The Synod on Synodality began in the Vatican on 30 September 2023, and it is coming to a conclusion this weekend - until the next plenary assembly which is scheduled to be held in October 2024. Pope Francis began this lengthy process of listening and discerning to “journey together” with the guidance of the Holy Spirit two years ago and we, as missionary disciples, follow Jesus Christ by welcoming everyone as people of God, with no one excluded.
In a recent letter, dated 25 October 2023 addressed to the People of God, Pope Francis called for unity of faith in Christ. He welcomed the open discussion of criticisms of doctrine, traditions and morals in the ongoing synodal assembly. He also highlighted the importance of listening to everyone - especially the poorest - in order for the Church to make progress and continue the synodal discernment.
Representatives from different continents, churches and ecclesial communities have gathered together - each with their own unique backgrounds, vocations, and ministries - to attentively listen to the Word of God and share their experiences, as well as the “wealth and poverty of their communities”. Through this process, they aim to discern what the Holy Spirit is communicating to the Church in the present time to build a more just and peaceful society. Day by day, they have sensed strongly the urgent need for “pastoral and missionary conversion”, as well as the Church’s mission to proclaim the Good News.
As the Church progresses, there will be many challenges we’ll have to face and questions will arise. However, the Holy Father has reminded us that synodality should be reflected through the feasibility of communion, participation and mission. He expects all of us to actively engage in these three concepts rather than consider them as abstract ideas.
In today’s world, it is essential for the Church to listen to everyone with an open mind and heart, and to commit itself structurally to prevent any abuse and immorality from happening again. It is the duty of the Church to listen to all members - including lay people, catechists, youth and children - who are hopeful for the future and to lead them in a life of holiness. It is important for the Church to hear the concerns of families and their contributions to the Christian witness in the world.
The Church should welcome the participation of lay people in discernment and decision-making processes and encourage their involvement in various ministries. Pope Francis reaffirmed the traditional stance of the Catholic Church that women cannot become priests or deacons. Despite being asked if ordaining women could help attract more people to the Church and whether allowing optional priest celibacy would help address priest shortages, he remained firm in his position. However, he did acknowledge the valuable contributions of women to the Church, and based on his personal experience, they possess great ecclesial intuition.
Pope Francis urges the Church to follow the path of synodality despite the world’s challenges. We should not be afraid to serve and love God and His people, as we strive to grow in holiness. May Mary, the Mother of the Church, accompany us on our journey - showing us her Son, Jesus and inviting us to trust Him. He is our only hope!