Susan Pascoe, a member of the team who drafted the Synod Continental Document shares with delegates at the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) General Conference how Pope Francis was involved in the process.
On 26 October, Susan Pascoe updated FABC delegates on the Synod process, summing up the continental meeting that took place in Frascati from 21 September to 2 October 2022. Susan was one of the approximately 50 people who participated in the draft of the Document for the Continental Stage.
Susan related that Pope Francis is so involved in the Synod process that he wanted to see the first draft of the document drawn up by the Commission that met in Frascati. This was a “great comfort for those of us in Frascati that we weren’t going down the wrong path”, Susan said. Further feedback came from others involved in the local Synod process not present in Frascati who met over Zoom. “What an honest, authentic, rigorous, prayerful process this was…”, Susan said of the Synod process thus far.
Voice of the People of God
The content in the Document for the Continental Stage (DCS), Susan highlighted originated at the parish level. “It is genuinely the voice of the People of God”, Susan emphasized. The discipline of keeping parish and diocesan syntheses to 10 pages was meant to distil the voices, she explained. The DCS is not being called an Instrumentum laboris, she said, because it is going back to the Dioceses and Episcopal Conferences for further discernment and feedback. Feedback on the DCS will be gathered on the Continental Level and submitted to the General Secretary of the Synod.
The climate that will guide this next phase (November to the end of March 2023) is that of deepening the content in the DCS and evaluating it from a regional perspective. This time is necessary, Susan continued, to come up with other questions, rather than to come up with answers or action items. Summaries of this continental phase will then form the basis of the Instrumentun Laboris which will guide the first session of the Synod in October 2023. Susan also mentioned that in many countries, the voice of priests was not included in the initial listening process so that the laity would feel to contribute as freely as possible. She hopes that their voice will enter into the discernment at the Continental Phase.
Fielding a question from a delegate, Susan stressed how important this next phase is to invite people who may not have been included in the first listening phase of the synod to be involved in the discernment process on the DCS. Dr Christina Kheng, from the East Asian Pastoral Institute in Manila, emphasized that this is exactly what makes the Synod process so unprecedented, not only in the Church, but in society as well. In human history, there has never been such an effort made to include so many voices in a discernment process. The circular way of bringing the CDS back to the people to comment, to raise questions, to verify, etc. is key, Christine said, in the whole process. It is a process in which we are trying to understand the Sensus fidelium, especially to hear from those who may have been left out of the first phase of the process. She ended her comment reminding those present that this is the first time that both bishops and laity are able to comment again on the summary document that will go to the Synod.
With thanks to Vatican News and Sr Bernadette Mary Reis fsp, where this article originally appeared.