On a day-to-day basis, we think locally. Our everyday lives are intertwined with state and national events as well. Occasionally, we are absorbed by international events, like the Olympics or disasters, but if I suggest you pay attention to the Synod on Synodality, your face may grow blank as you utter that well-worn phrase, “What’s that?”
Or maybe you do have some vague recollection of hearing that term before, but it does sound dense.
Dense, maybe, but valuable for us, as Catholic Christians to unpack.
In church language, a synod is a bishops’ meeting preceded by a consultative process with the larger church. Since the Council of Jerusalem as described in the Acts of the Apostles, the Catholic Church had had periodic synods to create the future of the church by being faithful to the person and message of Jesus Christ in the truly essential past, while at the same time, incorporating the most valuable questions and insights of the contemporary world. The task is to keep the Church fresh, faithful to God, without being sealed in every aspect of the past.
Since 1965, the Vatican Synod Office has produced a number of such meetings, dealing with important topics in church life. Hence, the Synod on the Family, Youth, The Amazon, to mention a few. Currently, the Vatican Synod Office is co-chaired by French Sister Nathalie Becquart and Maltese Cardinal Mario Grech. They have been responsible for coordinating the preparatory work for the Synod. Both will be voting members of the Synod.
The fact that Sister Nathalie Becquart is included among the voting members of the Synod points to the desire of Pope Francis has to “enlarge the tent” of the Church. The worldwide consultative process in 2021 and 2022 is a part of that effort to hear the whole church. There will be 70 non-bishops who will participate and vote in this Synod. Unheard of in previous synods. The voices and concerns of laity, deacons, priests, men and women religious as well as bishops will be essential to this synod and to the lives of believers throughout the world. In what ways is the Holy Spirt challenging us as the listening, journeying People of God? After all, we walk the same road together in faith. Should we not hear one another more profoundly?
According to Pope Francis, the goal of this Synod is not to produce documents, but to open the church to new horizons as it works to fulfill its mission of unity and solidarity of all people with Christ.
As a member of the community of believers, I invite you to pray with, watch, look, listen and talk about the Synod, October 4 to October 29, 2023. A second session will be held in October 2024.
You’ll be able to watch proceedings on the Vatican News website, at Cruxnow.com and in the National Catholic Reporter. There are, of course, naysayers, who hold that this synodal process is a failed path. Jose Antonio Ureta of Chile and Julio Loredo De Izcue of Peru, supported by retired US Cardinal Raymond Burke in “The Synodal Process is a Pandora’s Box,” deny the value and continuity of the process for the good of the church.
To this moment, the jury is out, so to speak. But we can do our best to cooperate with Pope Francis and the wealth of participants in the Synod on Synodality and of course, the Holy Spirit to produce a vibrant, inclusive Church of the future.
~ Sister Joan Sobala