Have your say about the Church

Last week the Vatican released the preparatory document and a “handbook” for dioceses as part of the global church’s preparation for the 2023 assembly of the Synod of Bishops, discussing the theme, “For a synodal church: communion, participation and mission.”

The document says that “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.’”

Synodality is close to the heart of Pope Francis. He believes in a Church that listens, dialogues, works and journeys together collaboratively. The document says that Holy Father wants the whole Church to “journey together” so that Catholics everywhere can “imagine a different future for the Church and her institutions, in keeping with the mission she has received.”

“The purpose of this synod 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 preparatory document said.

Although the Synod of Bishops will take place in October 2023, it will officially start next month, with a process of listening, dialogue and community discernment in local churches.

This is why it is important that all Catholics know about this process. The Vatican is inviting the Church everywhere to enter into a listening process. It envisages that in every parish and diocese, people will be able to contribute. Nobody should be excluded. It was specifically pointed out that widespread consultation should be done, no one should be excluded. “We must personally reach out to the peripheries, to those who have left the church, those who rarely or never practice their faith, those who experience poverty or marginalization, refugees, the excluded, the voiceless, etc.,” it says. In other words, it is not only diocesan bodies, parish councils and other Church structures that need to be consulted, but every Catholic should have their say.

“The whole Church is called to deal with the weight of a culture imbued with clericalism that she inherits from her history, and with those forms of exercising authority on which the different types of abuse (power, economic, conscience, sexual) are grafted,” the document says.

Some of the suggested questions the Vatican ask us to consider are: “To whom does our particular church ‘need to listen to’” and “how are the laity, especially young people and women, listened to? 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?”

That is now the challenge that lies ahead for all of us: to have our say and shape the future of our Church’s communion and mission. 

*The handbook or guide for listening and discerning in local Churches can be found HERE

Fr Russell Pollitt SJ

Fr Russell Pollitt SJ is the Director of the Jesuit Institute and is interested in the impact that communications technology has on society and spirituality. He regularly comments on South African Politics and various issues in the Catholic Church.

director@jesuitinstitute.org.za @rpollittsj
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