 October in local Churches, which will end with the general assembly, in the Vatican, in 2023. The theme is “Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission”.


Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops released a preparatory document and handbook (vademecum) on the best way to journey together towards synodality.

Following Pope Francis, who wants to involve the whole Church, the preparatory document and handbook represent a key stage towards the Synod on Synodality, scheduled to take place on 9-10 October this year in Rome and on 17 October in local Churches, culminating in the general assembly in 2023 in the Vatican on a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.

Francis defines synodality as the path “which God expects of the Church of the third millennium”, shaping “the form, the style, and the structure of the Church” at a time in history “marked by epochal changes in society”, involving the entire people of God.

The two documents note that the first phase of the synodal journey is designed “to foster a broad consultation process in order to gather the wealth of the experiences of lived synodality, in its different articulations and facets, involving the Pastors and the Faithful of the particular Churches at all the different levels, through the most appropriate means according to the specific local realities”.

The goal is to answer “A basic question [which] prompts and guides us: How does this ‘journeying together’, which takes place today on different levels (from the local level to the universal one), allow the Church to proclaim the Gospel in accordance with the mission entrusted to Her; and what steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow as a synodal Church?”

“Synodality, in this perspective, is much more than the celebration of ecclesial meetings and Bishops’ assemblies, or a matter of simple internal administration within the Church; it is ‘“the specific modus vivendi et operandi of the Church, the People of God, which reveals and gives substance to her being as communion when all her members journey together, gather in assembly and take an active part in her evangelizing mission’.”

This journey is taking place in a context marked a pandemic, which “made the already existing inequalities and inequities explode”, but also by a “lack of faith” and “corruption”, which the Church must face within, especially with respect to the “suffering experienced by minors and vulnerable people” caused by “sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience” by members of the clergy, as well as “a culture imbued with clericalism that she inherits from her history”.

As evidence that God always stands by the Church, “new languages of faith and new paths” have emerged “for re-founding the path of Christian and ecclesial life.”

At the same time, “Catholics, together with other Christians, experience forms of persecution, including some very violent ones, and not infrequently martyrdom.” In addition, “a secularized mentality tends to expel religion from the public space,” while “religious fundamentalism, without respect for the liberties of others” feed “forms of intolerance and violence that are also reflected in the Christian community and in its relations with society.”

In the first stage, characterized by listening, even from afar, “The Pastors, established by God as ‘authentic guardians, interpreters and witnesses of the faith of the whole Church,’ should not be afraid to listen to the Flock entrusted to them.

“The consultation of the People of God does not imply the assumption within the Church of the dynamics of democracy based on the principle of majority, because there is, at the basis of participation in every synodal process, a shared passion for the common mission of evangelization and not the representation of conflicting interests.

“In other words, this is an ecclesial process that can only take place ‘at the heart of a hierarchically structured community’.” 

The preparatory document ends by indicating ten topics or “thematic nuclei” that articulate different facets of lived synodality. They are:

- reflecting on “journeying companions”, i.e., those who belong to what we call “our Church”;

- “listening” to young people, women, those who are excluded;

- inviting everyone to “speak out” with courage and parrhesia without “duplicity and opportunisms”;

- “celebrating” or asking how praying and celebration can inspire and direct our “journeying together”;

- being “co-responsible in the mission” by serving the Church in which all her members are called to participate;

- “dialogue in Church and society”, or how to rethink the places and modalities of dialogue with specific Churches, with neighbouring dioceses, religious communities and movements, with government institutions, with non-believers, with the poor;

- relations “with the other Christian denominations”, i.e., ecumenism’s special place within the synodal journey;

- “authority and participation” or how to identify the goals to pursue, the path to reach them, and the steps to take to achieve them and how authority is exercised within our own Church;

- “discerning and deciding” or what procedures and methods to use; and

- “forming ourselves in synodality”, i.e., how to train people, especially those in post of responsibility within Christian communities to make them better able to “journey together”, listening to each other in order to engage in dialogue. This also raises questions about what training we offer for discernment and the exercise of authority, what tools can help up read the evolution of the culture in which we are embedded and its impact on our style as a Church.  (FP)