Synodality is not a walk in the park

There are many ideas about what synodality means, says Pope Francis.

“It’s not a walk in the park”.

It is “an ecclesial journey that has a soul, which is the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, there is no synodality,” he explains.

Francis is promoting a synodal process that involves the whole church. It will focus on listening to one another and to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Last month, he approved major revisions to how the Synod of Bishops will work. It should begin with a bottom-up full diocesan-level process of consultation, he says.

“This will require patience, work, allowing people to talk so that the wisdom of the people of God will come forth …

“A synod is nothing other than making explicit what ‘Lumen Gentium’ says:

“The whole people of God — all of them, from the bishop on down — is infallible in belief. They cannot err when there is harmony among all.”

Listening and consultation may require managing a range of expectations or fears.

It may involve explaining to people who want immediate, radical change that discernment takes time and requires fidelity to God’s will.

It may involve explaining to those scandalised by the questions they are being asked that perhaps there are better ways to explain church teaching and live the Gospel.

Francis often underlines that a synod is not a parliament, but a process of discernment. St. Paul VI, who revived the Synod of Bishops for the universal Catholic Church, also made this point.

Over the past five decades, that special nature has increasingly involved laypeople, religious and priests. They are now consulted before bishops are elected or appointed to attend the synod assembly.

To support the pope’s wish to imbue the church with a synodal spirit, the International Theological Commission published a document in 2018: “Synodality in the Life and Mission of the Church.”

It explains that synodality promotes the baptismal dignity and call of all Catholic and values the presence of different gifts given by the Holy Spirit.

It also recognises the specific ministry entrusted to pastors and bishops in communion with the pope for the preservation of the faith and the renewal of the church.


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