Vatican Special Press Conference on the Synod Reveals Social Networks Activity Received 110,000 Responses and an Estimated 20 Million People were Reached - FULL TEXT + VIDEO
Press Conference to present the second stage of the synodal process: the Continental Phase of the Synod on Synodality, on the theme "For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission", 08.26.2022
At 13.00 today, the Press Conference for the presentation of the second stage of the synodal process took place in live streaming from the Press Office of the Holy See: the Continental Phase of the Synod on Synodality, on the theme "For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission".
For the occasion, some data were also provided relating to the Summaries made starting from the extensive consultation of the People of God in the first phase of the synodal process and received by the General Secretariat of the Synod by 15 August 2022, as well as some information relating to the methods of implementation. of the Document for the Continental Stage.<
The Eminence Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the General Secretariat of the Synod, spoke; His Eminence Card. Jean-Claude Hollerich, S.I., Archbishop of Luxembourg, General Relator of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, Sr. Nathalie Becquart, X.M.C.J, Undersecretary of the General Secretariat of the Synod; SELF. Mons.Luis Marín de San Martín, O.S.A, Undersecretary of the General Secretariat of the Synod; Father Giacomo Costa, S.I., Consultor of the General Secretariat of the Synod and Head of the Task Force for the preparation of the Document for the Continental Stage; and Susan Pascoe, Co-Head of the Continental Stage Task Force, Member of the Methodology Commission.
Here are the interventions:
Speech by the Most Eminent Cardinal Mario Grech
We meet one year after the press conference for the presentation of the XVI Assembly of the Synod. Then the synodal process appeared as a blank page entrusted to discernment in the Spirit of the local Churches. Today we can give some information on the path that has been made.
At the present moment we are experiencing the first phase of the synodal process, with the conclusion of two decisive moments: the consultation of the People of God in the particular Churches and the discernment of the Pastors in the Episcopal Conferences. Starting from the summaries of the Bishops' Conferences, the Secretariat of the Synod with a qualified group of experts will meet shortly to draft a summary document that will launch the continental phase.
Precisely in this consultation the nature of the synodal Church is revealed as the "walking together" of the People of God. The syntheses received will reveal how much this ecclesial principle (style) has been lived in the local churches and from the result we will understand how much we can still work to make everyone more responsible and involved.
We do not delude ourselves that the principle of consultation has been applied with the same care in all the Churches: we are at the beginning of an ecclesial journey that requires patience, demands an awareness that all are made participants, each according to his own condition and function, of ecclesial life and therefore of the synodal journey. The important thing is to have shown and continue to show that the Church's journey begins and takes strength from listening.
In any case, I turn to you today and to those who follow us from home with a sense of gratitude and much hope for the future of the synodal Church. Regardless of the contents that will emerge from the reading of the syntheses, the experiences heard or lived show a living Church, in need of authenticity, healing and that yearns more and more to be a community that celebrates and announces the joy of the Gospel, learning to walk and discern together.
I wish to thank all the People of God who participated.
Precisely because in the Church no one has the exclusivity of the truth, consultation with the People of God demands discernment. To understand the synodal process, it is necessary to think of a fertile circularity of prophecy and discernment. If all are prophets in the People of God (cf.Nm 11,29), not everything said is the voice of the Spirit: the voice of the Spirit must be heard within the sound of the voices. Here lies the function of discernment, which is already operative in the listening process, when the community converges on a point. It is a question of having full intelligence of what the Spirit says to the Church through a process of reading in depth, which resembles a process of decanting. The certainty of what the Spirit is saying to the Church is achieved only by feeling together, indeed the consenting, the convergence in the faith of the People of God, which occurs through listening to one another.
But the discernment continues in the Assemblies of Bishops which are the principle of unity of their Churches. More than one argues that the summaries of the Bishops' Conferences will be the tomb of prophecy. It is time to overcome this suspicion, this reservation which certainly has its historical reasons, but which contrasts with the nature of the Church, which is "the" sacrament of unity ", that is, a holy people gathered and ordained under the guidance of the bishops" (SC 26). If the Church is the body of the Churches, because every Church is such because the Bishop is the bearer of the branch of apostolicity (cf. dynamic and fruitful relations in the Church: of each portio Populi Dei with its Bishop and its presbytery, and of all the Bishops among themselves and with the Bishop of Rome, "the visible principle and foundation of the unity of both bishops and multitude of the faithful ", but also of all the Churches (cf. LG 23).
The synodal process in progress is regulated by this principle of circularity, guaranteed by an act that makes it operative in ecclesial life: that of restitution to the Churches, which will take place in the coming months. With the results of the consultation of the People of God and the discernment of the Episcopal Conferences, the Secretariat of the Synod will be able to draw up a Summary Document that could have become the instrumentum laboris for the assembly phase to be celebrated in Rome. Instead, the inclusion of a continental level was intended to guarantee even more respect for the consultation of the People of God. To prevent the various passages from impoverishing what the Spirit said to the Churches in the consultation, this further moment of discernment, in which the continental Assemblies are called to reread the Document produced by the Secretariat of the Synod, indicating whether it effectively expresses the synodal horizon that emerged in the particular Churches of that continent.
This further level of discernment cannot in any way be reduced to the celebration of an ecclesial assembly. For this it is necessary that the principle of circularity be realized through an act of restitution of the Document not to an Assembly, but to particular Churches. There the consultation took place, there the Document returns. This restitution guarantees respect for the actors in the synodal process: in effect, by making the subject of consultation the fruit of their listening, the possibility is offered to each particular Church to respond with another eminently ecclesial act: that of reception. With this act each Church makes its own the Document, its contents and evaluates its correspondence with its identity as a Church that is called to incarnate the Gospel of Christ in a place. For this reason, every Bishop is required to bring the Document to the attention of his Church and to read it carefully at least in the participating bodies and to draw up any observations with the Synodal team to be forwarded to the Episcopal Conference or to the Secretariat of the Continental Assembly.
Consequently, the Continental Assembly will be able to start its task of critical reading of the Document on the basis of the observations coming from the Churches. Anyone can realize how the act of restitution is able to activate the synodal dynamics through the circularity between the subjects and levels of ecclesial life. We are confident that, despite the difficulties in translating a synodal style into action, where we are all apprentices, the signs of a change in mentality can already be seen.[01245-IT.01] [Testo originale: Italiano]
Intervention of Card. Jean-Claude Hollerich, S.I.
Last 09-10 October, Pope Francis opened the current synod process on a universal level by calling the Church into a synod. Since then, hundreds of thousands of meetings have taken place all over the world (spiritual conversations, dialogue and prayer meetings, conferences... ) at various levels (parish, diocesan, national... and also in the digital sphere) and involving ecclesial realities of various kinds: from parish groups, religious congregations, associations of the faithful, professional groups, informal groups...
It was impressive to discover the enthusiasm and creativity of all these groups. It was clear from the very first weeks that the Spirit was at work!
The heart of these synodal experiences was listening to God through listening to each other, inspired by the Word of God. We then asked to collect in a "synthesis" the fruits of prayer and reflection that emerged during these synod experiences.
Before going into the merits of the syntheses, it is important to understand what these syntheses are. The synthesis requested is neither a presentation of the chronology of the stages of the synod process concretely followed, nor a report (minutes) that indiscriminately lists all the points that emerged during the synod experience. Rather, it is to be understood as the culmination of communal spiritual discernment. They aim to gather and express the fruits of the synod process in a way that is understandable even to those who did not participate, indicating how the Holy Spirit's call to the Church was understood in the local context.
The reading of the syntheses received has produced in me, as a disciple of Christ and as a bishop, a great spiritual consolation that opens up to a great hope. This hope must now be transformed into missionary dynamism.
The syntheses received by the General Secretariat of the Synod as at 25 August 2022 can be divided into the following five categories:
From the Bishops' Conferences. Generally speaking, the synthesis of an individual Bishops' Conference is the fruit of discernment from the syntheses received from the dioceses, which, in turn, are the fruit of discernment from the various ecclesial instances at diocesan level: parishes, associations, movements, religious congregations, as well as from various other national ecclesial instances federations schools, Catholic schools, Catholic universities, associations, etc.
Already 98% of the 114 Bishops' Conferences had appointed a contact person or synod team. The summaries received to date number 100 ... and they are still coming. This incredible figure tells us that yes, the Church is in synod!
Eastern Catholic Churches. The individual Eastern Catholic Churches have been invited to send their own specific syntheses. It is clear that in the traditionally Latin-rite territories, the eparchies in the area also sent their own contribution to their respective Episcopal Conferences.
From the USG and UISG. The Union of Superiors General and the International Union of Superiors General sent their specific contribution made from the contributions of Religious Congregations (male and female) and Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (male and female). I express my deep gratitude to these two institutions for their important and generous investment. These communities have a 'synodal' patrimony to offer to the whole Church, and the synodal process has reminded them and has reminded us of it.
From the Vatican Dicasteries. The Vatican Dicasteries also sent a contribution. Some of them have also been entrusted with the task of collecting the syntheses of specific ecclesial instances. This is the case of the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, which collected and elaborated the syntheses of a further path of discernment of Religious Congregations and Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
For its part, the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life has been charged with collecting and working on the syntheses of the ecclesial associations and movements. The Dicastery also oversees the creation of a synthesis based on the listening and discernment carried out by realities that deal with the pastoral care of people with disabilities.
In addition to its own internal path of listening and discernment, the Dicastery for Communication also followed the implementation of a pilot project (initiated by the RIIAL network in collaboration with Imission), entitled 'The Church listens to you'. This was a listening activity in the social networks carried out by some influencers. In this case, about 110,000 responses were received and an estimated 20 million people were reached.
The Secretariat of State also produced, for the first time, a synthesis by listening to the Apostolic Nuncios.
The last group is that of the so-called “Observation” group (Osservazioni). In addition to these categories, more than a thousand contributions were collected from individual believers or church groups or not officially recognised by the local church authority. For the latter in particular, these are realities that feel "on the periphery or margins" of the life of the Church. In receiving these contributions, we have always asked that they also be sent to the respective local ordinaries.
It was nice to see how these groups felt challenged by the call of Pope Francis. I feel I must thank them. Contrary to what one might think, many of the contributions sent are not mere lists of claims, but true works of listening and discernment. I want to assure them that we will read their contributions carefully and take them seriously!
From all these data, I am convinced that we are facing an ecclesial dialogue without precedent in the history of the Church, not only for the quantity of responses received or the number of people involved (which to some who want to rely solely on numbers - which can only be approximate - may seem limited) but also for the quality of participation.
The listening and discernment process was certainly not perfect. We know this, but we also know that we are trying to be more and more the image of the synodal Church, we are also learning from our mistakes.
I would like to conclude this address with the testimony of a priest, Father Michael G. Ryan, parish priest of St. James Cathedral in Seattle, who sums up the synod process well. This is what we hoped would happen.
Reading over the reports and reflecting on them, I found myself thinking how blessed I am to be pastor of a parish that is full of people who love the Church so much that they embrace it, affirm it, celebrate it, and thank God for it, but at the same time are not at all afraid to criticize it, challenge it, question it, and express anger, disappointment, and frustration with it.
The gospel tells us that “With God, all things are possible.” I can’t say that the same is true for the Church! We have to be realistic in our expectations. But isn’t it wonderful that Pope Francis is determined to hear from the whole Church and not just the hierarchy? The idea is revolutionary. To my knowledge, an effort of this sort and on this scale has never been undertaken by the Church—not even in its earliest days when the numbers were modest. And not only does Pope Francis want to hear from the whole Church, he wants us—who are the Church—to listen to each other. And that is precisely what happened during our parish’s synodal process. And it is clear that those of you who accepted the invitation and came together to listen to each other in prayerful, respectful dialogues, were surprised by what happened, delighted by what happened, changed by what happened. I think our parish can never be quite the same as a result, and I’m willing to bet that the same is true for the entire Church.
Intervento di Sr. Nathalie Becquart, X.M.C.J
The first phase of the synod aroused in the local Churches a great desire to pursue the path of synodality
Since the announcement of the synod process in May 2021, with Card. Mario Grech and Bishop Luis Marin de San Martin, we have sought to establish a dialogue with all the local Churches, in particular with the Episcopal Conferences through series of zooms or face-to-face meetings. We also had many contacts and links with movements, religious communities, organizations and networks of the Church as well as the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia. Today I can testify to the impressive mobilization around the world to respond to the call of Pope Francis to participate in the synod.
I am in particular very touched and marked by the way in which countries going through extremely difficult socio-political situations have engaged in the synodal process. Read the synod summaries of countries such as Nicaragua, Ukraine, Haiti, Myanmar, Lebanon, the Central African Republic - and unfortunately we could still cite many others as our world is crossed by multiple crises - discover the accounts of the initiatives that they implemented for the synodal consultation despite all the obstacles and to hear the voice of the baptized of these tried countries, their joys and their sorrows, their dreams and their outlook on the Church expressed without ostentation is an experience of the Spirit at work in the life of Christian communities on all continents. This mission to the Secretariat of the Synod through all the contacts, meetings online or in the field, has truly given me the opportunity to contemplate the way in which the spirit of synodality has unfolded ever more over the months in the local Churches. through a proliferation of initiatives and synodal meetings. The https://www.synodresources.org/ site also played this role as a platform for sharing initiatives and good practices.
All those who have experienced listening and dialogue according to the proposed synodal method of spiritual conversation testify to the joy received, to their gratitude for having been able to make their voices heard and to their desire to pursue this path of synodality. Something is afoot that is already bearing fruit on the ground and will continue. I am very confident for the rest of the synod because the Spirit is blowing. The fears, tensions and resistances which naturally also express themselves are part of all the processes of spiritual discernment.
All this synodal journey was possible thanks to the incredible mobilization of the national and diocesan synodal teams (most generally made up according to our suggestion of men and women, priests, lay people, religious) who deployed a lot of energy and creativity to animate and accompany the synodal process, train synodal group facilitators, prepare synodal assemblies and summaries through a process of prayer and discernment.
I am struck by reading all these syntheses by their very frank style which does not hesitate to name not only the good experiences of “walking together” which are already being lived but also to denounce without language of wood the obstacles and real difficulties. All these summaries give us a very rich photograph of the concrete life of Christian communities around the world who seek to be ever more missionary and faithful to the Gospel to serve the world of today crossed by so many fractures and sufferings;
What emerges very strongly is that this first stage of the synod constituted a real practical school of synodality giving a large number of people to integrate more personally and community how synodality is really God's call for the Church of the 3rd millennium. , and to appropriate the challenge of becoming ever more a Church of listening and dialogue.
It should also be emphasized that if the synod gave rise to a form of common experience throughout the world, each ecclesial reality entered into this process at its own pace and according to its starting point, according to its situation and its culture. Some who already have a long experience of synodal dynamics - thus the religious communities which in a certain way carry synodality in their DNA or the countries having deployed numerous diocesan synods or even plenary councils - have sometimes been able to express a form of doubt. For other countries this approach was very new and often generated a lot of enthusiasm. But one has the impression that everyone has taken a step further through this first year of synod. Synodality is a progressive learning, a learning-by-doing that starts from reality, we must accept that it takes time and that the goal is already the path.
In conclusion, I would like to share my joy at seeing that this synodal experience has enabled many to realize more strongly that the Church is truly the People of God in the diversity of its members, all called to walk together as missionary disciples. I have heard in many ways a very strong desire for a more synodal, more fraternal, more missionary, more welcoming and inclusive Church on a background of great denunciation of clericalism. It made me realize that this call to missionary synodality which was a major fruit of the youth synod leading Pope Francis to write in Christus Vivitau §206 "Youth ministry can only be synodal", does not only reflect today today what was asked by the young people but more broadly what the People of God as a whole made heard in this consultation.
The challenge for the opening of this new continental stage is therefore to pursue synodal conversion at all levels, the "synodalisation" of all ecclesial realities which requires a real change of mentality and also new ways of living life and mission in the Church as brothers and sisters in Christ with equal dignity. This notably involves training in listening skills, discernment and teamwork. And this cannot be done without the young, the women, the poorest and the most suffering - especially the victims of abuse - whose voices we must continue to hear better and involve in this process of discernment because they are engines of synodality.
 Summary extract Spanish Episcopal Conference "Finally, the groups wished to express their deep gratitude for the moment they lived: a moment of grace, built on active and respectful mutual listening, on openness to speech frank, on the sharing of gratifying experiences and on constructive exchanges. (…) The fraternal dialogue and shared reflection gave us hope and enthusiasm, and were an opportunity to energize the community by expressing the desire to continue walking together”.[01249-FR.01] [Texte original: Français]
Intervention of H.E. Bishop Luis Marin of San Martin, O.S.A
· I would like, first of all, to thank all those, from different sensitivities, different mentalities, varied options and diverse cultures, who have been involved in this process. It is a beautiful experience of ecclesiality, with all that it has of unity and plurality: of multiform unity.
· Thanks, also, to the media that have not only limited themselves to reporting, but have been able to accompany this unprecedented historical process, echoing the enormous creativity shown and helping us in our task.
· And thanks to those who, from outside the Church, dialogue with us with good will. Brothers of other religions, so many non-believers... Thanks to all those who consider what unites more than what divides.
My assessment is decided and clearly positive.
· I believe that we are in an irreversible process, with different speeds, full of nuances and necessary clarifications, but without turning back. That, little by little, is penetrating, is being purified and is renewing and reforming the Church.
· Personally: it has enriched me as a Christian, as a religious and as a bishop; it has made me grow in love for the Church; It has helped me live my service, my responsibility, with enthusiasm.
At the end of the diocesan phase and about to begin the continental one, I would like to comment on five dimensions of synodality, which have been highlighted and which, in my opinion, should be taken into account.
a. It is a spiritual process. In and of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is not, primarily, about changing structures (it will come as a consequence), detailed programming, deep academic reflections and much less about sharing power or marketing for personal or group promotion. It refers to the coherent living of our Christian faith and its testimony. So that:
· It links us to Christ and to the brothers. I have summed it up in the expression: “Synodality means more Christ and more Church”.
· You must take care of the prayerful dimension, both personal and community.
· Its axis is true love: towards God, towards the Church, towards humanity. Avoid the danger of both "spiritualism" and "sociologism."
· It opens us to evangelizing dynamism: Four verbs: “go out”, “risk”, “testify”, “transform”.
There is no doubt that, from the Holy Spirit, the process acquires an enormous, truly revolutionary force.
Question: Is the Holy Spirit really present in this process? Do we open ourselves to Him and allow ourselves to be challenged by Him?
b. It is a solidarity process. It does not distance us from present reality, but rather involves us in the world. Faced with the contrasts, the injustices, the bloody inequalities, the intolerance, it is good to remember the words of 1Cor 12, 26, with which the message that the Episcopal Conference of Brazil sent to the pilgrim Church in Nicaragua was opened. "If one member of the body suffers, the whole body suffers as well." Let's not forget it. The synodal process has made us aware that we must recover the basic brotherhood, which springs from the image of God in every human being (cf. Francis, Fratelli tutti, 8). Thus, the concept of "fellow travelers" has been expanded. And also that of “peripheries”. "Walking together" is something experiential and everyday, which leads us to abandon the spaces of alleged security, of separation.
Question: Does everything that is truly human find an echo in our hearts, as the Council asked us (cf. Gaudium et spes, 1)?
c. It is an open process. It is about listening, discerning and deciding. Not to dilute one's own responsibility, but so that it is truly a response to God's call, to what God wants. I have verified the general desire to express ourselves freely, without fear. But I am also aware of the need to perfect listening (which is not just “hearing”) and, above all, discernment. Then we will be able to make decisions at all levels.
· Listen to everyone (the People of God has infallibility “in credendo”).
· Discern: seeking, among all, the good of the Church here and now (time, place, culture).
· Decide: each one according to the particular richness of his charism and vocation. No more no less. Overcoming clericalism is particularly necessary.
Question: Can we express ourselves freely in the Church, as its members do in a family? Do we know how to dialogue (cf. Saint Paul VI, Ecclesiam suam)? Do we know how to discern what is God's will, not ours?
d. It is an integrating process. The diocesan phase just concluded, the continental stage that is beginning, the future celebration of the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, are events that are integrated into the only synodal process that belongs to the ecclesial identity: being, acting and style of the church. All the manifestations or concrete forms in which synodality is expressed cannot and should not be seen as isolated and disconnected events. That's why:
· The national or local synods, the assemblies, the pastoral councils at different levels, the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, etc., are structures that preserve their own identity, but that only take on true meaning when integrated into the ecclesial whole.
· We also need to advance in the relationship between the local Churches and the national-continental organisms and between the local Churches among themselves and in the universal Church.
Question: Do we live the dimension of “process”? Are we advancing in integration at all levels or are we satisfied with creating elites, be they clerical or lay?
and. It is a dynamic process. It never ends. Thus, the syntheses and the diocesan or national assemblies are not a point of arrival, but an impulse that encourages us to continue advancing. These summary documents must not be forgotten once they have been drafted and sent, but can and must be developed at all levels (parish, diocesan, episcopal conference), because they indicate a path and offer great opportunities for renewal.
Question: How do we address the future at the local, national and universal level after the diocesan stage? Are we making concrete decisions in which the synodal dimension of the Church is expressed?
We are aware of the enormous possibilities offered by synodality. The different speeds should not frighten us or make us anxious to achieve immediate results; the important thing is to assume a new, more coherent way of being Church, advancing serenely along this path of renewal and hope. If possible, enthusiastically.
I end by recalling some beautiful words of Saint John XXIII, which we can apply to this exciting task in which we are: “It is always necessary to think big and look high and far”.[01248-ES.01] [Texto original: Español]
Speech by Father Giacomo Costa
Preparation of the Document for the Continental Leg and the Continental Leg
1. Listening to walk together
Within the itinerary of the 2021-2023 Synod, the continental phase is one of the stages in which the consultation of the People of God is articulated. So the main objective continues to be listening, still guided by the same basic question that inspired the first year of the journey: «how is realized today, at different levels (from the local to the universal one) that“ walking together ”which allows the Church to proclaim the Gospel, in conformity with the mission that has been entrusted to her; and what steps does the Spirit invite us to take to grow as a synodal Church "? (DP n. 2). This helps us to focus on a very important point: the Synod is not an opportunity to address all the problems of the Church in a generic way, but by putting them in a specific perspective and in the dynamism of the mission, that is, asking each time what it helps. to walk together to proclaim the Gospel.
Therefore, if we were to summarize the meaning of this stage in a slogan, we could say that it is “listening to walk together and announce together”. Walking together, on a shared path, means making the effort to respect the differences of each local Church and also of each member of the faithful, without imposing the same step on everyone.
Thus, the synodal journey becomes an opportunity to practice that dream of building an "we" that animates the magisterium of Pope Francis since its inception, from the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (cf. n. 220: "becoming a people is something more, and it requires a constant process in which each new generation sees itself involved. It is a slow and arduous work that requires the desire to integrate and learn how to do so to develop a culture of encounter in a pluriform harmony "). It is still the invitation at the basis of the encyclical Brothers All: "we are called to invite and meet in an" we "that is stronger than the sum of small individualities; let us remember that “the whole is more than the parts, and it is also more than their simple sum” ”(n. 78, quoting EG n. 235).
Making a synod, that is, walking together, is then the way to react to the fragmentation, individualism, loneliness, self-referentiality that characterizes all our societies, our Churches, each of us. As the encyclical Fratelli tutti shows very well, this culture is the root of wars and of all those phenomena in which the other, with his originality, is denied, in the name of a homogeneity which is the imposition of a single point. of view, also thanks to the manipulation that often uses the network and social media. To eradicate this culture, documents or indications from above are certainly not enough: it is necessary to involve people, to make them have a concrete experience of encounter: this explains the dynamics of the first phase of the synodal journey, the one dedicated to consultation, first at diocesan and national (which he occupied last year), and now at the continental level, according to the dynamics we present today.
As we have heard, the diocesan phase has built a fabric of relationships between people or groups right down to the parish level, inside and outside the Christian community (with the worlds of professions, with people more on the margins, etc.…); we have also experienced it here in Italy, even among neighboring dioceses. These relationships are a precious fruit of the journey we have taken, which we must continue to cultivate: it is thanks to this experience of meeting with those who are close to us and to whom we are called to "make ourselves close" that fraternity and social friendship cease to be abstract notions .
The continental stage aims to broaden this dynamic, investing relations between neighboring Churches and Episcopal Conferences, within what we have called "Continents", but which should not be understood in a purely geographical sense. On a global scale, the situations are the most diverse. Sometimes there are organisms that have already been tested but, as here in Europe, it is not certain that we can actually walk together. A recent article questioned the relations between the Churches of Eastern Europe and Western Europe, as well as between those of the North and those of the South of the continent. There are different sensitivities and, we must admit, also splits. It is precisely to address them we are holding the Synod! In other "Continents" there may be even more consolidated experiences, such as in Latin America, while elsewhere the encounter and collaboration are taking its first steps, and the Synod represents a stimulus to move forward.For this reason, an internal task force within the Secretariat is responsible for closely accompanying each Continent not to impose an equal model for all, which could not exist, but by ensuring that each one finds the appropriate way to his circumstances to create an opportunity for exchange and comparison. As an example, let us now listen to the testimony of Susan Pascoe, who is part of this task force together with Mauricio Lopez and me, aided by Maike Sieben and Pedro Paulo Weizenmann. In particular, Susan will tell us about her experience accompanying the journey of Oceania.
[Testimony of Susan Pascoe]
Thank you Susan: your testimony helps us to understand what it means to accompany the churches of what we call a "Continent" to confront each other, create relationships and bring out common insights, differences and difficulties to be faced in order to walk together.
2. A dialogue between the universal Church and the local Churches
The great novelty of the 2021-2023 Synod is that consultation also takes place through a dialogue between the universal Church and the local Churches. Indeed, this is precisely the specificity of the continental stage that already His Eminence Card. Grech highlighted well. The Synod is not a process of progressive abstraction that gradually detaches itself from the ground, from everyday reality to rise to ever more remote levels, but it is a round trip process. A circularity is thus created between those who are in charge of listening and those who are listened to, obviously within the limits of what is possible (times are always limited) but with a great willingness on the part of the Secretariat to learn from what is heard, things work. But concretely, in this continental stage, how this dialogue will take place, in the "circular" perspective of which card. Grech?
to. The starting point are the contributions received from the Synod Secretariat as a response to the stimuli of the preparatory Document: the summaries prepared by each particular Church (Episcopal Conferences and equivalent bodies of the Eastern Churches), the contributions of the Vatican dicasteries, and of the Unions of Major Superiors of men and women religious, etc. Many have already arrived, and others are still arriving. To these are added the approximately 800 observations sent directly to the Secretariat from individuals and groups from various parts of the world and the documents that collect the fruit of seminars and meetings in which the Secretariat participated: among others, as an example, I cite the seminar on discernment and decision-making processes starting from the spiritual traditions of different religious institutes.
b. During the month of September, a text is drawn up that is the result of listening to all these voices. At one time it would have been the Instrumentum laboris for the next Assembly of Bishops, while now we will first have an intermediate document, the Document for the continental stage (DTC). Elaborating it is a delicate job: on the one hand he must collect all the voices, on the other hand he must choose (or rather discern) the priority points that emerge from the consultations. I will return to this shortly with more details.
c. Once drafted and approved, this text will be sent back to all dioceses and episcopal conferences. It is not a question of repeating the work of last year, but of comparing through the DTC with the experience of other particular Churches from all over the world.
d. In particular, the particular Churches (Episcopal Conferences and similar bodies of the Eastern Churches) are called to meet with a precise objective: to recognize within the DTC which intuitions should be valued starting from their continental perspective and which issues need to be addressed: they are sure there can't be none. But above all, the most ambitious and therefore most difficult aim of the continental meetings is to identify priorities. The methods of carrying out the continental meetings have not been established in a uniform manner at central level, but each Continent has been asked to organize itself: the material you find in the press kit indicates the dates and procedures defined to date. In general it can be said that continental meetings foresee a phase of ecclesial assembly, during which a rich representation of all the components of the people of God is recommended, even if a uniform and rigid "formula" of participation has not been established. Then there will be a phase of the Episcopal Assembly: bearing in mind that we are still in the consultative phase, the role of the Bishops will be above all to "validate" the text collegially, recognizing it as the fruit of an authentic listening to the whole People of God of the continent entrusted to their ministry. In a perspective of "circularity" and dialogue, it is desirable that after the continental meeting ways can be found to "return" the text to the whole People of God before sending it to the General Secretariat, so that it is corroborated by a ecclesial consent as broad and aware as possible.
And. Starting from the summaries produced at the continental level, the Instrumentum laboris will then be elaborated which in practice will trace the main lines of the agenda of the Synodal Assembly of October 2023. For this reason, the effort to identify the priorities at the level of each Continent is important.
f. The DTC is at the service of this work and should not be interpreted as a draft, only to be amended, of a final document, but as a text that offers ideas on which the particular Churches and then the continental meetings must work to identify those that they consider to be priorities from their point of view. For this we expect different reactions, as well as the fact that some DTC stimuli will be resumed in some Continents, while they will be less significant for others.
3. The DTC and its processing
In the light of the dynamic that we have just outlined, it is clear that the DTC is a key instrument of a dialogue, which, as you have now understood, is not only between particular Churches and the universal Church, but also in some way between individual particular Churches, in particular within each Continent (but indirectly also globally). At the same time it is and must remain an instrument: what really matters is that relationships are established and dialogue is entered into.
The process of drafting the DTC is not a pure work of synthesis or distillation of the materials received, as could also be done by a machine, for example on the basis of the most common terms. Rather, it is a journey of listening to the Spirit and discernment in common: it will take place in an atmosphere of prayer, with listening to the Word, shared celebration and moments of silence because, with inner freedom and frank dialogue, each of those who will take you part can open up to listening to what the People of God seek to communicate in depth rather than pursuing their own priorities or their own agenda.
We will do everything possible to have the DTC ready by the end of October at least in the main languages. Time is not long, because the work must be done in a way that is in keeping with the style of the process. For example, the materials received should not simply be cataloged and read quickly, but listened to in depth and questioned from a variety of perspectives. It is the work that we have started to do a few days ago.
The work of drafting the DTC is entrusted to a group composed of the Card. Secretary, the Undersecretaries and some officials of the Synod Secretariat, plus the members of the Coordination Committee, in addition to about 25 other people, chosen in such a way as to ensure a certain mix in terms of geographical origin (at least three for "continent", something more for Europe and Asia), ecclesial "location" (7 diocesan priests, 7 religious and 11 lay people) and gender (9 women and 16 men).
These 25 "experts" (you can find the list in the press kit) were not chosen to instill their ideas in the DTC, but to be the instrument through which the voice of the People of God from all parts of the world can resound, bringing out the salient elements of the first consultation phase. I take this opportunity to thank them for the generosity with which they made themselves available. All of them have access to the materials received and have pledged to keep their contents secret: we ask the media to try to respect their commitment! In particular, the materials have been divided and assigned so that each is read several times, by people of different origin, ecclesial position, disciplinary skills, etc. Each will draw up a summary sheet for each document read and an analytical or overall one, in which, starting from their own perspective, they will highlight what appears particularly significant to them. It is not only what occurs most frequently that is significant: otherwise we would have had a questionnaire filled out and then the results processed by a computer. Equally significant can be something that appears even in a single contribution, but that puts things in a new light, makes them clearer or even seems to open a promising itinerary towards the future.
At the moment everyone is working at home, in the most diverse parts of the world, but from 20 September the whole group will meet for two weeks of common work, which involves a succession of three steps:
to. At first we will compare the results of the different readings to arrive at an overall picture of what emerges, or rather to bring out the deepest nuclei and the most significant elements with ever greater clarity, according to the criteria just illustrated. On this basis, a first outline of the DTC will be elaborated.
b. The second step is that of writing: everyone will be asked to contribute to the drafting of portions of text relating to the various identified nuclei. To give homogeneity to the text, the final drafting will be entrusted to two editors (a woman and a man, both lay people) and will take place simultaneously in two languages (Italian and English). It is the first time that this has happened, but proceeding in this way guarantees a progressive refinement of a text beyond the idiosyncratic expressions of a single culture.c. The last step is represented by the verification and approval, through a personal and group prayerful rereading in which also those who are ultimately responsible for the text will participate, namely the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat, as well as some members of the four Commissions set up at the General Secretariat at the service of the synodal journey (which will participate remotely).
We are aware that this process has its limits, first of all time. But it is also an innovative, not to say pioneering process: it is something that has never been done, and indeed becomes more and more clear as one proceeds along the path. We realize that we have learned a lot during this first year, and we intend to continue to experience and grow in our understanding of what it means to walk together and how we can help the People of God to do so. In any case, the text of the DTC, once produced, will again be entrusted to the reflection and prayer of the People of God and to its sensus fidei; and this reassures us. We are really trying to walk all together.
[Original text: Italian]Intervention of Susan Pascoe
The Continental Stage in Oceania
The vast continent of Oceania is situated within the blue Pacific. It is a very diverse group of countries from small island states to large land masses such as Australia. There is wide variance in levels of wealth and development across the region. For all countries, but particularly the small island states, the impact of climate change is an existential threat, and preoccupies the political and ecclesial discourse. Rising sea levels threaten the very existence of the small island states. And like all other continents, there has been significant impact on lives and livelihoods, as well as church life, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The current President of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania (FCBCO) is Archbishop Peter Loy Chong of Suva. The FCBCO comprises four Episcopal conferences – Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands; Episcopal Conferences of the Pacific (CE PAC); New Zealand; and Australia. Abp Loy Chong has overseen a two-year process of planning for a FCBCO Assembly in Suva from February 5 – 7, 2023. This is a meeting to which all Bishops in Oceania are invited. It provides the opportunity for them to reflect in depth on matters of direct relevance to the region, as well as an opportunity for episcopal reflection on the discernment for the Continental Phase in Oceania.
For the foundation of the discernment for the Continental Stage in Oceania, an ecclesial process has been proposed which will begin within the four episcopal conferences in the period November to December 2022 with the inclusion of all the baptised. It is a matter for each episcopal conference to determine exactly what process they will use, although they will operate with the support of an Oceania Synodal Taskforce comprised of local people and one person representing the Synod of Bishops. It is likely that most of the spiritual conversations will take place virtually given the time, funding and logistical constraints. However, there is now a wealth of experience amongst the People of God from the listening and dialogue of Stage One in particular Churches, and this can be readily built upon – mindful that we want to reach those who were not included in the first stage.
A representative group from each episcopal conference will join together in-person as a Discernment and Writing Group in January 2023 to take the fruits of the ecclesial reflection from within individual episcopal conferences and combine them into a document for the consideration of the bishops at the Suva Assembly in February. The reflections from the bishops will then be drawn into a final document for the approval of the FCBCO.
There is already an impetus for a more synodal way of being Church which can be seen in the documents released to date from Oceania – those from Australia and New Zealand. The unique characteristic of the Pacific region mean that there will be richness in the diversity of the many ethnic and language groupings across the Pacific as well as from the Maori people of New Zealand, and the First Nations People of Australia. In addition, we are migrant countries, and this adds to the fullness of ecclesial life.
By way of background, some of the significant events in the region recently have been:
- The Second Assembly and finalisation of the Plenary Council for the Church in Australia. The Acts from the Plenary Council will be formally presented to the November meeting of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) and then presented to the Pope.
- Elections in Australia where a Centre-left party (the Labor Party) replaced a centre-right coalition; as well as in Papua New Guinea (PNG) where James Marape was returned as Prime Minister leading coalition parties.
- Geopolitical tensions in the region, with an increasing interest by world powers in the Pacific.
- A growing recognition of the rights and dignity of Indigenous peoples. E.g. Australia is moving toward a referendum on enshrining an Indigenous voice to Parliament.
Some of the challenges in the region are:
- For a second discernment stage in the Southern Hemisphere, this is a difficult time as we have Summer holidays in January, there is a pre-arranged FCBCO Episcopal Assembly, so it is difficult to ensure people are available without careful planning. This is being undertaken.
- There are significant logistical challenges – great distances; limited numbers of flights; costs of travel (especially for the poorer countries); funding.
- We are now emerging from a Winter in the Southern Hemisphere where the Omicron variant of COVID-19 stretched hospitals to the limit, and there was a significant loss of life, and impact on family, ecclesial and commercial affairs.
- Particularly for the small island states and the remote regions of Australia there are difficulties with connection to a full suite of digital connections.
- As noted above, rising sea levels and unprecedented flooding and fire events, are highlighting the needs identified in both Laudato Si and Fratelli Tutti, especially the uneven impact on the poor and vulnerable.