Vatican Conference on "For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission " - Presentation of the Document for the Continental Phase of the Synod on Synodality

Speech by the Rev. Mons. Piero Coda
At 12.15 today, the Press Conference for the presentation of the Document for the Continental Phase of the Synod on Synodality took place - live streaming from the Holy See Press Office - on the theme: "For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission ".
The Document for the Continental Stage is the fruit of the Summaries resulting from the consultation of the People of God in the first phase of the synodal process and will be at the center of the time of listening, dialogue and discernment of the Continental Synodal Assemblies (January-March 2023).
Speakers: Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the General Secretariat of the Synod; His Eminence Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, S.I., Archbishop of Luxembourg; General Relator of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (remotely connected); Prof. Anna Rowlands, Associate Professor of Catholic Social Thought and Practice, Durham University; Father Giacomo Costa, S.I., Consultor of the General Secretariat of the Synod; and the Rev. Mons. Piero Coda, Secretary General of the International Theological Commission;
(Video starts with English Speech at the 28:00 Mark)
The following are the interventions:
Speech by the Most Eminent Cardinal Mario Grech
It is a great joy for me to present to you the Working Document for the Continental Phase of the Synod. The contents of the Document are the evident testimony of the process underway in the Church. The summaries attest that, where the consultation took place, it has borne abundant fruit. The surprise of the group that collaborated in reading the summaries and writing the Document is the singular convergence on many points of contributions that came from very different ecclesial and cultural contexts. It is true that the Document was drawn up starting from the summaries of the Bishops' Conferences and not directly from the contributions of the particular Churches. To suppose that all the Bishops' Conferences have purposely stifled the prophecy of the People of God is just as ideological as to suppose the opposite. It will be possible to improve in the implementation of a synodal dynamic in which we are all apprentices; but one thing is certain: it was up to the Pastors, as "principle and foundation of unity in their Churches" (LG 23), "not to quench the Spirit, not to despise the prophecies, to sift everything, to keep what is good" (1Ts 5.19-21). In this way, a true circularity of the relationship between the People of God and Pastors was restarted, not at all taken for granted in the Church.
In this sense I can say that the Document is a faithful restitution of summaries. The work of the group of experts was marked by intellectual honesty: as you can verify, there are no theoretical reflections on synodality, but reprisals of the voice of the Churches. For all of us it was a surprise to hear how, despite the difference in sensitivity, the holy People of God converge in asking for a profound renewal of the Church. The introduction to the Document offers the criteria for reading the text; the biblical icon indicates the perspective that is opening up to the Church with the synodal journey - widen the curtain! -; the conclusion explains the next steps for the continental stage. The development is described with precision, so I am not repeating things that you find indicated in the text.
I like to underline a principle that sustains the whole synodal process: that of restitution. The Document is sent to the Pastors of the particular Churches. Was it not enough to send it formally to the presidents of the continental assemblies (that is, to the presidents of the International Meetings of the Episcopal Conferences and the Patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches)? The choice wants to underline the logic of the synodal process, which takes place through a continuous circularity of prophecy and discernment. In the two moments of the first stage, the circularity was evident: the consultation of the People of God, which participates in the prophetic function of Christ (cf. LG 12), necessarily corresponds to the discernment of the Pastors in the Episcopal Conferences. But this dynamic is always valid, even for the subsequent moments of discernment foreseen by the synodal process.
The continental stage constitutes a further moment of discernment, in which the seven continental Assemblies will be able to evaluate whether and to what extent the Document they have received corresponds to the life and expectations of the Churches on their continent. To ensure that this stage is organic to the synodal process, the continental Assemblies must also be linked to the circular dynamic of prophecy-discernment. This can only happen by returning the Document to the subject of the prophecy, that is, to the People of God who live in the particular Churches. The choice does not respond to an organizational criterion, but to a synodal principle: by sending the Document to the Bishops in the particular Churches, the fruits of the process begun by consultation in the particular Churches are returned to the People of God. Indeed, if we can recognize what the Spirit says to the Church by listening to the People of God, we must return this Document to that People who live in the Churches. The Bishops will be asked to listen to "at least" the synodal commissions and participation bodies. But it would be nice if every Church read the Document with a broad involvement of the People of God. With this choice, the whole synodal dynamism is repeated at a deeper level: by listening to the People of God, individual Bishops will be able to verify whether and to what extent his Church recognizes itself in the Document; possible observations on the Document can be sent by the individual Churches to the Episcopal Conferences, which in turn will be able to produce a more organic synthesis for the continental stage, which will contribute to the discernment of the Continental Assembly. In this way the documents that will reach the Secretariat of the Synod from the continental Assemblies will make the voice of all the Churches resound once again. In this way too, the rooting of the synodal style is achieved that the Pope hoped for with the decision to hold two General Assemblies of the Synod, one in October 2023 and the second in October 2024. The confidence is that, by entering into this dynamism of restitution, at each stage we can grow in an ever more synodal mentality and strengthen ourselves in that "walking together", which is the founding principle of a constitutively synodal Church. [01661-EN.01] [Original text: Italian]
Speech by Card. Jean-Claude Hollerich, S.I.
We are happy to present to you the synthesis of the synthesis given by 112 bishops’ conferences (out of 114), of the all 15 Catholic Oriental Churches, 17 Roman Dicasteries, the superiors of the religious orders and congregations, different lay movements and associations. My special thanks go to the initiative “Digital Synod” and the many influencers who got young people to participate.
Yes, the Synod and youth are not in opposition!
This document is NOT an “Instrumentum laboris”. It is simply a kind of summary of the synthesis the secretariat has received, till now we have been in the listening phase of the Synod.
The best is a true reflection of what the Bishops’ Conferences have sent in, a reflection of the result of spiritual conversation of the People of God.
You know that we have been a group of people from different continents, bishops, priests, religious and lay people to draft this document out of our experience of reading the synthesis received. This working together was a synodal experience and helped us to grab and to understand the synodal experience of the many groups throughout the world.
This document is therefore not a writing emerging out of theological writings, it is the fruit of a lived synodality, a dimension of the life in the Church. We were able to notice that the Holy Spirit is at work.
We could experience our common dignity as Christians rooted in baptism. Baptism... the fount of all Christian life, baptism the root of communion, the root of participation, helps us to live the unique mission of the Church.
This last point of mission is of first importance.
If us, as People of God, we all walk with Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we will be more conscious of our common an of our personal mission. A synodal Church is a Church centered on mission.
 [Original text: English]
Speech by Prof. Anna Rowlands
Good morning/afternoon and thank you for your attention.
I have been asked to talk briefly about two things: firstly, the use of citations from the reports we received in the Document for the Continental Stage, and secondly the composition, for the first time, of the document in two principal languages.
Firstly, on the process of citation in the Document and its background:
For those of us involved in the Frascati meeting a month ago it was a privilege to be able to read reports, not only from our own nation or continent, but from every corner of the globe. We have been exposed to a truly ‘catholic’ – global, inclusive and truth-seeking – conversation. In the reports we found both unique insights into particular contexts and striking shared patterns in the joys and laments voiced across contexts.
The group of experts in Frascati had responsibility for reading, praying with, analysing and discerning these reports, and presenting back to the Church material that would aid reflection during the Continental phase. A few things should be said clearly about where we are now:
1. The Synod remains in a listening phase. Our task in preparing this Document was to demonstrate that we have listened well and heard those who have spoken. The next phase is a further extension of that listening, now at Continental level.
2. We read every report and individual submission that we received. Carefully and prayerfully. The process of the Frascati group was not merely analytical or conversational but also prayerful, with time taken for liturgy and prayer each day, which shaped our work.
3. This was not a sociological survey analysing reports through established academic data analysis tools. Such work could be undertaken, but it was not the task of this group to do so, nor would that alone have resulted in a Continental Stage Document. The task of the group was a formally ecclesial one, of listening and active discernment and re-presentation.
4. Each report was read by three separate members of the reading group before arriving at Frascati, with care taken to note key insights, questions, recommendations and requests. This work was undertaken in a spirit of discernment, attempting to honour the experience of faith lived by those people who took part in this phase of the process.
5. In group reflection we shared the emerging common themes, questions, and insights present across reports, and noted the themes that seem to have special significance for particular local/national communities.
6. The quotations that punctuate the DCS try to give an idea of the richness of the materials received, letting the voices of the People of God from all parts of the world speak as much as possible on their own terms and find resonance. They are not to be interpreted as endorsing the positions of any particular area of the globe, nor as simply representing geographical variety, although care has been taken to ensure a certain balance in terms of source provenance. The quotes were chosen because they express in a particularly powerful, beautiful or precise way sentiments expressed more generally in many reports. They are intended to aid the Continental Stage in listening deeply to the global Church community: we wanted to provide a document that would help us to listen well to each other across contexts. In this way the citations used honour the listening to the margins Pope Francis has made a priority for this phase of the Synod, as well responding to the clear global patterns emerging from the reports– of which there were many. The citations also work to remind us that the ultimate purpose of this process is not to produce documents but to open horizons of hope for the fulfilment of the Church’s mission.
Secondly, some comments on working between two languages. Typically, a document of this kind would be developed in a single language and translated onwards. The Synod has diversified that process, principally in response to the need to carefully re-express what we have listened to. Each language is a cultural universe, with implicit references, idiosyncrasies and so forth. By working in two languages this brings all that is implicit to the fore. From the outset of the Frascati process we worked as a group and as writers in both Italian and English. Of course, this has also proved an intense learning experience too, and we continue to have much to learn about how to create a Synod process guided by the Spirit of the Church at Pentecost.
And in that same Spirit, thank you and I look forward to any questions.
[Original text: English]
Speech by Father Giacomo Costa, S.I.
The DTC is nothing more than a working document that collects the more or less hidden treasure in the story of the listening experience of the first year of the Synod.
In this light we can understand its structure, at the service of a re-reading of the experience of the first year on the basis of the outline provided to the Episcopal Conferences for the elaboration of their syntheses: a first part dedicated to the fruits of the experience of walking together, with its strengths and shadows. A second, more developed that explores insights, questions, issues that emerged during listening, a third that signals the steps identified to move forward as a local Church in a synodal style. There is therefore an effort to tune in with the internal dynamism of the contributions received, rather than simply using them as sources of issues to be treated or citations to insert in a different system.
The only addition to this scheme, rooted in a dynamic of discernment, is the second chapter that offers a biblical image that emerged during the work of reading the syntheses in Frascati, an icon in dialogue with the many images of the Church that they offer (the Church as family and home) and which offers, through the Word, a key to an interpretation of the contents of the DTC. This is the tent, referred to in the title of the document and taken from chap. 54 of the book of Isaiah, which well expresses the invitation that the Church has heard this year: "Enlarge the space of your tent!"
I dwell in particular on the third chapter which takes up this image of the tent as "a space of communion, a place of participation and a basis for mission" (n. 11) and on this basis articulates the fruits of listening to the People of God with the key words of the Synod title. Five generative nuclei of a missionary synodality emerge, around which it is possible to gather the many dynamic tensions that have emerged along the process: they must be recognized in order to then be the object of discernment.
What is striking is the honesty and transparency of many Churches that recognize their difficulties with respect to these tensions. The five nuclei thus help to articulate, bring out these questions, insights, and help to focus the connections between them, going beyond pure listing.
The first core is "listening as an openness to welcome starting from a desire for radical inclusion - no one excluded! -, in a perspective of communion with the sisters and brothers and with the common Father.
In any case, among the intuitions shared by a very large majority of synthesis is that the first step for everyone is that of listening: we begin to be a Church that listens. And it is recognized that very many do not feel listened to and taken seriously. Listening is already announcement!
The second core consists of the push to exit towards the mission.
This drive for mission is expressed with particular attention to interreligious and intercultural dialogue. But above all he puts ecumenism back at the center: "Many syntheses emphasize that there is no complete synodality without unity among Christians" (n. 48).
The third nucleus is that of the style that a synodal Church is called to assume, based on the participation and co-responsibility of all the baptized. Synodality is not an organizational expedient for the division of roles and powers. Vocations, charisms and ministries - including the ordained ministry - must be understood starting from the logic of the mission, not from the organizational dynamics within the ecclesial community. It is a missionary synodality.
In this light there is also the question of lay ministries and above all of the place of women within the Church, also with respect to participation in decision-making processes and access to government structures.
To build concrete possibilities of living communion, participation and mission - this is the fourth nucleus - the Church needs structures, in particular governance, also providing for the appropriate innovations of canon law. However, "Structures alone are not enough: there is a need for ongoing formation work that supports a widespread synodal culture" (n. 82) and "a spirituality. Without prayer you can't go anywhere!
Finally, the fifth nucleus - lastly because it is most fundamental - is constituted by the liturgy, in particular the Eucharistic one. It is in the liturgy that the three key words of the synodal process find their full synthesis not only in understanding, but in the profound experience of the Christian community. The Eucharistic celebration is the engine of missionary dynamism and the place of formation of a missionary synodal community. This is why the implementation of a synodal style of liturgical celebration is so fundamental, in the enhancement of all ministries and in the recognition of all charisms.
We can thus say in conclusion that “Through this process […] we have discovered that synodality is a way of being Church; indeed, the way "" (n. 3). The Synod continues, with the foreseen stages, but beyond these the search for ways to be an ever more synodal Church continues.
[Original text: Italian]
Speech by the Rev. Mons. Piero Coda
The document - we read to you - "offers the local Churches the opportunity to hear each other's voices, in view of the Continental Assemblies" (n. 7). With this it has a precise theological significance in the consultation stage of the synodal journey: both because it is "laden with the treasure contained in the story of the experience of listening to the voice of the Spirit by the People of God"; and because it is "oriented to the service of the mission" (n. 8).
This perspective allows us to respond, in harmony with the missionary vocation of the Church described by Vatican II, to the following questions: why this document? who is the subject? how was it built? what is the objective it pursues?
The reason, first of all: to collect the story of the experience lived by the People of God in the light of the faith that questions itself on its path, since this path "includes - states the Constitution on the Revelation Dei Verbum - everything that contributes to leading his life and to increase his faith, so that the Church in her doctrine, in her life and in her worship, guards and transmits all that she is, all that she believes "(n.8). The result is not only precious but indispensable in the implementation of the synodal path: listening to the sense of faith which the whole People of God is endowed with, by virtue of the gift conferred by baptism and for which all disciples are "one in Christ Jesus "(cf. Gal 3:28) and therefore sharers and co-responsible with" diversity of ministry of the unity of the mission "(Apostolicam actuositatem, 2).
Hence the second question: who is the subject of this story? The People of God, precisely, in the variegated communion of its components and expressions at the universal level, that is, in the various socio-cultural contexts. In this way, his vocation as a "messianic people" is recognized and activated which "has Christ as its head [...] as a condition of the dignity and freedom of the children of God [...] by law the new commandment of love (cf. Jn 13, 34) […] as an end the kingdom of God ”(LG 9), and which is therefore open to all in dialogue and encounter as a sign and promoter of unity and fraternity in freedom and variety.
Here then - third question: how? - the method of which the document is intended to be the fruit and instrument: listening to the voice of the Spirit who, in the light of the Word of God, addresses the People of God in the today of history. Therefore, the theological method of spiritual conversation and community discernment: not a sociological inquiry nor a simple comparison of opinions, but listening to the feeling in faith, with love and hope, of the People of God who live and read history with the look of the disciple.
And finally what is the goal? instructing paths in view of a shared, not pre-packaged and uniform response, to the question that guides the process and which will find expression with the authoritative discernment of the Pastors in the next stage: "How is that" walking together "that allows the Church to announce the Gospel? And what steps does the Spirit invite us to take to grow as a synodal Church? " (Preparatory document, 2).
The chance for the whole Church made available - and which we can already recognize as a grace which the People of God, with amazement and enthusiasm, are beginning to experience - is that the peculiarity of the theme of the synodal process is also its resource: "Its object - synodality - is also its method" (Preparatory Document, 25), what is reflected on is the experience that is being made, not only for oneself, but as a leaven and salt as far as the human family it is called to live in this challenging and dramatic turning point in its history.
We therefore have in our hands a testimony of that "ignition (in the Church) of his prophetic conscience" that Paul VI hoped for with clear and confident clairvoyance, in Ecclesiam suam, as the fruit of Vatican II (cf. n. 23). The convocation by Pope Francis of the synodal process is an important, theologically providential and even indispensable step forward in this direction.
 [Original text: Italian]