Managing expectations an issue for the Synod

prayerful experience

On the last day of their meeting at the Vatican this month, the seven-member Synod of Bishops’ preparatory commission had an audience with Pope Francis.

Bishop Daniel Flores, who has been coordinating the synod process for the United States bishops, said the meeting was “very encouraging”.

Francis speaks “very beautifully about the Church and about how close to his heart is the issue of participation and building up communion,” Flores said.

“Francis knows some people have exaggerated expectations for the synod while others have exaggerated anxiety because it is not completely clear where the process is leading.

“This is despite the fact the pope has spoken frequently about strengthening a “synodal church”, where all baptised members listen to one another and share responsibility for the Church’s life and mission.”

In the synod’s local, national and continental phases, people made a “great investment of spiritual and personal energy and of time,” reading, praying and listening to one another.

It became very clear to Flores that he and others in his diocese must be much more intentional and creative in “reaching out to people who, because of their own personal circumstances, don’t feel free or confident” about joining their parish or diocese’s life.

“The Church sometimes can become a little too comfortable and only the comfortable feel comfortable there,” he said.

Flores explained the Vatican meeting was an “orientation” meeting. Members will read and review all the reports from the synod’s continental stage reflection, help prepare the synod working document and help during the synod itself.

The Commission members don’t know yet if they will be full voting members of the synod, but Flores said it’s likely.

If so, Mercedarian Sister Shizue Hirota from Tokyo, the Commission’s only woman, would be a voting member of the synod.

Francis has already said that whoever participates in a synod as a member “has the right to vote. Whether male or female”.

Hirota said the meeting included a presentation on the “episcopal mission” and bishops’ special responsibility in the synodal discernment process.

As a member of God’s people, a bishop has a responsibility to listen to his people,” she said.

So, although most synod members will be bishops, many other people’s contributions will be like a memory or reminder “of the ecclesial journey that we have made”.


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