For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission.”
The synodal journey began at the Vatican, in the presence of Pope Francis, on 9 and 10 October 2021 with a time for encounter and reflection, followed by a moment of prayer and the celebration of the Eucharist.
The process of the Synod has recently been adjusted, not only with an extension into 2024, but also to include an additional opportunity to review, at a local level, a document that has been written by a group reflecting on the submissions from across the world. This expansion and extension of the process is a positive sign of the overwhelming response to the call, driven by the Holy Spirit.
The first of two important Synod meetings began in Rome on Wednesday 4th October 2023. The 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be held in two moments, that is, in two sessions, spaced one year apart: the first from October 4 to 29, 2023, the second in October 2024.
The Synod of Bishops will, for the first time, include non-Bishop voting members, comprising of a number of laymen and laywomen with the Catholic Church in England and Wales well represented. Archbishop John Wilson, the Archbishop of Southwark, and Bishop Marcus Stock, Bishop of Leeds, were elected by their brother bishops to attend. Joining them will be Bishop Nicholas Hudson, an Auxiliary Bishop for the Diocese of Westminster – chosen by Pope Francis, and Professor Anna Rowlands and Austen Ivereigh chosen as expert facilitators.
Fr Timothy Radcliffe, Dominican Friar and former Master of the Order of Preachers, led a retreat for all Synod members prior to the official opening. You can read Fr Timothy’s Synod Retreat Meditation ‘Hoping Against Hope’ here.
In a 20-minute conversation (available to watch here) Fr Jan Nowotnik – who will attend as a voting member and whose doctoral thesis focused, in part, on the preparation for a Synodal Church – joins theologian Professor Anna Rowlands to preview the Synod. Both will be in Rome, and both will have a key role in proceedings. Speaking earlier this week, Fr Jan said: “I think what the Synod is, in Pope Francis’ mind, is about drawing all the members of the Church – and those beyond the Church – into a deeper relationship with God and a deeper relationship with each other. The Church exists to proclaim the message of Jesus Christ, and to bring his healing mercy to the Church.”.
Our Diocesan Synod Response
Individuals, families, and parish groups across our community of faith took part in the diocesan phase of the Synod, with an estimated 3,000 people from Arundel & Brighton contributing their responses to the questions posed by Rome.
The diocesan stage of the Synod has now been completed in our Diocese. You can read the ‘Synthesis of Synod Responses’ document submitted to the Bishops’ Conference by Bishop Richard here.
The topic of synodality has been an important feature in Pope Francis’ pontificate. In October 2015, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Synod of Bishops by St Paul VI, Pope Francis said, “From the beginning of my ministry as Bishop of Rome, I sought to enhance the Synod, which is one of the most precious legacies of the Second Vatican Council… it is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church in the third millennium”.
More recently, speaking to the International Theological Commission in 2018, the Holy Father said the theme of synodality “is very close to my heart: synodality is a style, it is walking together, and it is what the Lord expects of the Church in the third millennium”.
The National Synod Synthesis was published on Tuesday 22nd June 2022, the feast of St John Fisher and St Thomas More. The document reflects on diocesan Synod reports received by the National Synthesis Team, discerning the main themes that emerged and providing an overview of the synodal process in England and Wales.
The Bishops of England and Wales will now gather to discern their response to this National Synthesis with the fruits of their work – together with the synthesis document – sent to the Synod Office in Rome as the formal submission to the Synod from England and Wales. You can read the National Synthesis here.
Seeking Our Hearts Desire: a reflection from the Bishops of England and Wales following the compilation of the Synod National Synthesis
Together for the Common Good have released a new podcast series, Renewing Church and Neighbourhood – the Synodal Way, to support and inspire those travelling on the synodal journey.
In this podcast series, Sean Ryan asks Jenny Sinclair, Founder Director of Together for the Common Good, about what the synodal process means for grassroots Catholics and how it can be used to inspire action at a local level.
If you missed the CAFOD Webinar: Synodality: a new way of being the Catholic Church you can listen to the recording here
The Continental Phase (September 2022 – March 2023) had the task of discussing the text of the first Instrumentum Laboris.
Prayer of the Synod
We stand before You, Holy Spirit, as we gather together in Your name.
With You alone to guide us, make Yourself at home in our hearts;
Teach us the way we must go and how we are to pursue it.
We are weak and sinful; do not let us promote disorder.
Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path nor partiality influence our actions.
Let us find in You our unity so that we may journey together to eternal life and not stray from the way of truth and what is right.
All this we ask of You, who are at work in every place and time, in the communion of the Father and the Son, for ever and ever. Amen