Dioceses are tasked with the first phase of the path announced by the Pope. Card Gracias calls for “listening to those who have left the Church”. Philippine bishops write to the faithful and plan a national assembly next March. For Patriarch Pizzaballa, “More than making theoretical speeches, it is useful to listen and meet experiences, from which to learn.”
Milan (AsiaNews) – The Churches of Asia, in communion with Catholic communities around the world, yesterday marked the start of the two-year synodal path announced by Pope Francis centred on the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission”.
The first phase, which entails listening to the whole people of God, will see individual dioceses take the lead.
To this end, Card Oswald Gracias, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), led a solemn Mass in the Cathedral of the Holy Name of Jesus in Mumbai.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, only 122 people representing various groups attended the service, while thousands more people followed the service via online streaming.
In a show of the willingness to listen to everyone, women were given a prominent place in the liturgical readings. A migrant woman from Jharkhand proclaimed the first reading in Hindi (the national language), while a second woman performed the second reading in Marathi (the local language). Prayers were also recited in Tamil and Konkani.
In his homily, Card Gracias said, “the Synodal process [is] meant to reform the church, by discerning what ails the Church, which means even listening to those who have left the Church and those who are thinking of leaving the Church, [for] they have a story to tell, which might make us reflect.”
The prelate pointed to a number of issues that must be tackled, most notably clericalism, discrimination against women, poor consideration of young people, the protection of minors, the rejection of migrants, climate change and – specifically for India – the discrimination of Dalits even within the Church.
In the Philippines, the country’s Catholic bishops launched the synodal path by addressing a pastoral letter to all the faithful, inviting them to focus attention on two main questions.
“The first is ‘How is our Church within?'” read the bishops’ letter, noting that the Pope wants to know: “How is this journeying together happening today in our local Church? What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our ‘journeying together’?”
“The second is ‘How is the Church together with the entire human family?’ Are we still salt and light for the world? Is dialogue our way of life? How willing are we to listen with humility and respect despite differences? Have we become haughty or insensitive to the groans of suffering humanity?”
Philippine bishops set a deadline for the dioceses. At the end of the first phase of listening, a nation-wide assembly will be held from 7 to 9 March 2022 to draft a synthesis before a final report is sent to the Secretariat of the Synod in Rome.
In the Middle East too, the Churches are getting active. The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, chose the image of the Emmaus disciples as a guide to undertake the path.
In his letter, the patriarch writes: “Conversing of their problems and about the failure of the Cross, fleeing and finding themselves far from Jerusalem and unaware of Christ, the two disciples find Him waiting for them on the way.” Then he makes some interesting observations about how to go about it.
“In general, we are accustomed to interacting, each one in their context of reference: young people with young people, religious with religious, families with families, etc.
“In my opinion, however, it would be essential to meet at all levels: young people with families, meeting the elderly in hospices, making visits to homes, meeting realities not known before, local parishes with foreigners, foreign workers with the local faithful, and so on.”
To reach this goal, “Rather than making theoretical speeches, it is helpful to listen and meet experiences from which to learn [. . .] Moving even physically from one’s parish hall, from one’s familiar center to meet another unknown reality of one’s Church can, I think, can make a difference in many cases.”
Finally, in Iraq, Chaldean Patriarch Luis Sako wrote to the faithful describing the synodal path as an "important turning point to welcome and enhance the talents of the laity. The Church is the whole people of God. Hopefully, these events will contribute to preparing believers committed and dedicated to the life of their Church.”
Specifically, the path in the Mideast country will begin on 30 October with a celebration at the Cathedral of St. Joseph, in Baghdad’s Karrada district.
(Nirmala Carvalho contributed to this article)