Catholics are very used to a top-down church! So when a step is taken to literally turn that upside down, we run the risk of ignoring it!
This is the conundrum of the initiative taken by Pope Francis in 2021 when he stalled plans for a worldwide synod of bishops for 2022. All previous such gatherings involved only bishops and cardinals. Any priests in attendance were there as servants, typists, secretaries, coffee makers!
This time, Pope Francis has demanded that every Catholic in the world should have the opportunity to be part of such a gathering and to contribute to it. Yes, a mammoth task! And made even more challenging when it was announced in the midst of a pandemic.
So far, the response from the worldwide faithful seems muted. Because the information flow is also top-down, it depends on the cooperation of countries and dioceses to inform the faithful. And, it seems, that many dioceses, aka bishops, don’t want to fan the flames of renewal, change or synodality.
And that last word is part of the problem but part of the opportunity, too. Pope Francis has set is as the theme of the 2023 synod.
‘Synod’ comes from the Greek language and essentially it means ‘walking together’. Walking being much more than about feet – but also involving heart and mind and spirit.
What is Synodality?
Synodality denotes the particular style that qualifies the life and mission of the Church, expressing her nature as the People of God journeying together and gathering in assembly, summoned by the Lord Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel. Synodality ought to be expressed in the Church’s ordinary way of living and working.
Synodality, in this perspective, is much more than the celebration of ecclesial meetings and Bishops’ assemblies, or a matter of simple internal administration within the Church; it is the specific modus vivendi et operandi of the Church, the People of God, which reveals and gives substance to her being as communion when all her members journey together, gather in assembly and take an active part in her evangelizing mission.https://www.synod.va/en/what-is-the-synod-21-23/about.html
So each diocese across the world is asked to start a dialogue and a process to give life to this way of being church. The three-part theme is important. This short video breaks down the themes into questions for us to consider: