New Synod of Bishops with broadened scope

Just like the two previous Synod assemblies on the family, Pope Francis has made this current assembly on youth yet another necessary juncture on the road towards radically reforming structures of ecclesial governance and effecting a “conversion” of the papacy itself.

Oct 27, 2018

By Robert Mickens
Just like the two previous Synod assemblies on the family, Pope Francis has made this current assembly on youth yet another necessary juncture on the road towards radically reforming structures of ecclesial governance and effecting a “conversion” of the papacy itself.

In short, it is about the more arduous — and controversial — process of making true synodality a constituent part of the Church’s life and decision-making structures. What is perhaps most remarkable about this project is the expanded role it has begun to carve out for ordinary Catholics — that is, all the baptised faithful and not just those who have received Holy Orders.

Early in his pontificate, the Pope issued his blueprint for renewal with the publication of Evangelii gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel). But that 2013 apostolic exhortation offers a broad vision of ecclesial reform without decreeing specific canonical or structural changes.

Like most of the documents that were ratified at the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the exhortation has been greeted by reform-minded Catholics as being inspirational but lacking in force.

And so, it is surprising that so many people failed to recognise the true importance of one of the latest major documents Pope Francis has issued — the apostolic constitution Episcopalis communio (EC).
This text, which was made public on Sept 18, sets down the principles for substantially reforming the nature, purpose and function of the Synod of Bishops. In this new legislative text he also introduces and institutionalises major shifts and breaks from the previous popes.

Refounding the Synod of Bishops
The extensive consultation of the baptised faithful, which Francis introduced in preparation for the 2014 extraordinary assembly on the family and utilised again for the last two ordinary assemblies (2016 and currently), is now a mandatory procedure.

It was never even mentioned in previous papal documents, let alone mandated.

“The history of the Church bears ample witness to the importance of consultation for ascertaining the views of the bishops and the faithful in matters pertaining to the good of the Church.

“Hence, even in the preparation of Synodal assemblies, it is very important that consultation of all the particular Churches be given special attention,” Francis says in Episcopalis communio.

He then sets down precise articles outlining the consultation of the faithful which is to be carried out, including the “possibility” of holding pre-Synod assembly meetings at the international, regional and local levels.

“The Synod of Bishops must increasingly become a privileged instrument for listening to the People of God,” the Pope says (EC, 6). Furthermore, the document states, “If he considers it opportune, especially for reasons of an ecumenical nature, the Roman Pontiff may summon a synodal assembly according to other formats established by himself.” (EC, Art. 1 § 3)

There is a newness. It is not mentioned in any other papal document regulating the Synod of Bishops. But what might it mean in practical terms?

Perhaps this line from paragraph eight in the new apostolic constitution offers a further clue: “If circumstances so suggest, a single synodal assembly may be spread over more than one session.”

Right now they may look like baby steps, coming as they do during a Synod assembly on young people.

But they are steps nonetheless. And bold ones at that.

These are part of an exciting and sometimes terrifying journey on which Francis has launched the Church, the entire People of God. Indeed, that is what synodos means — journeying together.--LCI (international.la-croix.com)

Total Comments:0

Name
Email
Comments