"The first great fruit? The same synodal practice that began in the communities and parishes with listening to the Holy Spirit who speaks through the People of God," says Father Pedro Brassesco.
Brassesco is deputy secretary general of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM), the ecclesial body that brings together the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, and is taking stock of the synodal journey underway leading up to the universal phase scheduled for 2023.
"The Latin American continental phase will begin next November, when the Secretariat of the Synod will publish the Instrumentum Laboris that gathers the synthesis of the work carried out by each country. In the meantime, CELAM is encouraging the local Bishops' Conferences to continue in this diocesan and national phase," says Father Brassesco.
With what tools is CELAM helping the Bishops' Conferences?
- We have created a commission called 'CELAM Road to the Synod' with which we will also organize the continental stage, obviously in coordination with the Secretariat of the Synod. We believe that this stage should be characterized by a continental meeting and we are analyzing the various possibilities of development: face-to-face or hybrid; regional or by country. It is a road we must travel so that the contributions of the continent reflect its particularities and diversities.
What are the fruits generated so far by this synodal journey?
- One of the most important fruits is listening to the members of the People of God, because each member has a voice and is recognized as a subject within the Church. It is not a matter of approaching a specific topic to draw conclusions, but of carrying out a synodal exercise.
What are the difficulties?
- A certain resistance to the very idea of synodalityespecially on the part of some clericalized sectors. Several priests have also found it difficult to be enthusiastic, perhaps due to fatigue, overwhelmed by the heavy pastoral tasks or weakened by the disappointment of results that did not meet their expectations.
Another difficulty is linked to distances, both geographical and existential. Everyone should be able to listen, but consultation is often limited only to community and liturgical activities. In spite of this, however, many dioceses have launched very interesting initiatives to make contact with sectors whose voices are not always heard.
What does synodality represent for the Latin American continent?
- The Latin American continent has its own history marked by synodality as an ecclesial style.
In this territory, from the end of the 16th century, synods and councils were very frequent.
The creations of the CELAM and of the five General Episcopal Conferences of the Episcopate were the concrete sign of this 'walking together' of the Latin American Church. Also many dioceses, in recent years, have resumed the practice of organizing assemblies or synods in which the horizons and pastoral action of the particular Church are outlined.
The process of the Ecclesial Assembly of Latin America and the Caribbean represented an unprecedented instance of participation and communion to discern together the pastoral challenges of the coming years.
Will synodality affect communion and mission?
- Yes, one thing is certain: synodality puts communion into action, makes it real and palpable in concrete situations and processes. Subsequently, it transforms communion into a style, into a way of being Church marked by relationships of listening and respect. And then synodality strengthens the mission because it makes the Church more attractive, it transforms it into a living witness of unity in diversity. A synodal Church does not waste energy obsessed with the care of power or the preservation of structures, but allows itself to be animated by the newness of the Holy Spirit who opens new spaces of encounter and evangelization.
CELAM recently held a week of virtual meetings about the Synod. What were the objectives of these meetings?
- The meetings were held to facilitate listening and dialogue and were attended by the various Synod animation teams of the Bishops' Conferences. The work was very fruitful and we noted that the synodal process was well received in almost all the dioceses.
In your opinion, how will the Synod change the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean?
- I believe that the Synod is a stage in a longer process. Immediate changes cannot be expected because synodality is intimately linked to a pastoral conversion that cannot be imposed.
The Synod, as a practice, makes us lose our fear of listening to all the People of God, whose participation should be valued.
I am sure that the Synod will confirm our commitment to transform ecclesial structures, but this is not enough: it will certainly be necessary to continue taking new and fruitful steps.
In the Amazon, on the other hand, how is the synodal journey developing?
- The Episcopal Conferences, in the meetings with the animation teams, have let us know that in the Amazon we are participating with enthusiasm in the synodal journey.
It was also emphasized that the experience of listening during the Synod for the Amazon was a fundamental starting point.
In spite of everything, there are obstacles that prevent greater inclusion in the synodal process: the great distances, the difficulty in reaching the communities and the lack of connectivity. Even so, very significant and creative experiences have been carried out to achieve greater participation.
The Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon (CEAMA) was invited to carry out its own way of accompanying the Synod and decided to encourage and promote participation in the respective dioceses so as not to generate a process of double listening. Later, in the continental phase, concrete contributions will be offered, necessary for us to reflect on concrete realities.