VATICAN CITY — The synodal process does not stop at listening but should lead to incorporating what was discussed at the synodal assembly into the life of the Catholic Church, said one of the cardinals participating in the synod.
“Everything will depend on us returning to our dioceses and putting in practice what we are saying here, (about) what the Church should be,” Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes of Mexico City said at a Vatican press briefing Oct. 23. “If we only stay at listening and don’t apply our responsibilities to our daily life, well, nothing happens.”
Speaking of his experience in Mexico City, Cardinal Aguiar said that since 2021, half of the 416 parishes in his archdiocese implemented parish assemblies for all members of the parish to speak together in a “methodology of consensus, of reciprocal listening, dialogue.”
“They told us bishops what they need to live their faith and transmit it to others,” he said.
By living synodality, “I am convinced that it is the way of the Church,” he said. “If we do it, we will transmit the faith; if we don’t do it, we will turn into small groups of Catholics” as is happening in some places in the world, the cardinal added.
Synod participants entered the final week of the assembly Oct. 23, discussing a “Letter to the People of God” and the assembly’s synthesis document.
Discussing outcomes of the synod of synodality, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna said that “if an increase in faith, hope and charity does not come out of this experience, everything is in vain.”
Right now, “communion is essential for the Church” especially as it becomes increasingly based outside of Europe, he said, adding that synodality “is the way of living communion.”
The cardinal, a veteran of synods, said that this assembly’s methodology was the best by far since it helps members listen to one another.
He said he had told Jeffrey Sachs, the economist and public policy analyst, about the methodology used for this Synod of Bishops, marked by long bouts of silence, reflection and prayer.
“If only the U.N. Security Council used this method, maybe we would have a bit more peace in the world,” he recalled Sachs saying in response. There, Cardinal Schönborn said, each representative “has the directives of their government, each one says their position and then there is no exchange.”
Sister Samuela Maria Rigon, superior general of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, said that listening is an essential aspect of the synod’s methodology which must also be applied outside the Vatican walls.
Everyone called to
The Catholic Church must continue discerning its future by listening to everyone, starting with the poorest and excluded, after the assembly of the Synod of Bishops closes its first session, participants said in a letter addressed to the “People of God.”
The two-and-a-half-page letter published Oct. 25 recounted the spirit and activities of the assembly’s first session, held at the Vatican Oct. 4-29, and looked ahead to the assembly’s second session, expressing hope that the months leading up to October 2024 “will allow everyone to concretely participate in the dynamism of missionary communion indicated by the word ‘synod.’”
While the letter does not raise specific topics or questions to be addressed in the assembly’s next session — a synthesis report reflecting the work of the first session and next steps is expected to be published Oct. 28 — it did say that to “progress in its discernment, the Church absolutely needs to listen to everyone, starting with the poorest.”
“It means listening to those who have been denied the right to speak in society or who feel excluded, even by the Church,” the letter said, specifying the need to listen to victims of racism, particularly Indigenous populations. “Above all, the Church of our time has the duty to listen, in a spirit of conversion, to those who have been victims of abuse committed by members of the ecclesial body and to commit herself concretely and structurally to ensuring that this does not happen again.”
The letter made special reference to the need for listening to the laity, catechists, children, the elderly, families and those who want to be involved in lay ministries and “participate in discernment and decision-making structures” of the Church.
The drafting of the letter was approved by the synod assembly and was discussed both during small group working sessions and among the entire assembly Oct. 23, the synod general secretariat said.
Urged to sow patience
As members of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops return home, share the results of their work and prepare for the final synod assembly in 2024, they must be on guard against people who will want to make them take sides as if the synod were a political debate, said Dominican Father Timothy Radcliffe.
“The global culture of our time is often polarized, aggressive and dismissive of other people’s views,” Father Radcliffe, spiritual adviser to the synod, told members Oct. 23. “When we go home, people will ask, ‘Did you fight for our side? Did you oppose those unenlightened other people?’”
“We shall need to be profoundly prayerful to resist the temptation to succumb to this party-political way of thinking,” he said. “That would be to fall back into the sterile, barren language of much of our society. It is not the synodal way,” which is “organic and ecological rather than competitive.”
Having discussed synodality, communion, mission and participation over the previous three weeks, members of the synodal assembly began the final segment of their work with talks from Father Radcliffe, Benedictine Mother Maria Ignazia Angelini, the other spiritual guide for the synod, and by Father Ormond Rush, a theologian from Australia.
As synod members continue their discernment, Father Radcliffe said, they are urged “to determine what God is urging us to see — with the eyes of Jesus — in new times,” while also being “attentive to the traps — where we could be being drawn into ways of thinking that are not ‘of God.’”
“These traps,” Father Rush said, “could lie in being anchored exclusively in the past, or exclusively in the present, or not being open to the future fullness of divine truth to which the Spirit of Truth is leading the Church.”
Synodal journey is about healing, reconciling the world
At Mass Oct. 23, Cardinal Bo said that when God calls us, He becomes our guide
By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY — God has a plan for everyone and for the Church whose journeys and plans must align with His will, Cardinal Charles Bo told participants in the assembly of the Synod of Bishops.
“Our synodal journey is not a pre-programmed space odyssey with fixed mathematical equations. Rather, when God calls us, He becomes our guide, our roadmap and our companion,” Cardinal Bo, archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar, said in his homily during a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica with synod participants Oct. 23.
“Faith shines a light on the path through life’s darkest and most tumultuous moments, allowing us to see God’s grace penetrating the shadows,” he said in the homily, which he titled, “The Long March Toward the Synodality of Hope, Peace and Justice.” Japanese Archbishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi of Tokyo and Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai concelebrated, and an all-female choir led the singing.
“The Church is called to be righteous, to embody a synodal journey of faith with the conviction that God never fails,” even though doubt and anxiety might accompany the faithful on “this long march” in life, he said. “While we may not reach our intended destination, participating in the journey is a blessing in itself.”
“God has a plan for each one of us and for our Church, and our journeys and plans must align with His will,” he said.
Human greed and self-centeredness create much suffering in the world, and they have “inflicted deep wounds upon our planet and stripped millions of their dignity,” Cardinal Bo said.
The world needs reconciliation with God, nature and one another, he said, and “our synodal journey is about healing and reconciling the world in justice and peace.”
Cardinal Bo, who is president of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences, said the world needed to focus attention on the significant environmental damage in the region due to climate-driven crises, “to the destruction of huge swathes of forests” and to the increased violence against Indigenous peoples, who have been “the protectors of nature, but they have also suffered from modern ideologies, colonization and resource exploitation.”
“The Christian faith journey” is especially challenged in Myanmar, he said. Catholics “are on an exodus. Homes have vanished, and churches have borne the brunt of cruelty, and the Way of the Cross is a painful reality in many parts of Asia.”
But despite the many challenges and difficulties, the Church in Asia “remains vibrant and young,” he said. “This synodal gathering has energized us to return to the great days of evangelization by the apostles.”
Like the women who followed Jesus along the Way of the Cross, he said, “the Church in Myanmar and Asia invest in the hope of reconciliation. We continue our tear-filled synodal journey, believing that, like those women, we will see all wounds healed, and a new dawn of hope, peace and justice will shine upon every long-suffering nation.”
“We pray that the Catholic Church, under the leadership of Pope Francis, will bring the entire human family into the long march of healing our world and our planet, ultimately leading us to a new heaven and a new earth,” he said.
Among the prayers of the faithful was one for the Church in Asia: “That these emerging Churches coming from rich and diverse cultures may journey together in unity; may the Church in mainland China increasingly preserve and celebrate the communion of love and light with the universal Church.”