“As a general guide, give more emphasis to the types of questions that evoke personal stories and real-life experiences rather than ‘doctrinal’ statements.”

Vademecum for the Synod 

Friday, 22 October 2021

“For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission” 
Synod 2021 – 2023

Pope Francis has repeatedly emphasized the importance of cultivating what he calls “a culture of encounter” within our church and between all peoples across society.

In “Fratelli Tutti,” the pope’s encyclical letter released last October, he asks for us to facilitate encounters “capable of transcending our differences and divisions.” For this to happen, though, we need to have meaningful conversations with one another; we need to move beyond pleasantries and politeness.

The success of the upcoming synod, as you may already be tired of hearing, requires the participation of all people, especially those habitually excluded and unheard in ordinary church circles. Still, participation alone is not enough.

We are called to participate in the Synod process, not as opponents in a debate but as pilgrims on a journey, walking together side by side. We must share our hopes and fears, struggles and joys. And we are invited to speak with each other as the disciples did on the road to Emmaus, “talking with each other about everything that had happened.” The invitation is for us to share our story with courage and open ourselves to our companions’ real-life experience on the road—warts and all.

In the second chapter of Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis offers a powerful meditation on the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37). I think it encapsulates well what is at stake with the present synod for our church going forward. I invite you to pray with this today:

The parable is clear and straightforward, yet it also evokes the interior struggle that each of us experiences as we gradually come to know ourselves through our relationships with our brothers and sisters. Sooner or later, we will all encounter a person who is suffering. Today there are more and more of them. The decision to include or exclude those lying wounded along the roadside can serve as a criterion for judging every economic, political, social and religious project. Each day we have to decide whether to be Good Samaritans or indifferent bystanders. And if we extend our gaze to the history of our own lives and that of the entire world, all of us are, or have been, like each of the characters in the parable. All of us have in ourselves something of the wounded man, something of the robber, something of the passers-by, and something of the Good Samaritan. (No. 69 )


Come, Holy Spirit! You inspire new tongues and place words of life on our lips: keep us from becoming a ‘museum church,’ beautiful but mute, with much past and little future.Come among us, so that in this synodal experience we will not lose our enthusiasm, dilute the power of prophecy, or descend into useless and unproductive discussions.


Pope Francis, 9 October 2021 in Rome

Fr Ricardo da Silva SJ

Fr Ricardo da Silva SJ was born in Coimbra, Portugal and grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa. He had a career in marketing, communications and brand management before joining the Jesuits in 2007 and has studied communications (SA), philosophy (UK), theology (Brazil) and journalism (USA). He is passionate about liturgical music, communications, and ethics and takes delight in good company and food. He has ministered to a wide range of people in many different contexts, from the elderly to high school and university students, refugees, migrants and the homeless. He has just completed the foundational Master of Science degree at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

r.dasilva@jesuitinstitute.org.za @ricdssj
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