Continuing his efforts to reform the Catholic Church in accordance with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Francis has approved a new three-stage process for the next gathering of the synod of bishops. Its aim is to involve the whole church at diocesan, national and continental levels through a process of “listening and discernment” on the important theme of synodality: “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission.”
Pope Francis has decided that the synod will open in the Vatican and in every diocese throughout the Catholic world in October 2021. It will first go through a “diocesan phase” (October 2021 until April 2022) and subsequently a “continental phase” (September 2022 through March 2023) before concluding in “the universal church phase” at the Vatican with the synod of bishops in October 2023.
In his letter to the bishops, Cardinal Grech recalled that on Oct. 17, 2015, in a keynote address on the 50th anniversary of the institution of the synod of bishops by Pope Paul VI, Pope Francis said, “It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium. What the Lord is asking of us is already in some sense present in the very word ‘synod.’ Journeying together—laity, pastors, the Bishop of Rome—is an easy concept to put into words, but not so easy to put into practice.”
The cardinal reminded the bishops that “synodality refers to the very essence of the Church, her constitutive reality, and is thus oriented towards evangelisation. It is an ecclesial way of being and a prophetic example for today’s world.”
Cardinal Grech said, “The synod is not just an event, but also a process that involves in synergy the People of God, the college of bishops and the Bishop of Rome, each according to their proper function”
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Gerard O’Connell is America’s Vatican correspondent.
With thanks to America Magazine and Gerard O’Connell, where this article originally appeared.