On Oct. 10, 2021, Pope Francis formally opened a two-year process called “a synod on synodality,” officially known as “Synod 2021-2023: For a Synodal Church.” In brief, the process involves an expansion of an established institution, called the “Synod of Bishops.” This means that bishops around the world will consult with everyone from parishioners to clergy and Catholic universities before coming together for a discussion in 2023.
The topic? How the church can learn to rely more fully on this kind of consultation-and-discussion process – how it can become more “synodal” in its governance.
Throughout the centuries, the Roman Catholic Church has held many gatherings called “synods” – but seldom one this sweeping in its range.
One of Vatican II’s goals was to revitalize the importance of local churches and emphasize their cooperation with one another. As a “college” under the leadership of the pope, bishops are mutually responsible for the governance of the whole church.
Pope Francis has shown special interest in the Synod of Bishops since the beginning of his papacy in 2013. At a ceremony for the anniversary, Francis gave a speech that laid out his views on “synodality. The word “synod,” he reminded the audience, is about cooperation.
“A synodal Church is a Church which listens,” he said, pointing out that mutual listening has been the goal of much of the church’s renewal since Vatican II.
“For the disciples of Jesus, yesterday, today and always, the only authority is the authority of service, the only power is the power of the cross,” Francis declared.
Preparing for 2023
The current “Synod on Synodality” is the culmination of all this effort to bring a greater degree of openness, collaboration and mutual listening to the church. Unlike previous synods, this one officially begins in dioceses all over the world, with opportunities for mutual consultation at every level and among many different church organizations.
When the General Assembly meets in 2023, its task will be to prayerfully consider how to move forward as “a more synodal Church in the long-term” – a church that “journeys together.”
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