Vatican issues dioceses with synodal path guidelines

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The Vatican has issued the world’s Catholic dioceses with synodal path guidelines as they prepare for the 2023 Synod of Bishops.

The preparatory document and a “handbook” for dioceses focuses on the theme, ‘For a synodal church: communion, participation and mission’.

“Pope Francis invites the entire Church to reflect on a theme that is decisive for its life and mission: ‘It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the church of the third millennium,'” the new document says.

It goes on to explain that the synodal path guidelines and its questions are:

“at the service of the synodal journey, especially as a tool to facilitate the first phase of listening to and consulting the people of God in the churches in the hope of helping to set in motion the ideas, energy and creativity of all those who will take part in the journey, and to make it easier to share the fruits of their efforts.”

The preparatory document clarifies the synod’s purpose. It “is intended to inspire people to dream about the church we are called to be, to make people’s hopes flourish, to stimulate trust, to bind up wounds, to weave new and deeper relationships, to learn from one another, to build bridges, to enlighten minds, warm hearts, and restore strength to our hands for our common mission”.

The guidance to bishops and those helping facilitate the synodal process locally suggests ways to listen to and consult with Catholics, Christians, non-Christians and the wider community, particularly those on the margins.

Pope Francis is scheduled to formally open the synod process at the Vatican next month. Bishops from every diocese in the world will then open the process in their diocese on 17 October.

The synodal way’s diocesan phase runs until April.

The document poses a number of questions to help prompt reflection, input and ideas from as many people as possible.

These questions fall under 10 general themes, so people can address what is most pertinent to their situation and “share with honesty and openness about their real-life experiences, and to reflect together on what the Holy Spirit might be revealing through what they share with one another”.

Some suggested questions include:

  • To whom does our particular church ‘need to listen to?
  • How are the laity, especially young people and women, listened to?
  • How do we integrate the contribution of consecrated men and women?
  • What space is there for the voice of minorities, the discarded, and the excluded?
  • Do we identify prejudices and stereotypes that hinder our listening?
  • How do we listen to the social and cultural context in which we live?”

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