Synod Update…

Week 4 Synod Update

This past week, as the current phase of the Synod comes to a close, delegates approved a two-page letter “to the people of God” by applauding. Synod members had voted last week overwhelmingly (355-11) in favour of publishing a letter to tell us, the rest of the Church not in attendance, what they have been discussing in these past four weeks. It is good that they are keeping us informed – synod by its very nature is about communication – listening and responding.  In reading this letter we will listen and then we will get to respond. Bishop Niall will lead us in our discussions of this document in Ossory. In advance of reading it it is good to remember that this phase of the synod is about deliberations; that is to say decisions won’t be made but certainly issues will be moved along and that is most welcome.. after all we are, in this synod, merely listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.   

Week 3 Synod Update

This past week the Synod discussed mission and a central aspect of that discussion, it seems, focused on the role of women in the Church. Opening this session, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich (Archbishop of Luxembourg) drew attention to the question of gender right away with questions that we could read –  “Most of us are men. But men and women receive the same Baptism and the same Spirit. The Baptism of women is not inferior to the Baptism of men. How can we ensure that women feel they are an integral part of this missionary Church?” He challenged participants, most of whom are ordained men, to examine whether they feel “enriched or threatened” when sharing responsibility for the Church’s mission with women. Interesting thoughts, as the vast majority in attendance are men and only 54 of the voting members of over 350 are women… but the women’s voice is being heard… remember the Synod does not do decisions, it does deliberations and it is deliberating… Discussion also took place on authority, structures and processes and what would a synodal Church really look like? Those involved have confirmed that the difficult conversations—for which there are not easy answers—are happening. 

Week 2 Synod Update

As the Synod in Rome continues in these weeks the 400 members are gathering in the Paul VI hall at the rear of St Peter’s Basilica.  The format of this Synod is noticeably different from the many that have gone before. All gathered are seated at round tables and all, irrespective of “role”, are given the same time to speak. Pope Francis has worked to ensure that all gathered can speak freely but also that they truly make listening a priority. He has noted that at this gathering the Holy Spirit is not merely present but should be seen as the “protagonist” guiding the discussions. To create this atmosphere, Pope Francis has requested confidentiality on the part of Synod members, and in this sense a “fasting from public speech”. It is working – we had intended to write to inform you what was happening each week but, thankfully, we do not know.. or at least we do not know the detail of what is being said – Synod members are respecting this freedom to talk and listen with fear of being quoted. Maybe the Spirit is truly the protagonist…

Week 1 Synod Update

This past week saw the much awaited Synodal gathering start in Rome. Normally reserved to the bishops this synod, at the request of Pope Francis, invited lay faithful, priests and religious from around the world to come together to discern the promptings of the Holy Spirit for the Church today.  This is a continuance of the synodal gatherings we had in Ossory and in every Diocese throughout the world.  Our ideas are carried there by the Irish delegation.  

With such a variety of voices from every part of the world it was recognised that at this synod tensions will exist – as each one tries to make their views heard.  The Dominican priest Fr Timothy Radcliffe has preached to all gathered in these opening days – he noted, in one of these addresses, that in English we say that “we fall in love but we make friends” reminding those gathered for the synod that difference is ok, variance is to be welcomed and that we won’t fall into agreement, we will have to work to make it happen.  We pray for the Synod as the first week concludes, may they make harmony happen. 

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