Posted On 2022-09-04 In Church - Francis - Movements

A historic consultation, unprecedented in the history of the Church


“We are facing an unprecedented ecclesial dialogue in the history of the Church, not only because of the quantity of responses received or the number of people involved (some want to rely on numbers – which can only be approximate – which may seem limited), but also because of the quality of participation. The process of listening and discernment was certainly not perfect. We know that, but we also know that we are trying to be more and more the image of the synodal Church, we are learning from our mistakes”. This was stated by Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, General Rapporteur of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, at the press conference for the presentation of the Second Stage of the Synodal process: the Continental Stage. —

It is a moment of joy and amazement. The contributions received to date by the General Secretariat have been so many. 107 Episcopal Conferences (out of 114) have sent their syntheses. We have also received over a thousand other contributions, among which there will undoubtedly be the one you sent us.

Now a team of people is beginning the analysis of all this material to prepare the Document for the Continental Stage (DTC): a real Document of Discernment of the People of God! As Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, General Rapporteur of this Synod, recalls, “From all these data, I am convinced that we are facing an ecclesial dialogue without precedent in the history of the Church, not only because of the number of responses received or the number of people involved, but also because of the quality of participation”.

Press conference

Thanks to all the people of God

In addition to the 107 responses from the Episcopal Conferences (out of 114) received so far by the General Secretariat of the Synod and the thousand contributions from other ecclesiastical realities, the Eastern Catholic Churches, the Religious Congregations, and the Vatican dicasteries have also sent a synthesis of the process of listening and discernment carried out in recent months.

For his part, Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the Synod, thanking “all the people of God” who have participated in the synodal process, addressed “you today and all those who follow us from home with a feeling of gratitude and much hope for the future of the synodal Church.” Regardless of the contents that emerge from the reading of the syntheses, the experiences heard or lived show a Church that is alive, in need of authenticity, of healing and that yearns more and more to be a community that celebrates and announces the joy of the Gospel, learning to walk and discern together”. The Cardinal’s speech then focused on the principle of circularity and restitution to the local Churches that characterizes this synodal process.


The Continental Stage

The Continental Stage consists of a time of listening and discernment of all the People of God and all the local Churches on a continental basis, leading to a series of continental assemblies (assemblies of all the People of God). In order to better grasp the peculiarities of this continental stage, it is important to move away from a merely temporal and spatial vision (first a local stage, then the continental stage, the universal stage and finally the stage of implantation), and to adopt the dialogical approach existing between the Universal Church and the Particular Church (the individual Christian communities of a circumscribed territory, led by a bishop, and “in which and from which the one Catholic Church subsists” (CCC 328; Communionis Notio n.7 ) within a single process that always involves, but in a differentiated way, the whole People of God.

So that no one suffers for not feeling welcomed and listened to

The synodal journey on synodality, which is now entering its second phase, the continental one, and which will culminate in 2023 in the assembly to be held at the Vatican, has a single objective: to make the Church of the world walk together, without exclusions or prejudices, but listening to the voice of all, so that “no one suffers for not feeling welcomed and listened to”.

A testimony
Reading the reports and reflecting on them, I thought how fortunate I am as pastor of a parish full of people who love the Church so much that they embrace it, affirm it, celebrate it and thank God for it, but who at the same time are not at all afraid to criticize it, to challenge it, to question it, to express their anger, disappointment and frustration. The Gospel tells us that “with God all things are possible”.

I cannot say that the same applies to the Church. We must be realistic in our expectations. But isn’t it wonderful that Pope Francis is determined to listen to the whole Church and not just the hierarchy? The idea is revolutionary.

To my knowledge, the Church has never undertaken an effort of this kind and on this scale, not even in the early days when the number of faithful was modest. And Pope Francis not only wants to listen to the whole Church, but he wants us – who are the Church – to listen to each other.

And that is exactly what happened during the synodal process in our parish. And it is clear that those who accepted the invitation and came together to listen to each other in respectful and prayerful dialogue were surprised by what happened, they were glad by what happened, they were changed by what happened. I believe that our parish can never be the same, and I am willing to bet that the same is true for the whole Church.

Fr. Michael G. Ryan (Seattle)

Sinodo sobre sinodalidad

Contributions at the press conference can now be viewed on video with subtitles, or read in several languages

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