Priests embrace Vatican’s synodality mission


Nearly 300 parish priests from around the world recently concluded a multi-day meeting near Rome where they discussed how to bring the Vatican’s message of synodality to their local communities.

The gathering, which included an audience with Pope Francis, focused on fostering open dialogue and empowering individuals to take responsibility for their parishes and communities.

In five sessions, 20 internationally composed working groups collected answers to the question of what synodality meant for the Church in general and at parish and diocese level. The results were recorded and presented to the entire group. However, the group did not formulate a final, common document.

For many Catholics, synodality remains an abstract concept. It’s often explained as ‘journeying together’, after two Greek words (syn meaning ‘with’ and hodos meaning ‘journey’). The word ‘synod’ derives from this.

Speaking to Vatican News, Fr Stefan Ulz from the Austrian Diocese of Graz-Seckau expanded on this definition.

Synodality, he says, means recognising that “the Holy Spirit speaks through everybody, not only through the Pope, bishops and priests.”

Synodality misrepresented by media

During the meeting, Reverend Clinton Ressler from Texas highlighted the misrepresentation of synodality by some media outlets.

He said the media often portray the synod not as open dialogue which the pope intended but as an effort to change church doctrine.

“When it’s presented that way, I think it’s often disturbing, scary, unsettling” Ressler told Vatican journalists.

“I think that’s an unfair representation of what the synod actually is.

“It’s a much more practical, I’d say grassroots level way to teach people how to do communitarian discernment and take responsibility for their parish and community.”

Following the meeting, participating priests expressed a renewed commitment to promoting synodality in their communities.

They acknowledged the challenges, including feelings of burnout and isolation. However they emphasised the importance of unity and communal discernment in addressing these issues.

Additionally, the meeting addressed controversial topics such as the involvement of atheists in church bodies and differing perspectives on homosexuality.

Participants reflected on the need for inclusivity and open dialogue within the Church. This echoes Pope Francis’ message of welcome to all individuals, regardless of background or belief.

The Synod on Synodality began in October 2021, calling for Catholic communities worldwide to ask themselves what most concerned them.

It’s the largest consultation of Catholic faithful in history, involving bishops, cardinals and ordinary faithful from the diocesan level to “continental assemblies” that have refined the questions for the synod meetings in Rome.

New Zealand’s Fr Craig Butler attended the meeting.


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