The General Secretariat disseminates the basic text and the Vademecum to guide the path of the Synod dedicated to synodality, which will open on October 9 and 10 in Rome and on October 17 in the particular Churches, before concluding at the Vatican in 2023.

Salvatore Cernuzio – Vatican City

Listen, “without prejudice”. Take the word, “with courage and parrhesia.” Dialogue with the Church, society and other Christian confessions. The General Secretariat of the Synod publishes the Preparatory Document and the Vademecum to indicate the guidelines on which the path of the Synod on Synodality will be oriented, which will open solemnly on October 9 and 10 in Rome and on October 17 in the Particular churches, to conclude with the assembly of the world’s bishops in the Vatican in 2023.

The Vademecum, a “manual” for local Churches

The document aims to be above all a tool to animate the first phase of listening and consulting the People of God in the particular Churches, which will begin in October 2021 and end in April 2022: “A kind of work or pilot experience”. While the Vademecum is conceived as “a manual” that offers “practical support” to diocesan leaders to prepare and gather the People of God. It includes liturgical and biblical sources and online prayers, as well as examples from recent synod exercises and a glossary of terms from the synod process. “It is not a rule book”, it is specified, but “a guide to support the efforts of each local Church”, taking into account cultures and contexts, resources and limitations.

Walk together as a Synodal Church

Underlying the two publications of the Synod Secretariat is a fundamental question:

“How is this” walking together “that allows the Church to announce the Gospel, in accordance with the mission entrusted to it, is carried out today at the different levels (from the local to the universal); and what steps does the Spirit invite us to take to grow as a Synodal Church? “

To answer this question, concrete steps are indicated. In the first place, live “a participatory and inclusive ecclesial process” that offers everyone – especially the marginalized – “the opportunity to express themselves and be heard”; then, “to recognize and appreciate the richness and variety of gifts and charisms” and “to examine how responsibility and power are lived in the Church, and the structures through which they are managed”, exposing “prejudices and practices distorted that are not rooted in the Gospel. ” It also asks that “the Christian community be accredited as a credible actor and reliable partner” in the ways of dialogue, reconciliation, inclusion and participation. It also calls for “regenerating relations” between Christians, with representatives of other confessions, with civil society organizations and popular movements.

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Crisis, pandemic, abuse

Concrete steps, then, that take place in a historical framework “marked by changes of time”, starting with the “global tragedy” of Covid that has “exploded” pre-existing inequalities, but also in a context in which the Church has to deal internally with the lack of faith, corruption and, above all, “the suffering experienced by minors and vulnerable people due to sexual, power and conscience abuses” committed by the clergy.

However, it is precisely in these “furrows dug by suffering of all kinds” where “new languages ​​of faith” and “new paths” flourish to re-found “the path of Christian and ecclesial life.” For the Synod Secretariat “it is a reason for great hope that more than a few Churches have already begun meetings and consultation processes with the People of God.” The cases of Latin America, the Caribbean, Australia, Germany and Ireland are cited, as well as other diocesan synods around the world: all of them opportunities to offer spaces for participation and empowerment of the laity, especially women and youth, such as and as has been requested in previous synods.

The laity, active subjects of evangelization

As for the laity, the document reiterates that all the baptized are “active subjects of evangelization”, so it is essential that shepherds on the synodal journey “are not afraid to listen to the flock that has been entrusted to them.” In a synodal Church, in fact, everyone “has something to learn”: faithful, clergy, the Bishop of Rome himself. “One listens to others, and everyone listens to the Holy Spirit,” he reiterates. Also because “a Synodal Church is a prophetic sign above all for a community of nations incapable of proposing a shared project, through which to pursue the good of all.”

The stages of the synodal journey

The stages of the synodal journey

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Questions for particular Churches

More specifically, the preparatory text proposes questions to guide the consultation of the People of God. It all starts with a fundamental question:

“How is” walking together “carried out today in your particular Church?”

The invitation is to ask oneself what experiences have taken place in the diocese itself in this regard; what joys, difficulties or even hurts they have caused; what are the prospects for change and what steps to take. In rereading the experiences, it is necessary to take into account the internal relations of the particular Churches between the parish priests, the parishes, the communities, but also between the bishops (among themselves and with the Pope), with the intermediate bodies and then also the integration of the different forms of religious and consecrated life, of lay associations and movements, of various kinds of institutions (schools, hospitals, universities, foundations, charitable organizations). We must also consider the relationships and possible joint initiatives with other religions, with people far from the faith, with the world of politics, culture, finance, work, unions and minorities.

“lived” synodality

Finally, the preparatory document outlines ten thematic nuclei to articulate the “lived synodality”. It is necessary to delve into them to further enrich the query.

– Travel companions: that is, to reflect on who are part of what we call “our Church”, as well as who are the “companions” who are outside the ecclesial perimeter or who remain on the margins.

– Listens: the young, the women, the consecrated, the discarded, the excluded.

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– Take the floor: consider, therefore, whether to promote “a free and authentic style of communication, without duplication or opportunism” within the community and its organs.

– Celebrate: evaluate how prayer and liturgy effectively inspire and guide “walking together” and how active participation of the faithful is promoted.

– Co-responsibility in the mission: a reflection, that is, on how the community supports its members engaged in a service, for example, in the promotion of social justice, human rights, the Common House).

– Dialogue in the Church and in society: rethinking the places and modalities of dialogue in particular Churches, with neighboring dioceses, with religious communities and movements, with institutions, with non-believers, with the poor.

– With other Christian confessions: what relationships are maintained with other Christian confessions, what are the fruits, what are the difficulties.

– Authority and participation: How is authority exercised in the particular Church, what are the teamwork practices, how are lay ministries promoted?

– Discern and decide: wondering what procedures and methods are used to make decisions; how the decision-making process is articulated and what tools are promoted for transparency and accountability.

– Formation for synodality: in essence, a look at the formation that is offered to those who have roles of responsibility in the Christian community, to make them more capable of listening to each other and having a dialogue.

They are not documents, but prophecies

The Synod Secretariat asks that the fruits of the reflections be condensed into a maximum of ten pages, deepening, if necessary, with other supporting texts. The goal “is not to produce documents,” but to raise dreams, prophecies, and hopes.

The bishops of the world with the Pope in the Synod Hall (file photo)

The bishops of the world with the Pope in the Synod Hall (file photo)

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