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Holy See releases working document for Synod on Synodality

U.S. bishops encourage Catholics to ‘read, pray and discuss’ document

A working document on the Catholic Church’s upcoming worldwide Synod on Synodality “presents the People of God with a remarkable opportunity to reflect on what we have learned thus far about the nature of a synodal Church and how we might embrace that more fully,” said Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, in a statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on June 20.

“I encourage everyone to read, pray and discuss this important document, and to see it in relation to the insights and fruits of their local, national and continental Synodal consultations,” said Bishop Flores. The bishop chairs the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine, and is tasked with shepherding the synodal process in the U.S.

The Holy See’s General Secretariat of the Synod issued the working document, “Instrumentum Laboris,” for the first session of the 2021-2024 Synod. The synod’s first session is scheduled for October at the Vatican.

“The ‘Instrumentum Laboris’ will form the basis for the discernment and discussion for the participants of the first session,” the USCCB statement explained.

The document follows the first two stages of the 2021-2024 Synod. The first, or diocesan, stage consisted of local listening sessions worldwide in 2021-2022. Information gathered from the first stage informed the second stage, where “continental groupings” of bishops conferences discussed and reflected on pressing needs in the Church. That stage produced seven continental reports submitted to the Holy See in March.

The United States and Canada held 12 virtual assemblies in three languages between December 2022 and January 2023. Those assemblies included 931 appointed delegates and 146 bishops.

The U.S. national synthesis reflecting the diocesan stage in the U.S., and the “North American Final Document” from the continental phase are available at usccb.org/synod.

The Synod on Synodality is the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. As pope, St. Paul VI established the Synod of Bishops as a permanent institution in 1965 to “keep alive the positive spirit engendered” by the Second Vatican Council, according to the Holy See.

The upcoming synod consists of two sessions, the first Oct. 4-29, 2023, and the second in October 2024.

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, relator general of the Synod on Synodality, in April “announced that about 21% of the synod’s 370 members would not be bishops, and at least half of that group would be women,” including religious sisters, according to Catholic News Service Rome.

“Since the Synod of Bishops was reinstituted after the Second Vatican Council, the voting members of the synod have all been men,” CNS Rome reported April 26. “The membership was primarily cardinals and bishops, except for the 10 priests — and recently one religious brother — elected by the men’s Union of Superiors General. … Past synods have included women as non-voting ‘auditors.’”

Synods typically culminate in the pope issuing a post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the synod’s topic to provide a synthesis and guidance on the matter. The synod itself is not legislative in nature.

Pope Francis announced the Synod on Synodality in March 2020. He has described synodality as “a style, it is a walk together, and it is what the Lord expects from the Church of the third millennium.”

The working document on the Synod on Synodality can be downloaded at stlreview.com/46iE75e

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