Involve other churches in synodal process, says Vatican

By Christopher Lamb, 27 November 2021
Representatives from the member churches of the NSW Ecumenical Council during a prayer service in St Patrick's Cathedral, Parramatta. Image: Supplied


The Vatican is calling on bishops across the world to involve Christian leaders from other churches in the synod process in a move that could turn it into the most significant ecumenical event of recent times.

A joint letter from two Rome-based cardinals recommends leaders of Christian communities take part in the bishops’ synodal discussions and help them draft the official reports. It also suggests that delegates from other churches are sent to take part in the diocesan synods taking place across the world; that they address synod assemblies, send in written reflections and organise “listening sessions”.

Each diocese has been asked to hold a synod with bishops in each country and region synthesising the results and submitting them to Rome. A synod assembly of bishops will then take place in the Vatican in 2023. The instruction from the Vatican says ecumenical representatives should be involved at every stage of the process, which will involve all denominations in a Catholic renewal process in a way that is without modern precedent.

“One of the gifts Catholics can receive from the other Christians is precisely their experience and understanding of synodality,” explain Cardinals Mario Grech and Kurt Koch in the letter.

“The synodal shaping of the Catholic Church at all levels has significant ecumenical implications as it makes it a more credible dialogue partner.”

While the deeply held disagreements between churches are unlikely to be resolved in the short term, the cardinals’ letter points out that ecumenism is an “exchange of gifts” where denominations can learn from each other. This approach is often described as “receptive ecumenism”. It argues that, rather than focussing on trying to resolve intractable theological differences, churches that speak honestly with one another about problems can find paths for renewal within one another’s tradition.

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With thanks to The Tablet and Christopher Lamb, where this article originally appeared.


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