Cardinal William Goh shares his thoughts on the synod

In an exclusive interview with EWTN News recently, Cardinal William Goh, the archbishop of Singapore, spoke on several topics, including the Synod on Synodality. The cardinal suggests the need for “another level” to the Synod on Synodality beyond its second and final assembly this October — namely a bishopsonly synod. The existing synod, which includes bishops, clergy and laypeople, “cannot really be considered a theological dogmatic synod,” he says, because not all of the delegates are theologically trained. We feature an extract of the interview here.

May 10, 2024

The spiritual shepherd of the Church in Singapore is Cardinal William Goh, archbishop since early 2013 and a cardinal since 2022. (photo: Sean Boyce / EWTN News )

What I liked about that synod was the retreat and the small-group sharing — in that group sharing, we truly were able to journey with each other, listen to each other, without judgment, and accompany each other, especially when we were among bishops. It’s much easier because we understand our own struggles and difficulties and challenges and also aspirations. That’s the good thing about the synod. And I think that is the way, not just for the universal Church, but also for the particular Church, local Church, that we need to listen to, journey with each other. I think that is very helpful, so that there will be a greater understanding and communion between the clergy and the laity, so that we walk as one, so that we will truly be coming together as one Church.

But the synod, I think that, for me, is really great. That is the most important thing. I benefitted from the synod. But when you have a plenary assembly where everybody is giving intervention [talks], that becomes a little bit more sensitive, because we are not able to be as open or direct as we wish to be … for fear that we might offend people who have other views.

So, it needs a lot of courage to state what you need to say and be open about it. But I suppose there is also a subtle pressure that what we say, if it is not appreciated by some quarters, may not go very well. So, I think that is also a subtle pressure. And I think, most of all … at the end of the day, although it has been underscored that the synod is not a parliamentary session, which it is not, but there is voting at the end. So, the voting, in the mind of people, although it is not a parliamentary session, but I think most people would take the votes as a kind of consensus making. Of course, at the end of the day, it’s the Holy Father who takes the decision; and that’s what he has done.

So, I think, in the area of consultation, it is helpful for the Church, and I think it’s very important also for the prelates to listen also to the laity. But as has often been said, or some bishops are suggesting, perhaps there should be another level where it is really a Synod of Bishops, after hearing the laypeople, after journeying with them; there should be that level of bishop synods, where the bishops can come together, because that synod [with laity] cannot really be considered a theological dogmatic synod, because not all are theologically trained.

All those who vote are not theologically trained. So, you might need to have another level, where it is just basically bishops, with the Holy Father, to determine certain doctrinal issues. In terms of pastoral outreach, I think for that kind of synod, it would be helpful; but when it comes to doctrines, I think it’s a bit different. Register

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