Pope Francis has initiated a ‘synodal journey’ for the universal Church and invites every local Church to participate in the first phase of a two-year process. Between October 2021 and April 2022, every diocese is asked to consult as widely as possible, listen, reflect and discuss, “How does this ‘journeying together’ allow the Church to proclaim the Gospel in accordance with the mission entrusted to her?”
The theme of the Synod is: “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission”. Synodality indicates walking together and listening to one another but above all to the Holy Spirit. To deepen this essential characteristic of the Church, the upcoming synod is unlike any previous one. It starts with and involves all the faithful at local Churches across the world, promising to listen to all, especially to laypeople.
The diocesan listening phase will run until April 2022 and will be followed by a continental phase from September 2022 to March 2023. The final “universal Church phase” will culminate in the traditional assembly of the Synod of Bishops in the Vatican in October 2023.
“Celebrating a Synod,” said Pope Francis, “means walking on the same road, together.” He characterised the Synod process as one of encounter, listening, and discernment. These are grace-filled opportunities, he added.
“God so often points out new paths, and invites us to leave our old habits behind. Everything changes once we are capable of genuine encounters,” he said. A true encounter only comes through listening to others, he added, noting that Jesus listens with the heart. If we listen with the heart, “people feel they are being heard, not judged; they feel free to recount their own experiences and their spiritual journey.”
He continued: “Let us not soundproof our hearts; let us not remain barricaded in our certainties. Let us listen to one another.”
He said the Church is called to “free ourselves from all that is worldly, including our inward-looking and outworn pastoral models, and to ask ourselves what it is that God wants to say to us in this time”.
From Vatican News