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For A Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission.
A two year ‘synodal’ process is taking place in the Catholic Church from October 2021 that culminates in the final Synod Gathering of Bishops in Rome in October 2023. The overall theme is ‘For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission. It is an invitation to us, as Catholics, to ‘walk together’ and every member of the Church has the right to speak, and the obligation to allow those charged with the work of discernment the freedom to do so.
Synodality comes from a Greek word meaning ‘the walking together’ (syn) on a ‘particular way’ (hodos). Pope Francis in his book ‘Let us Dream’ says ‘we need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas’. This is at the heart of the process. Each diocese will form its own means of running this listening process so that it reaches as broad a cope of people as possible. The process is not about a democratic debate. It is a place of respectful mutual listening and experiencing the call of the Holy Spirit to move in new ways. Again Pope Francis is clear on this: ‘Another temptation that is often confuses people is treating the Synod as a kind of parliament underpinned by a ‘political battle’ in which in order to govern one side must defeat the other… this goes against the spirit of the synod as a protected space of community discernment’. What it will do is embed at all levels of the Church a new way of listening and hearing, of discernment and action which remains faithful to the truths received but expresses them in the context of a particular time.
The diocesan phase of the synod takes place during October 2021 – April 2022 giving each individual faithful the opportunity to participate. The phase ends with a pre-synodal assembly and leads into the next phase, the National Phase during which the bishops gather to listen to what the Spirit has inspired in the local churches entrusted to them.