The Synod on Synodality
Pope Francis has called for a synod to discuss how the Church can be more synodal.
This synod will take place in Rome during October, 2023. As a first step, the Holy Father wants to hear Holy Spirit led input from all the people. He has called all the dioceses throughout the world to convene “consultative” meetings, to be completed by April of 2022.
What is a Synod?
Simply put, a synod is a meeting or assembly of church leaders.
In the West, “synod” and “council” are synonymous, and Ecumenical Councils are the most authoritative expressions of formal synodal gatherings, always in communion with and under the authority of the Pope.
In 1965, Pope St. Paul VI established the Synod of Bishops as a permanent institution of the Catholic Church, setting the stage for the renewed understanding of synodality being emphasized and explored today.
WHAT IS SYNODALITY?
“Synodality” is best understood as the process by which synods make decisions.
It is a way of helping the Church to achieve its mission by the collaborative input of its members. Not just the Pope or Bishops or priests, but ALL the people of God.
A synodal approach involves hearing from all the baptized in discerning the will of God on how to best accomplish the mission of the Church. This includes all Catholics, regardless of how engaged they are in the faith, as well as non-Catholic Christians, the young, the old, the disabled, the poor, migrants and immigrants, women, religious, the laity and the clergy. Synodality calls us all to journey together, to gather in assembly. All are invited to listen to one another in order to hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
“Synodality represents the main road for the Church, called to renew herself under the action of the Spirit and by listening to the Word. The ability to imagine a different future for the Church and her institutions, in keeping with the mission she has received, depends largely on the decision to initiate processes of listening, dialogue, and community discernment, in which each and every person can participate and contribute.” (Preparatory Document, 12)
WHAT IS THE SYNOD ON SYNODALITY?
The Synod on Synodality is a two year process of praying, listening, dialoguing, and discerning which will culminate in the celebration of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October 2023. Every diocese in the world will participate.
A synodal Church, in announcing the Gospel, “journeys together.” The Synod on Synodality seeks to answer: How is this “journeying together” happening today in your local Church?
What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our “journeying together”?
There are ten themes that will be address as part of the Synod on Synodality:
1. Companions on the Journey
- In our local Church, who are those who “walk together”?
- Who are those who seem further apart?
- How are we called to grow as companions?
- What groups or individuals are left on the margins?
This requires an open mind and heart, without prejudice.
- How is God speaking to us through voices we sometimes ignore?
- How are the laity listened to, especially women and young people?
- What facilitates or inhibits our listening?
- How well do we listen to those on the peripheries?
- How is the contribution of consecrated men and women integrated?
- What are some limitations in our ability to listen, especially to those who have different views than our own?
- What space is there for the voice of minorities, especially people who experience poverty, marginalization, or social exclusion?
3. Speaking Out
All are invited to speak with courage and in freedom, truth, and charity.
- What enables or hinders speaking up courageously, candidly, civilly, and responsibly in our local Church and in society?
- When and how do we manage to say what is important to us?
- How does the relationship with the local media work (not only Catholic media)?
- Who speaks on behalf of the Christian community, and how are they chosen?
“Walking together” is only possible if it is based on communal listening to the Word and the celebration of the Eucharist.
- How do prayer and liturgical celebrations actually inspire and guide our common life and mission in our community?
- How do they inspire the most important decisions?
- How do we promote the active participation of all the faithful in the liturgy?
- What space is given to participating in the ministries of lector and acolyte?
5. Sharing Responsibility for Our Common Mission
As missionary disciples, how is every baptized person called to participate in the mission of the Church?
- What areas of the mission are we neglecting?
- How does the community support its member who serve society in various ways?
- How is discernment about missionary choices made and by whom?
6. Dialogue in Church and Society
Dialogue requires perseverance and patience, but it also enables mutual understanding.
- To what extent do diverse peoples in our community come together for dialogue?
- What are the places and means of dialogue within our local Church?
- How do we promote collaboration with neighboring dioceses, religious communities in the area, lay associations and movements, etc.?
- How are disagreements of vision, or conflicts and difficulties addressed?
- What particular issues in the Church and society do we need to pay more attention to?
- What experiences of dialogue and collaboration do we have with believers of other religions and with those who have no religious affiliation?
- How does the Church dialogue with and learn from other sectors of society: the spheres of politics, economics, culture, civil society, and people who live in poverty?
The dialogue between Christians of different confessions, united by one baptism, has a special place in the synodal journey.
- What relationships does our Church community have with members of other Christian traditions and denominations?
- What do we share and how do we journey together?
- What fruits have we drawn from walking together?
- What are the difficulties?
- How can we take the next step in walking forward with each other?
8. Authority and Participation
A synodal church is a participatory and co-responsible Church.
- How does our Church community identify the goals to be pursued, the way to reach them, and the steps to be taken?
- How is authority or governance exercised within our local Church?
- How are teamwork and co-responsibility put into practice?
- How are evaluations conducted and by whom?
- How are lay ministries and the responsibility of lay people promoted?
- Have we had fruitful experiences of synodality on a local level?
- How do synodal bodies function at the level of the local Church (Pastoral Councils in parishes and dioceses, Presbyteral Council, etc.)?
- How can we foster a more synodal approach in our participation and leadership?
9. Discerning and Deciding
In a synodal style we make decisions through discernment of what the Holy Spirit is saying through our whole community.
- What methods and processes do we use in decision-making?
- How can they be improved?
- How do we promote participation in decision-making within hierarchical structures?
- Do our decision-making methods help us to listen to the whole People of God?
- What is the relationship between consultation and decision-making, and how do we put these into practice?
- What tools and procedures do we use to promote transparency and accountability?
- How can we grow in communal spiritual discernment?
10. Forming Ourselves in Synodality
Synodality entails receptivity to change, formation, and on-going learning.
- How does our church community form people to be more capable of “walking together,” listening to one another, participating in mission, and engaging in dialogue?
- What formation is offered to foster discernment and the exercise of authority in a synodal way?
- Deanery coordinators identified
- Deanery coordinators select venue for meeting
- Deanery coordinators begin to promote the synod through bulletin, ambo announcements, etc
- Deanery meetings take place
- Deanery coordinators summarize findings
- Synod contact distills deanery summary into one document and discusses content with Archbishop
- Summary document of archdiocesan consultative meeting is finalized
- Archbishop submits document to USCCB
- Archbishop decides how to provide summary to the archdiocese
HOW CAN I BE INVOLVED?
In the coming months, people from all walks of life will be invited to participate. In practical terms, this may mean attending a listening session or submitting answers to a survey. Most importantly, all the faithful are encouraged to join us in prayer for the Synod on Synodality.
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati will post updates and opportunities to get involved on this page throughout the process. We invite you to visit often and we look forward to this journey together.