Pope Francis says the synod must hear excluded voices


The preparatory documents for the 2021-23 Synod of Bishops on synodality make it clear that the excluded must be included: Bishops the world over are called to make “every effort” to consult and listen to those who feel “excluded or marginalized” from society and the church.

“If we believe in the imago Dei, that the image of God is in everyone, then if we do not hear from those voices, we are not hearing from the entire body of Christ. And that’s our loss,” said Mary O’Meara, the executive director of the Office of Deaf and Disabilities Ministry for the Archdiocese of Washington.

Diocesan officials, chaplains, social workers, lay ministers, parish leaders and others are listening to people with intellectual and physical disabilities.

They are reaching out to those in prisons, homeless shelters, soup kitchens and mobile home communities. Pastors have organized parish listening sessions for LGBTQ parishioners and seasonal farmworkers near the U.S. southern border.

“I think we need to hear from all kinds of people,” said Dominican Sr. Donna Ciangio, the chancellor for the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, who is leading the synodal process there.

Pope Francis and other church leaders have framed synodality as a decisive step in the church’s renewal that the Second Vatican Council proposed more than a half century ago.

As the pope has explained it, a synodal church journeys together with all the baptized, including those whose voices are usually not heard.

“Pope Francis’ main question is critical,” Ciangio told NCR. “What does the Holy Spirit expect of the church in the 21st century? We can sit around and look inward, but if we’re not hearing from everyone, we won’t know how we can get the Gospel out today.”

NCR interviewed diocesan officials, lay ministers and pastors in several dioceses to see how local churches are seeking out the voices of Catholics on the margins.

The following offers brief snapshots of five of those efforts. Continue reading

Image: National Catholic Reporter

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