NEW YORK — Pope Francis is inviting the faithful to pray, listen, discern and examine themselves personally and the Church communally to determine how to better follow the path of Jesus, New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan said in opening the two-year Churchwide synodal process.
The pope’s call to synodality — listening to the wide community of voices within the Church in “the art of encounter” to discern a path forward — will help remind the faithful of Christ’s essential teaching, the cardinal said in a homily delivered Oct. 17 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Pope Francis opened the synodal process at the Vatican Oct. 9-10, leading to the launch of the listening process in dioceses worldwide Oct. 17. The pope has described the synodal path in advance of the Synod of Bishops in fall 2023 as a journey in which the entire Church must be invited to participate.
For his part, Cardinal Dolan described the process as one in which the pope “has asked us all to commence an examination of conscience on how we as a Church are living up to the model of the Church given us by Jesus.”
The cardinal said that everyone in the Church — clergy at all levels, men and women religious, all laypeople and communities of faith — bring gifts to the Church. Such gifts, or charisms, ranging from worship and prayer to teaching, healing, social service and administration, can be used to teach the world about Jesus, he explained.
Cardinal Dolan detailed several “non-negotiables” that have been part of the Church’s 2,000-year history.
Specifically, he said, the “energy and direction driving the Church” is rooted in the Holy Spirit rather than individuals. In addition, he added, the principles that guide the Church are rooted in the Gospel and “the patrimony of the Church’s settled teaching.”
In addition, the innate dignity of every human person and the inherent sacredness of all human life “are the towering moral lighthouses on our path,” Cardinal Dolan said.
He also noted that the return to God after earthly life “is most effectively accomplished precisely as a journey as we walk with and accompany each other, with Jesus as our guide.”
As the synodal process began in dioceses, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the synod can bring people together following a period of separation because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This synod is an opportunity to meet the immense and important request of the Holy Father to engage in dialogue to better understand our call to holiness and feel the responsibility to participate in the life of the Church,” Archbishop Gomez said in a statement released Oct. 20 by the USCCB.
“Outreach, communication, support and encouragement are vital in order to be missionary disciples,” he said. “As is with the nature of the synod, I hope we will learn as we ‘journey together,’ and I pray that the process will enrich and guide the future path of both the local Church as well as the universal Church over the course of the next two years.”
In Cleveland, Bishop Edward C. Malesic compared the synodal process with the family Thanksgiving meal, the Magi’s journey to find the infant Jesus and the story about the two disciples encountering Jesus on the road to Emmaus.
The path to the Synod of Bishops is like Thanksgiving dinner in which people come together to hear each other and to share experiences, challenges and hopes, Bishop Malesic said during a homily Oct. 17 at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist to open the diocesan process.
In his second example, the bishop described the Magi as being on “a journey to the promised land of God’s reign.” Similarly, he said, the faithful are walking together to find Jesus so they can “then take Him with us on our ongoing journey.”
“We must also dare to become closer to Jesus and one another along the way. We can listen to each other and discern how the Holy Spirit is working in our lives,” he said.
Calling the synodal process “the largest consultation of the human family in history,” Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Seattle said the two-year journey ahead requires dialogue, discernment and prayer as well as “listening to the word of God and the promptings of the Holy Spirit.”
Such reflection, the archbishop said during a homily the evening of Oct. 17 at the Seattle’s Cathedral of St. James, will allow the Church, united in Jesus, to identify the signs of the times, interpret them in the light of the Gospel and ” know how the Holy Spirit is to guide us in the world today.”
“A synodal Church recognizes that laypeople, too, have an important role of holding and passing on the tradition of the Church. The sense of the faith that reside in the holy people of God has a valid voice in the mission of the Church,” he said.
The archbishop suggested that the process can help unify the Church in a time of deep polarization.
“Rather than so many people hunkering down in their own ideas and agendas, refusing to come up for air, we need the breath of the Holy Spirit to reunite us as God’s holy faithful people, to show us the way to walk together,” Archbishop Etienne told the congregation.
The launch in dioceses begins a two-year process that culminates in the Synod of Bishops in October 2023. The synod is expected to adopt a final document that will guide the continuing development of a synodal Church going into the future.
Dioceses and parishes will be engaged in nearly six months of discussions, or consultations, in which people from across the Church will be invited to participate.
Each diocese is being asked to submit a summary of local discussions by April 1 to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which will then take a month to synthesize in a final written presentation for the Vatican.
Once the Vatican receives the synthesized reports of diocesan meetings from bishops’ conferences around the world, the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops will draft by September 2022 the “instrumentum laboris,” or working document, to guide continental or regional ecclesial assemblies that will take place by March 2023.
Those assemblies will produce another set of documents that will help in the drafting of a second working document for the Synod of Bishops in October 2023. The synod is expected to produce a final document on synodality throughout the Church.
Call to prayer for the synod finds home online, in app
By Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY — Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, said in the process to create a more “synodal Church,” one where every member contributes and all listen to each other, “we are touching something divine, and prayer is essential.”
The synod office, the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network and the women’s International Union of Superiors General have joined forces not only to encourage prayers, but to collect them, share them and build a global community of people praying for the synod and each other.
Their efforts are built on two main platforms: an updated version of Click to Pray, an app and website run by the prayer network, and www.prayforthesynod.va. Both were unveiled Oct. 19 at a Vatican news conference.
The superiors general are soliciting prayers for the synod and its preparation process from members of women’s and men’s monasteries and contemplative communities. Through Oct. 31, those prayers will be posted on the website; beginning Nov. 1, anyone can submit a prayer, said Patrizia Morgante, UISG communications officer. The prayers also will be posted on the Click to Pray 2.0 app and can be added to the websites of religious orders, parishes or dioceses with an RSS feed.
In addition to carrying prayers for the synod, especially during the preparatory phase that began in early October, the upgraded Click to Pray app has added features, including notifications so that people can set it to remind them to pray at the time they choose each morning, midday and night.