Cardinal Vincent Nichols has issued a pastoral letter which will be read in churches across the diocese this weekend. It will focus on Pope Francis’ call for us to become a “synodal Church” which will undergo a process that will begin in local churches (i.e., parishes and dioceses) and concluding with a synod of bishops from all over the world in 2023. In the first stage, we are called to reflect together as a diocese on how to renew our sense of mission in the light of eighteen months’ experience of pandemic.
This post will be updated this weekend with links to the pastoral letter (both in written and audio formats). For the meantime, here are a few questions answered which we hope will make things clearer.
What is a synod?
A synod is a council of the Church normally convened for us to think and pray together on an issue of doctrine, administration or application.
The word comes from Greek which translates to “common journey” or “shared path”. Put simply, a synod is a process of discernment in which we ask the Holy Spirit to guide us.
What is purpose of this particular synod?
According to the synod handbook, it is “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”.
What is a “synodal Church”?
Pope Francis has said that synadolity is the path for all people of God. Accordingly, everyone in our diocese has a part to play and all are encouraged to participate.
The handbook of the synod states that “the synodal process is no longer only an assembly of bishops but a journey for all the faithful in which every local church has an integral part to play”.
When does it begin?
Pope Francis will launch it on 9-10 October. The first phase is the diocesan phase which begins on 17 October. They synod will conclude in the Vatican in 2023 with the assembly of bishops from all over the world.
How will it work in our diocese?
A group has been charged with preparing our Diocesan response. They are creating resources to assist every parish to follow the pathways best suited to their situation. These will include a diversity of Listening processes – pathways which range from a short series of gatherings with parishioners to listening events in different parts of the diocese. Every parish, including Holloway, is asked simply to do as much as it is able.
October will be the time for more intensive preparation; November and the first part of Advent the time for Listening. There will be a Pastoral Letter for 2nd/3rd October; soon after that the sending out of the first resources to parishes. By way of support, there will be the opportunity for Clergy and Parish Reps to avail of Training Sessions and short Zoom calls. Training and support will be offered by Fr Chris Vipers in his capacity as Director of the Agency for Evangelization; and Danny Curtin, Director of A Million Minutes, whom we have engaged to facilitate the process.
This means that over the next six months, we will be going on a common journey listening prayerfully to each other in order to discern what the Spirit see in the Church here in our diocese.
What will be the immediate outcome?
In April 2022, each diocese will produce a document summarising its synod process. This will be given to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. A key part of the document will be your feedback from local meetings or common themes that you raised or new perspectives opened up.
However, the fruit of the process can and should be more than written document. Let us start praying now that our common journey may foster deeper concord and mutual understanding among us that it will increase our love for Christ and release a new missionary energy into our local church.