Cardinal Hollerich: Restarting from the first fruits of synodality

The Synod’s General Rapporteur delves into some themes of the new Synod working document, in an interview with Vatican News.

Jul 10, 2024

Cardinal Hollerich in the Vatican Press Office

By Jean-Charles Putzolu
At the press conference for the Instrumentum laboris of the second session of the Synod on Synodality, it was hard to miss Jesuit Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich’s presentation.

Vatican News asked the Luxembourgish prelate, who is General Rapporteur of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to delve into some themes of the document - from ecclesiology to the co-responsibility of laypeople, men and women, to the Church's evangelizing mission, and our common journey, based on a shared baptism, with other Churches and Christian communities.

Q: Your Eminence, where do we start again from? How was the Instrumentum laboris, presented today, constructed in relation to previous documents such as the Summary Report and the Instrumentum laboris of the first session?

The working document was not drawn up from scratch. We have the Summary Report of the first session, then we have the reactions from all the Churches again. It is a theological reflection on what was said in the first session. All of this together forms the Instrumentum laboris, which is a working tool, not the result of the Synod. At the beginning of the Synod, members have their ideas, and the working tool is made to stimulate the necessary debates during the Synod session.

Q: What topics will these debates cover?

The theme of ecclesiology, how to be a synodal Church, but on a mission. This is important: we are on a mission, the Church, the people of the baptized, has been sent by God to proclaim the Gospel to the world. And this is our task. We have discovered, not only we delegates in the Synod but all the People of God who have lived elements of synodality in different ways over the past three years, that there are fruits of synodality and these fruits are for the mission.

Q: For the mission, the Church needs laypeople, men and women. There is much talk about the responsibility, the appreciation of laypeople. What can we expect on this point?

Yes, certainly. The Church is not a clerical Church; the Church is a Church of the baptized. Women and men, all are called by God to proclaim the Gospel and to form the Church. Therefore, there is participation from everyone and a co-responsibility in proclaiming the Gospel. This does not mean that ordained ministries, bishops, priests are abandoned, but they find their full meaning in a synodal Church.

Q: To what extent can laypeople, men, and women be given responsibility within the Church?

For laypeople, there is no difference for the Church concerning participation and co-responsibility between men and women. Everything is open to women and men. We already saw this when the Pope opened the lay ministries of acolyte and lector to women, and then in the new ministry of catechist, there is equality between women and men.

The Synod does not address the issue of women's priestly ordination because it has not been raised by the whole world. Some local Churches have raised the question of women's diaconate, and there is a commission to deepen the theological reflection on this point - to better understand what the diaconate is, which is participation in an ordained but not priestly ministry, rather of service.

So the second question, after this reflection, would be if this ordained ministry can be opened to women. But this is part of a process, and one should not think that all processes are concluded with this session of the Synod. The Church will advance in a synodal way; the People of God will walk through history in a synodal way. And there will be questions to answer.

Q: Does walking together in a synodal way also mean doing so with sister Churches?

That’s clear, because if we are the People of God, and we are the people of the baptized, we have baptism also in other Churches and Christian communities, and we respect that baptism and these Churches, and we love them. And we see that in these Churches, too, the Holy Spirit is at work.

Therefore, this task of evangelizing the world is a common task for all Churches. We must proclaim the Gospel to the world together, in our diversity. And I think that even the fraternal delegates from other Christian denominations have been very open in this Synod. From their side, there is a greater demand for participation, which means they also feel involved.--Vatican News

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