TribuneLuis Marín de San Martín

Synod: a process of coherence and vitality in the Church

The 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be held at the Vatican from October 4 to 29. Pope Francis has indicated that "the path of synodality is the path that God expects from the Church of the third millennium.".

October 5, 2023-Reading time: 3 minutes

We are living in a time of hope that opens us to a profound renewal of the Church, based on fidelity to Christ and coherence as his disciples, attentive to the challenges of our time. We must remember that by Synod we understand the "journey we make together", as Christians, as the People of God, guided by the Holy Spirit. 

It is not merely a bureaucratic process that seeks peripheral changes or a mere distribution of functions. It is much more. It refers to what the Church is in itself, to the indispensable communion with Christ and with all the baptized and, from there, it is oriented to evangelization, to being credible witnesses of the Gospel in today's world. 

Synodality is an ecclesial process of listening and discernment of the whole People of God: it is based on the deposit of faith, which does not change; it is realized in listening to our brothers and sisters and to the Holy Spirit; it is concretized in decisions that are made at different levels. This process, which Pope Francis set in motion in 2021, has always been initiated from below: groups-parishes-dioceses-Episcopal Conference.

With all that was received, the Document for the Continental Stage was drafted. Then came the phase of dialogue in the seven Continental Assemblies (Africa, Asia, Canada and the United States, Europe, Latin America, Oceania and the Middle East) to make present the richness of the variety in the different cultures. With the submissions from each continent, we drafted the Instrumentum laboris o working document for the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will take place in two sessions: October 2023 and October 2024. And the journey continues, always in listening and discerning the will of the Lord in order to live and respond as Christians at this moment in history.

Although it is up to us to sow with humility, constancy and joy, we have already found some results, which the Spirit is giving us. Some of them are: the advance towards an open and inclusive Church, dynamic and merciful, that tastes like home and family; the rediscovery of the prayerful dimension; the reinforcement of the baptismal reference of faith; a greater awareness of the co-responsibility of all Christians in the Church, according to the different vocations; the challenge of living communion and, from it, assuming the integration of diversity understood as richness; a greater clarity between the essential and the accessory; the need to take up the challenge of evangelization, with word and witness, as an urgency that involves us all.

We now begin the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which is another moment in the ongoing synodal process. It is being held from October 4 to 29 at the Vatican and brings together almost 500 people, of whom some 362 members have the right to vote. As an expression of episcopal collegiality, the great majority of the participants are bishops, but for the first time a 25% of non-bishops (laity, deacons, priests, consecrated life) has been included to assist in discernment, which must always take place among the People of God, of which we are all a part. The work will be carried out in linguistic groups and in general assembly. These are days of great intensity, lived in a climate of prayer. Hence the beautiful novelty of having three days of spiritual retreat (October 1-3) in Sacrofano, near Rome, in preparation for the work of the Assembly.

Since this is an event for the whole Church, we ask everyone to accompany and support us with their prayers. May we know how to discern what the Lord wants of us, may we always seek the good of the Church, may we live in communion, may we assume the richness of plurality, may we grow in availability, trust and generosity.

At the same time, I invite you to follow the news about the development of the Synod Assembly through reliable sources, avoiding confusing and ideologized information. And I also believe that this is a good opportunity for all of us to reflect on this through the Instrumentum laboris which, although it is primarily oriented to the work of the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, is an excellent material, clear and accessible, which can also serve for dialogue in parish groups, lay movements, consecrated life, etc.

I would like to recall, finally, what Pope Francis has clearly indicated: "The path of synodality is the path that God expects from the Church of the third millennium". We can be a channel or a wall; erect barriers or be a help and a possibility; close ourselves in our securities or open ourselves to the novelty of the Gospel. In this important moment that we are living in the Church, it is necessary the collaboration of all, the involvement of all. There must be harmonyas unity in faith, integrate the polyphonyand sensitivities and, finally, to be resolved in symphonyto show together, as a Church, the beauty of the Gospel.

The authorLuis Marín de San Martín

Undersecretary of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops.

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