A synodal Church: Communion, participation and mission

By Deacon Mick Fornelli

The North Star Catholic

At the request of Pope Francis, the next Synod of Bishops will be a three-year journey, with the people of God as the focus. The Holy Father will inaugurate the three-phase synodal journey in the Vatican on October 9- 10, 2021.

The following week of October 16-17, 2021, a simultaneous journey will start in dioceses, culminating in the closing event in October 2023.

The next Synod of Bishops will be held in three stages from October 2021 to October 2023 at the Vatican and in every local church throughout the world. The General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops announced the theme: “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission.”

Under the guidance of the local bishop, the path leading up to the celebration of the Synod will begin on Sunday, October 17th. The Synodal process comprises three phases, from October 2021 to October 2023, including a diocesan phase and a national phase that will give life to two different Instrumentum Laboris, culminating in the final phase at the level of the Universal Church.

The Synod of Bishops “is the dynamic point of convergence that calls for mutual listening to the Holy Spirit at every level of the life of the Church,” as Pope Francis recalled in his address at the ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops, on October 17, 2015.

“The articulation of the different phases of the synodal process will help to make possible a true listening to the People of God to ensure the participation of all in the synodal process,” writes the Synod of Bishops:

“It 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.”

The diocesan phase. The objective of the diocesan phase (October 2021-April 2022) is to consult the People of God “so that the synodal process is carried out through listening to all of the baptized, who are the subject of the sensus fidei– infallible – in credendo.”

To accomplish this, the General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops will send a preparatory document, accompanied by a questionnaire and a vademecum (guide) with proposals for consultation in each local church, “to ensure consultation and participation of all.”

Before October 2021, each bishop will appoint a diocesan contact person for the synodal consultation. “They shall be a point of reference and link with the Episcopal Conference and will accompany all the stages of the consultation process in the local church.”

After the conclusion of the diocesan phase, each particular Church will submit their contributions to their Episcopal Conference, after which a period of discernment will begin for Episcopal Conferences gathered in assembly meetings.

Second and third phase. The second phase of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will take place from September 2022 to March 2023. The Assemblies will conclude with the drafting of a final document to be sent to the General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops by March 2023.

The Synod will enter the third and final Universal Church Phase in October 2023. This third and final phase will occur in Rome in October 2023 according to the norms established in the Apostolic Constitution Episcopalis Communio.


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