Rome (Italy). On 7 September 2021, with a Press Conference at the Press Office of the Holy See, the Preparatory Document and the Vademecum were presented for the animation of the first phase of the itinerary of the Synod of Bishops on the theme: “For a synodal Church: communion , participation, and mission.”
The solemn opening of the Synod will be on 10 October 2021 in Rome and on 17 October in each local Church. A 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, which will again involve the local Churches.
“It is a process different from the past, renewed, extended to the entire people of God, with the particularity that its object ‘Synodality’ also intends to be its method”, said the Director of the Vatican Press Office, Matteo Bruni when introducing the speakers.”
Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, reminded how to prepare to live this event. The two opening moments will be a liturgical celebration in which the Holy Spirit will be the protagonist. “A Synod is celebrated and is not reduced to an assembly event… A Synod cannot be understood except in the presence of the action and light of the Holy Spirit who guides the Church on her journey through history.”
He introduced the two biblical icons, which contain some key principles of the Synod:
- Jesus, the crowd, the apostles: “A Synod is a path of discipleship, of sequela. It is a progressive approach to the Lord, entering ever more into the logic of the Gospel”.
- Peter and Cornelius (Acts 10): it is the path of discernment that shook the foundations of the primitive Church and will find solutions in the Council of Jerusalem. “Everything is understood only in obedience to the Holy Spirit. … The Synod will succeed or fail to the extent that we entrust our choices and processes to the Spirit”.
The Cardinal highlighted the importance of the first phase, which values the contribution of the people of God: “the journey begins with the consultation of the people of God in the local Churches, because it is starting from the local Churches that one and only Catholic Church exists” (Cf. Lumen Gentium).
He then took up the words of Pope Francis to emphasize the aspect of listening: “A synodal Church is a Church of listening, in the awareness that listening ‘is more than hearing’. It is a reciprocal listening in which everyone has something to learn. Faithful people, Episcopal College, Bishop of Rome, each one listening to the other and all listening to the Holy Spirit, the ‘Spirit of truth’ (Jn 14:17), to know what He ‘says to the Churches’ (Ap 2:7)” (Discourse at the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops).
Cardinal Grech concluded his discourse by saying: “What we intended to do in preparing the way is to put the Church in a position to live an authentic synodal experience, a time of listening in which we all learn a style of synodal Church, where we make the choice that is most worthwhile, walking together.”
“The Synod manifests the vitality of the Church: inclusive, participatory, and oriented towards evangelization,” continued Archbishop Luis Marín de San Martín, Undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, “We must keep in mind that this diocesan phase is already a Synod, not only preparation for the Synod.”
Each Bishop will be responsible for organizing this phase in his Diocese (local Church), drawing up a program and calendar, taking care of the dynamism of the process and, above all, the dimension of prayer, as a primarily spiritual event. It will be open to collaboration and will appoint a contact person and a team for synodality.
Archbishop Marín defined the Synod “a joyful and renewing ecclesial experience”, in which we walk together guided by four key words: consistency, enthusiasm, creativity, and courage.
To accompany the organization of the work, the General Secretariat has prepared a preparatory document and a methodological Vademecum sent for dissemination to the people of God as tools to be used and implemented according to the diverse realities and cultures.
The preparatory Document opens with a fundamental question, which prompts and guides the entire reflection, “How can we accomplish today at the various levels (those local and those universal) that ‘walking together’ which allows the Church to proclaim the Gospel in accordance with the mission entrusted to it; and what steps does the Spirit invite us to take to grow as a synodal Church?”
It is a question that asks the Church and the people of God to remain open to the surprises that the Spirit will not fail to give along the way, in order to be able to reap the fruits of a synodal conversion.
Materials are downloadable and available on the site synod.va, which also offers some resources for studying the theme of synodality.