Synod Overview - Week 3
Some of the information about the Synod comes from the presentations broadcast at the start of the general congregations; but the most revealing information comes from the press briefings given several times each week. This week, these have been very revealing.
Speaking at one such briefing, Professor Viral Tirimanna said something very interesting. He said he is more and more optimistic about the synodal process - “I am seeing how synodality is lived; it happens when you do it.” He felt this was due very much to “the atmosphere of prayer, heavily complemented by the spiritual conversations - we see how the synodal process or way of living, is already lived.”
We learned a little about which particular discussions were on-going - such as going beyond clerical models of Church (a common theme here in our Diocesan parish groups), and the relationship between leadership and service in the Church. There was discussion about “the ministry of all” rather than thinking only in terms of ordained ministry.
Later discussions looked at the role of bishops in the Church, together with the process of appointing bishops - this, it was felt, required a greater degree of consultation. The Synod alsoreminded us that “the bishop needs to understand that he is not the diocese - he cannot do everything by himself and he needs assistance, especially in those areas which require professional expertise”. The participants ooked at the on-going formation of bishops and their relationship with the clergy, and reminded all of us of the need to pray for our bishops.
Cardinal Romero of Morocco said “We have truly managed to work together to kindle a new flame,” describing the process as being “very spiritual.. and a model of the Church.” The Cardinal also reminded us of something very crucial - “the Synod is about synodality - don’t expect proposals at this stage, as we still have a year ahead of us; there will be more concrete proposals next year”.
Professor Rene Köhler-Ryan of Australia reminded us of a second important element which can easily be overlooked. She spoke about the rich diversity in the Church, saying there are “many different voices, listening in a spiritual way. It gives us a sense of where we are as a universal Church - and we are very much the same” in the issues which touch us, even if our particular experiences differ depending on location.
Keeping on this core theme, Cardinal Randazzo of Australia added that many of us have a “European way of thinking” - yet a jewel of the Synod has been “sharing with people from all over the world.”
Another speaker, Fr Orobator (a theologian from Nigeria) said he was “witnessing the diversity in the Church and the wisdom that is embedded in this diversity - it draws from the insights and the unique gifts this diversity offers the Church.” He said he was struck by being involved in “a process of the Church making and re-making itself”.
At a briefing toward the end of the week, Cardinal Hollerich noted the move to Module 4 of the Working Document - looking at the themes of participation, governance and authority. He said the temptation was to judge the Synod on what changes are made in a very small number of areas; but what really matters is to keep focus on the true goal being aimed for - looking for convergence, divergence and then formulating concrete proposals. The danger is to move off into tangents which distract from this.
The Cardinal added that the worksheets for this Module look at very specific areas in the life of the Church. These areas are - discernment and the power of the conversations in the Spirit, and how to apply this throughout the Church; current structures within the Church, such as pastoral councils, and which of these are in line with synodality; groupings of local Churches and the potential they have, especially in a de-centralised Church; and strengthening the institution of the Synod, as an expression of collegiality within a synodal Church.
He reminded us that all these things are not simply ideas - they really touch the life of the Church and so very careful discernment is necessary, in order that the right conclusions can be reached. He finished by saying - “Missionary responsibility or co-responsibility are not just catchphrases, but a call that we can only realise together with the support of concrete proposals, structures and institutions that truly work in the spirit of synodality.”