A “coherent synthesis”

Members of St Peter’s Parish in Yvetot in the Diocese of Rouen (France) began meeting in late November for synodal discussions, focusing on the theme of “co-responsibility in mission”.

Jun 10, 2022


By Malo Tesca
Members of St Peter’s Parish in Yvetot in the Diocese of Rouen (France) began meeting in late November for synodal discussions, focusing on the theme of “co-responsibility in mission”. Their contributions were added to those of other Catholics from Normandy and were part of the synthesis the diocese published on May 14.

“Being attentive to Catholics at the back of the church, people’s sufferings and relaunching a strong missionary dynamic in the Church... The additions from the diocese go along with what I wanted to express,” said Vincent Hardouin, one of the lay participants from Yvetot, after hearing the first reading of the text.”

In addition to this meeting, six synodal groups were formed in the parish. “I asked them to take up this matter on their own,” said Father Benoît Bréant, the pastor of St Peter’s. “If I had been invited to these meetings, I would have declined the invitation because I did not want the presence of an ordained minister to impede their freedom of speech,” he said.

Maïté Massot, head of the diocesan team dedicated to the synodal process, said the active involvement of local Catholics was “important”. She said some 220 contributions were sent in, which included the participation of more than 2,100 people. And that’s “a modest estimate”. “Nearly 90 per cent of the parishes – 47 out of 52 – sent us feedback. Being able to share like this was something totally new,” Massot said. But she pointed out that there was only a “weak participation” from people in the 30 to 40-year-old age bracket.

Among the issues raised by those Catholics who did get involved were the feeling of “not knowing each other” in vast rural or suburban parishes, the lack of social diversity in communities, and concerns related to overworked or local priests, in addition to the risks of “excessive sacralisation” of these ordained ministers. Other issues included a desire to strengthen the place of lay people and women in decision-making bodies, the wish for better communication in the Church and a greater adaptation of liturgical times to today’s world.

“With its findings that are fairly consistent with what we have felt for some years, there really weren't any surprises when we reviewed the document,” Massot continued.

“While some feared a form of censorship, or were even afraid that their contribution would not be read, people seem to have found their thoughts in the text instead, according to the first individual feedback that I received,” she said. “For me, there is indeed a reflection to be carried out around the place of the laity in the decision-making processes, as they only have an advisory role,” noted Father Bréant, who also participated in the process with other priest-members of the diocesan presbyteral council. He expressed regret that “the difficulty with a synthesis is that expressions can appear there without their context, which can be hurtful – without it being deliberate – for those who read it, on one side or the other”.

How do Catholics in the diocese envision the next step? Many concrete proposals emerged from the document. Chief among them was the desire to entrust parish teams with the mission of managing and animating communities and to rethink the initial and ongoing training of priests in the human sciences (to “aim for less authoritarianism”, “more proximity” with diverse populations). People also expressed the desire for a more convivial, less moralistic and a humbler Church, especially in light of the sex abuse crisis.

Another proposal was to devise “new ways of functioning for any council, including the collegial power of decision”, and to institute, in case of conflict, “mediation bodies” composed of clerics or laypeople who are “trained and external” to the parishes.

Rouen’s Archbishop Dominique Lebrun in his opening address proposed to extend this synodal “discernment” with the help of councils, judging that “consultations will undoubtedly be necessary” in the first quarter of next year. Until then, he encouraged the groups involved to “continue to advance along the path of the synod, not forgetting that mission is primary, communion indispensable, and diversified participation necessary”. --LCI (https:// international.la-croix.com/)

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