The Church of God is convoked in Synod. The path entitled “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission” will solemnly open on the 9th – 10th of October 2021 in Rome and on the following 17th of October in each particular Church. One fundamental stage will be the celebration of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, in October 2023, which will be followed by the implementation phase that will again involve the particular Churches (cf. EC, arts. 19-21).
What is Synodality?
With this convocation, Pope Francis invites the entire Church to reflect on a theme that is decisive for its life and mission: “It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium.”2 This journey, which follows in the wake of the Church’s “renewal” proposed by the Second Vatican Council, is both a gift and a task: by journeying together and reflecting together on the journey that has been made, the Church will be able to learn through Her experience which processes can help Her to live communion, to achieve participation, to open Herself to mission. Our “journeying together” is, in fact, what most effectively enacts and manifests the nature of the Church as the pilgrim and missionary People of God.
What is the Theme of the Synod?
The theme of the Synod is “For a Synodal Church: Communion, “Participation, and Mission.” The three dimensions of the theme are communion, participation and mission. These three dimensions are profoundly interrelated. They are the vital pillars of a synodal Church. There is no hierarchy between them. Rather, each one enriches and orients the other two. There is a dynamic relationship between the three that must be articulated with all three in mind.
By his gracious will, God gathers us together as diverse peoples of one faith, through the covenant that he offers to his people. The communion we share finds its deepest roots in the love and unity of the Holy Trinity. It is Christ who reconciles us to the Father and unites with each other in the Holy Spirit. Together we are inspired by listening to the Word of God, through the living Tradition of the Church, and grounded on the sensus fidei that we share. We all have a role to play in discerning and living out God’s call for his people.
A call for the involvement of all who belong to the People of God – laity, consecrated, and ordained to engage in the exercise of deep and respectful listening to one another. This listening creates space for us to hear the Holy Spirit together, and guides our aspirations for the Church of the Third Millennium. Participation is based on the fact that all the faithful are qualified and are called to serve one another through the gifts they have each received from the Holy Spirit. In a synodal Church the community, in the free and rich diversity of its members, is called to pray, listen, analyze, dialogue, discern and offer advice on making pastoral decisions which corresponds as closely as possible to God’s will (ITC, Syn., 67-68). Genuine efforts must be made to ensure the inclusion of those at the margins or who feel excluded.
The Church exists to evangelize. We can never be centered on ourselves. Our mission is to witness to the love of God in the midst of the whole human family. This Synodal Process has a deeply missionary dimension to it. It is intended to enable the Church better witness to the Gospel, especially with those who live on the spiritual, social, economic, political, geographical, and existential peripheries of our world. In this way, synodality is a path by which the Church can more fully fulfill her mission of evangelization in the world, as a leaven at the service of the coming of God’s kingdom.