Synodality - where are we going with it? A view from the parish

Fernanda Mee reflects on synodality, the domestic church and the Church’s mission embodied in the life of the parish.

Like the video conference programme Zoom before the Covid-19 pandemic, not many people were acquainted with the word ‘synodality’ prior to October 2021. Then a worldwide process was launched by Pope Francis’ initiative, inviting Catholics around dioceses, parishes and homes to ‘journey together’ and to become a ‘Synodal Church’.1 For many ordinary people, the choice of word in front of ‘Church’ was ‘Catholic’, when referring to the folks in Rome. But ‘Synodal Church’? What was that about?

From Synod of Bishops to ‘Here Comes Everybody’

Synodality – one of those words my computer insists on underscrolling in red every time I type it – derives from the Greek for gathering, or an assembly of people. The concept of synodality implies a process of being together in conversation, where people are invited, listened to, and are allowed to voice their concerns. Synodality has become an established expression of Pope Francis’ vision for the Church. It speaks the mind of a Pope who, in his own words, prefers a Church that is dirty and bruised and goes to the peripheries (Evangelii Gaudium 49).
The Synod of Bishops as instituted by Pope Paul VI is a consultative body to discuss relevant pastoral and theological issues. A teaching document – an Apostolic Exhortation – is presented by the Pope at the end of each Synod. In his pontificate, Pope Francis has widened the consultation to include the lay faithful. This happened with the Synods on the Family in 2014 and 2015. The pattern was picked up again in the Synod on Young People in 2018 and then in the regional Synod on the Amazon in 2019. As the world emerges from the traumas and bewilderment of the Covid crisis (and there is uncertainty about how parishes will absorb the impact), there is a lot of reckoning to be done.

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