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”.
In October, Pope Francis opened a three-year synodal journey with three phases (diocesan, continental, universal) of consultations and discernment, culminating with the assembly in October 2023 in Rome.
What is the synodal process? Here are some answers, provided by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, to frequently asked questions on the synodal process.
The synodal journey began at the Vatican, in the presence of the Pope, 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 particular (or local) Churches began their journey on Sunday, 17 October 2021, under the presidency of the diocesan bishop.
If you missed the CAFOD Webinar: Synodality: a new way of being the Catholic Church you can listen to the recording here
The Synod timeline
The Synod was opened by Pope Francis on 9th-10th October 2021 and in individual dioceses by the respective bishops, on 17th October 2021
The Diocesan Phase takes place from October 2021 – April 2022. This phase will end locally with a pre-synodal assembly: the culminating moment of diocesan discernment.
The National Phase (before April 2022): A period of discernment will begin for bishops gathered in an assembly called an Episcopal Conference. They will listen to what the Spirit has inspired in the churches entrusted to them. A ‘synthesis’ will be drafted and sent to the General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops along with the contributions of each of the local churches.
The Continental Phase (September 2022 – March 2023) will have the task of discussing the text of the first Instrumentum Laboris.
The Synod of Bishops in Rome (October 2023): The synodal journey will culminate with the celebration of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission”.
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