The synodal pathway begins in the parish

Catholic parishes in England and Wales have been invited to initiate the process of synodality. It begins with listening, writes Patrick H. Daly.

Pope Francis, often ambivalent or tentative in his pronouncements, assured his fellow bishops with categorical conviction at the close of their Synod in 2015 that Church governance and the fulfilment of the Church’s mission in the third millennium would be synodal. ‘It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium.’ Synodality is thus henceforth the direction of travel.

For the pilgrim people of God, the most scripturally grounded image of the Church, which the dogmatic Vatican II constitution Lumen gentium proposed, the challenge issued by the Holy Father that we travel together is obliging all the baptised to reflect on our identity as a people defined by our relationship with God, to question how we embark collectively on this pilgrimage and to clarify where exactly lies our destination. This forward-planning is somewhat complicated by the knowledge that synodality involves a process, and an open-ended process at that. The initial suggestion one can glean from the copious documentation issued by the Synod Office in Rome is that Pope Francis hopes for a new way of being Church, driven by unpredictable ongoing conversation between all the baptised.

The immediate terminus ad quem to which the synodal pathway leads is the Synod of Bishops scheduled for Rome in the autumn of 2023. The principle of synodality as a model of Church governance and the views about the Church’s mission gleaned in the two years that the pathway has been rolled out ad experimentum will form the subject matter of the 2023 Synod. Sister Nathalie Becquart, the French nun who is Under-Secretary to the Synod, will have voting rights. It is not yet clear whether rank-and-file Catholics will be delegated to attend the synod, how many they may be and whether they too will have voting rights.

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