Vatican publishes manual for dioceses for 2023 Synod

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Vatican has released the preparatory document and a “handbook” for dioceses as part of the world Church’s preparation for the 2023 Synod of Bishops assembly, discussing the theme “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission.

“Pope Francis invites the whole Church to reflect on a decisive theme for her life and her mission: ‘It is precisely this path of synodality that God expects from the Church of the third millennium,” “says the new document.

As such, the preparatory document and its questions are “at the service of the synodal journey, especially as a tool to facilitate the first phase of listening to and consulting the people of God in the particular Churches in the hope of helping to set in motion the ideas, energy and creativity of all who will participate in the trip, and to facilitate the sharing of the fruits of their efforts, ”he said.

“Pope Francis invites the whole Church to reflect on a decisive theme for her life and her mission: ‘It is precisely this path of synodality that God expects from the Church of the third millennium.’ “

“The purpose of this synod is not to produce more documents. Rather, it aims to inspire people to dream of the church we are called to be, to nurture people’s hopes, to boost confidence, to heal wounds, to forge new and deeper relationships, to learn from each other, to build bridges, to enlighten minds, warm hearts and restore strength to our hands for our common mission, ”indicates the preparatory document.

The manual or “vade-mecum” offers guidelines for bishops and those who help facilitate the synodal process locally on how best to listen to and consult with Catholics and the wider community, especially those who are in. margin of society, as well as Christians and non-Christians. .

The documents were released on September 7 at a press conference in the Vatican and online in English and Spanish on the synod’s official website: synod.va/en.html and synod.va/es.html.

Pope Francis is expected to officially open the synodal process in the Vatican from October 9-10, and the bishop of each diocese is expected to open the process in their diocese on October 17. The diocesan phase will run until April.

The material presents a number of questions to help spark thought, input and ideas from as many people as possible.

The questions fall under 10 general themes, and people can address what is most relevant to their situation and “honestly and openly share their real-life experiences, and together reflect on what the Holy Spirit might reveal to them. through what they share with each other, ”the document states.

Some suggested questions include: “Who should our particular church ‘listen to'” and “how are lay people, especially young people and women, listened to?” How to integrate the contribution of consecrated men and women? What space is there for the voice of minorities, the marginalized and the excluded? Do we identify the prejudices and stereotypes that hinder our listening? How do we listen to the social and cultural context in which we live?

The manual offers guidelines for bishops and those who help facilitate the synodal process locally on how best to listen to and consult with Catholics and the wider community.

However, the fundamental and most fundamental question guiding the whole process is: “How does this ‘journey together’, which takes place today at different levels – from the local to the universal level – enables the Church? to proclaim the Gospel in accordance with the mission entrusted to him; and what steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow as a Synodal Church? says the document.

Speaking at the September 7 press conference, Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, and others explained the main objectives and characteristics of a synodal process, which is “a spiritual process” which requires listening to the Holy Spirit as well as to each other.

“The synod will succeed or fail to the extent that we rely on the Holy Spirit,” said the cardinal.

The cardinal urged reporters to offer “correct communication” of the purpose of the synod and synodality, including not to describe it as “a parliament” or as different parties playing against each other “in which the one who has the most power influences or subjugates the other. “

Asked about the possibility of allowing women to vote at a synod of bishops, Cardinal Grech said he felt troubled by so much attention to “the vote”, saying “it is not the vote who counts”.

What matters is the larger process that involves all of God’s people coming together to find common ground, which is not easy, he said. “So perhaps we need to insist more on how we can dialogue, converse, discern together in order to eventually arrive at this harmony”, find a consensus and not depend so much on the votes cast in the later phase of a synod.

“The synod will succeed or fail to the extent that we rely on the Holy Spirit,” said the cardinal.

Missionary Sister Xaviere Nathalie Becquart, one of the two under-secretaries of the Synod of Bishops, will be the first woman entitled to vote at a meeting of the Synod of Bishops. In March, when she was appointed, Cardinal Grech said allowing her to vote at a synod was “an important step” and that it should not be limited to that one institution or to voting rights.

Myriam Wijlens, canonical lawyer and consultant to the Synod of Bishops, told reporters that women must “come forward” and speak “courageously” during this phase of consultation. It will also be important to listen to what women from non-Western cultures are saying, she added.

The manual states that although dioceses will be required to spend six months carrying out in-depth outreach and consultation activities with as many people as possible, the synod process “is not a mechanical exercise in data collection or a series of meetings and debates “.

“Synodal listening is oriented towards discernment”, in which people listen to each other, their tradition of faith and “the signs of the times in order to discern what God is telling us all”, he said. he declares.

Wide participation is an important part of the diocesan process, according to the document, without anyone being excluded. “We must personally reach out to the peripheries, to those who have left the church, those who rarely or never practice their faith, those who experience poverty or marginalization, refugees, the excluded, the voiceless, etc.

“Synodal listening is oriented towards discernment”, in which people listen to one another, their tradition of faith and “the signs of the times to discern what God is telling us all”.

This will require creativity, especially in parts of the world where restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 are still in place, he added.

All the comments generated throughout the listening process should be put together in a “synthesis” after each meeting, followed by a “synthesis” to be written for each diocese and finally for each episcopal conference.

Bishops’ Conferences and Synods of Eastern Churches will provide a synthesis of all local feedback to the Synod of Bishops, and all this material will serve as the basis for writing two working papers. The bishops and listeners will then meet with Pope Francis at the assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome in October 2023 to talk and listen to each other based on the process that began at the local level.

According to the manual, the synthesis “not only reports common trends and points of convergence, but also highlights points that strike a chord, inspire an original point of view or open up a new horizon. The synthesis should pay particular attention to the voices of those who are not often heard and incorporate what we might call the “minority report”, ”he said.

Bishops have an important role throughout the synod process as “pastors, teachers and priests of sacred worship,” the manual says. “Their charism of discernment calls them to be authentic guardians, interpreters and witnesses of the faith of the Church.


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