The Continental Stage
The continental level constitutes an opportunity to live synodality, which we are still learning to grasp and which we are now invited to practice concretely.
Diocese of Buffalo Report to Worldwide Synod
“We have called our effort Listening in Love and Hope because we aspired to reach out as broadly as possible to listen to the many voices within the Church, especially the marginalized, the disenfranchised, our less fortunate among us and our youth. The feedback was candid and honest, and it is our hope and desire to consider many of the suggestions from the sessions into the continuing restructuring and pastoral planning of our diocese here in Western New York.” | Bishop Fisher from his letter to the diocese on the Synod report
In the News..
We are not so different...
Surprises in our diocesan synod sessions
The synodal journey continues
A Synod is a gathering of the faithful in order to listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church and asking her to be and to do. This gathering can involve the faithful in different ways: pastors with lay people, bishops with the other ordained ministries, pope with bishops, etc.
Pope Francis calls it “an exercise of mutual listening, conducted at all levels of the Church and involving the entire People of God” (Pope Francis, 18 Septemeber 2021). It involves encounter, listening and the discernment of spirits.
Synods taken many forms in church history and they are currently practised in the Church at all levels: from parish Pastoral Council meetings to Diocesan Synods, from Provincial Councils to Plenary Councils, from the assembles to the Synod of bishops to ecumenical Councils in which the bishops from across the world gather in Rome with the Pope. The practice of gathering to listen to the Spirit is as old as the Church herself, as shown by the “Council” of Jerusalem described in Acts of the Apostles 15. Synod-type mechanisms (listening, dialogue, discernment, deliberation) have always been used in monasteries and religious houses when making decisions. The conclaves, when cardinals meet to elect the new pope, is a synod event.
Pope Francis has sought from the beginning of his pontificate to invigorate and reconfigure the Synod of Bishops so that it might become more of an exercise of listening and discernment. Ever since his election in 2013, he has been teaching the Church about synodality and encouraging us to become a more synodal Church at every level. In an important speech on 17 October 2015, he said that the path of synodality is what God expects of the Church in the third millennium.
The word synod comes from the Greek synodos, which has the general meaning of “walking together”. It offers an image of the Church as a pilgrim people, growing and developing on a journey of faith; a very different image from that of the Church as a static institution. A synodal Church expresses the Second Vatican Council vision of what sees the Church called to be: the People of God in which all baptized share the same dignity, and the essential distinction between lay people, clergy, bishops etc. is a difference of vocation and role, not of superiority.
In the past, a Synod consisted of a meeting (called a “General Assembly”) of Bishops in Rome. This Synod consists of the entire synod process, beginning with the worldwide consultation of all faithful, including a General Assembly of Bishops in Rome, and ending with the reception by the People of God in the local Churches of the fruits of the entire discernment process.
Although previous synods also began with wide consultations in the form of questionnaires, this is the first time that everyone has been directly asked to engage in an exercise of listening at the level of parishes and dioceses.
The objective of this Synodal Process is not to provide a temporary or one-time experience of synodality, but rather to provide an opportunity for the entire People of God to discern together how to move forward on the path towards being a more synodal Church in the long-term.
We are to listen, as the entire People of God, to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church. We do so by listening together to the Word of God in Scripture and the living Tradition of the Church, and then by listening to one another, and especially to those at the margins, discerning the signs of the times. In fact, the whole Synodal Process aims at fostering a lived experience of discernment, participation, and co-responsibility, where a diversity of gifts is brought together for the Church’s mission in the world.
The Diocesan Phase: The first phase of the Synodal Process is a listening phase in local Churches. Following an opening celebration in Rome on Saturday, October 9, 2021, the diocesan phase of the Synod will begin on Sunday, October 17, 2021. Much of the richness of this listening phase will come from discussions among parishes, lay movements, schools and universities, religious congregations, neighbourhood Christian communities, social action, ecumenical and inter-religious movements, and other groups.
The role of Episcopal Conferences and Synods of Oriental Churches: Once the diocesan phase has culminated with a Diocesan Pre-Synodal Meeting and diocesan synthesis, the episcopal conferences and synods of Oriental Churches will compile the input and feedback that they have received from the dioceses and eparchies in order to formulate syntheses that aptly capture the contributions of participants at the local level. Episcopal conferences and synods of Oriental Churches are called to discern and assemble this wider synthesis through a Pre-Synodal Meeting of their own. These syntheses will then serve as the basis for the first edition of the Instrumentum Laboris, which will be published by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops.
The Continental Phase: This initial Instrumentum Laboris will be the “working document” for the seven continental meetings: Africa (SECAM); Oceania (FCBCO); Asia (FABC); Middle East (CPCO); Latin America (CELAM); Europe (CCEE) and North America (USCCB and CCCB). These seven international meetings will in turn produce seven Final Documents that will serve as the basis for the second Instrumentum Laboris, which will be used at the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October 2023
The Assembly of the Synod of Bishops: Bishops and auditors will gather with the Holy Father Pope Francis in the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome in October 2023 to speak and listen to one another on the basis of the Synodal Process that began at the local level. The aim of the Synod of Bishops is not to overshadow the diocesan, episcopal conference/synod of Oriental Churches, and continental phases, but rather to discern at a universal level the voice of the Holy Spirit who has been speaking throughout the entire Church.
Questions about the Synod?
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Mission statement of the Diocesan Synod:
... we recall that the purpose of the Synod, and therefore of this consultation, is not to produce documents, but “to plant dreams, draw forth prophecies and visions, allow hope to flourish, inspire trust, bind up wounds, weave together relationships, awaken a dawn of hope, learn from one another and create a bright resourcefulness that willenlighten minds, warm hearts, give strength to our hands ...
Prayer for the Synod: Adsumus Sancte Spiritus
We stand before You, Holy Spirit,
as we gather together in Your name.
With You alone to guide us,
make Yourself at home in our hearts;
Teach us the way we must go
and how we are to pursue it.
We are weak and sinful;
do not let us promote disorder.
Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path
nor partiality influence our actions.
Let us find in You our unity
so that we may journey together to eternal life
and not stray from the way of truth and what is right.
All this we ask of You,
who are at work in every place and time,
in the communion of the Father and the Son,
forever and ever.