An overview of week 2 of the Synod by Will Ross of the Diocesan Synod Team
While the first few days of the Synod in Rome was about the participants getting to know each other and becoming familiar with the process they would be using in their discussions, this second week has begun to examine some of the particular questions arising in the groups of participants where the communal discernment takes place. That initial week also looked at the first section of the ‘Working Document’, the ‘Instrumentum Laboris’. Specifically, they discussed the experience, the characteristic signs and the way forward of a synodal Church.
This second week has focussed on the second section of the Working Document, which looks at the three core themes of communion, participation and mission. The early part of the week paid particular attention to a theme we have become familiar with here in the Diocese of Motherwell - “a communion that radiates”. You may have seen this theme written on some of the printed materials for the Synod which were given out in parishes over the last couple of weeks. This is very much about discussing how we can become more fully a sign and instrument of union with God and with all humanity. There is also a reflection of this theme in the Diocese of Motherwell mission statement, which reminds us that we are to “be Christ's Church, living and caring for one another.”
The general secretary, Cardinal Hollerich referred to it as “the first of the three questions that have emerged from listening to the people of God” as it came up repeatedly in many places across the world - and that was certainly the case here in our Diocese, where it was discussed in many parishes and was felt to have a real and very practical importance. Such local discussions are, of course, the very reason why the Synod in Rome has given it such prominence as one of the three core themes. Meeting in the synodal groups in the parishes, “a communion that radiates” covered many of the specific issues which a lot of people in the diocese considered to be important. That was the case not only here - speaking to the participants in Rome, the general secretary Cardinal Hollerich pointed out that this one issue had come up repeatedly in so many places. He referred to it as “the first of the three questions that have emerged from listening to the people of God.” In his introductory presentation, he noted that “this is the priority issue coming out of the synodal process”.
At the Synod, each of the small circles looks at this question in depth; then, after prayer, discernment and reflection, the whole group then begins to build a final report on this theme. Later, that report will be presented to the Holy Father for his consideration. To help them in this task, the participants are offered a number of spiritual reflections, mindful that the entire process is intended to be spiritual before anything else. At one such reflection, given by Fr Radcliffe prior to beginning the discussions, he asked - “But how do we become passionate people – passionate for the Gospel, filled with love for each other - without disaster? This is fundamental question for our formation, especially for our seminarians.” Clearly, then, the broad themes under discussion are intended to be applied to very concrete and specific areas of the life of the Church in the world. Other specific areas under discussion this week have been how the Church relates to the poor, to women, to women religious and to migrants. The Synod is not confined to ideas alone, but to applying the fruits of those ideas.
At various points, Synod participants have offered the whole group presentations on their local experiences of the Synod process and some have also spoken at the regular press briefings. At one of these, Cardinal Tobin of Newark, United States, commented on how his growing up in a very diverse and multicultural area prepared him for the work of the Synod so many years later. He told them - “I think the real beauty of our Catholic Church is clear when the doors are open and welcoming. And it is my hope that the Synod will help us to do that in an even more significant way.” This was also reflected in one of the ‘theological reflections’ as part of the discussion process itself, where Professor Anna Rowlands, a theologian, said to the participants that “communion is the beauty of diversity in unity” - a clear and simple expression of a profound truth.
Perhaps more than anything, this week at the Synod has shown that what was first discussed locally in parishes - whether here in our Diocese of Motherwell or across the world - has informed
the discussion at this highest level, evidence that the Church is indeed listening.