No alternative to synodality as the way forward for the Church

The opening of the preparatory phase of the Synod of Bishops' 2023 assembly on synodality in the Church officially begins in less than a month from now.

Oct 02, 2021

Pope Francis with the Franciscan Friars on October 16, 2018. (LCI Photo/M. Migliorato, CPP)

By Céline Hoyeau
The opening of the preparatory phase of the Synod of Bishops' 2023 assembly on synodality in the Church officially begins in less than a month from now.

Pope Francis has directed dioceses around the world to start a series of consultations with the Catholic faithful beginning on October 17 and extending until next April.

But synodality -- a somewhat cryptic term associated only with Christianity -- is not always well understood by most people, including Catholics.

The pope sought to enlighten those in his own Diocese of Rome last weekend during a large gathering at the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican where he gave a lengthy address outlining the two-year synodal process.

Synodality is not a fad
Francis said synodality fundamentally expresses "the nature of the Church, its shape, its style and its mission".

"We speak of a synodal Church, but we must not consider it as just one title among many, a way of thinking about it that offers alternatives," he said.

The 84-year-old pope explained that this is a view based "not on personal thoughts" but on the Acts of the Apostles, which he called the "greatest 'manual' of ecclesiology".

Acts, which is part of the New Testament, recounts the early history of the Church.

Synodality involves everyone
Francis noted that synodality comes from the Greek word synodos, which means "to journey together".

One the one hand, this means it involves everyone.

“Everyone is a protagonist,” the Pope repeated, insisting several times that “no one can be considered a mere extra”.

On the other hand, he said, this “common journey” implies that “immobility cannot be a good condition for the Church”.

He said the Holy Spirit “is the director of this story” and our “movement is the result of docility” to the Spirit.

The Pope pointed to the story of Peter and Paul, as recounted in Acts.

The two apostles embody different visions of the Church, he noted, but Acts shows that they were both moved by “an impulse that put them in crisis”.

In other words, it forced them to “dare to question, to change their minds, to make mistakes and learn from them and, above all, to hope in spite of difficulties”.

This is better than being stuck in the past, the Pope said, because “if the water does not flow and is stagnant, it is the first to putrefy”.

“A polluted Church begins to rot,” Francis warned.

“It may be necessary to leave, to change direction, and to overcome beliefs that hold us back and prevent us from moving and walking together,” he said.

What must prevail is what is illustrated by the story of Peter meeting the centurion Cornelius, a “pagan”.

“Christianity must always be human, humanising, reconciling differences and distances, transforming them into familiarity and closeness,” the Pope said.

Synodality is opposed to clericalism
“One of the evils of the Church, even a perversion, is this clericalism that detaches the priest and the bishop from the people,” Francis said.

He lamented that there is still “much resistance to overcoming the image of a Church rigidly distinguished between leaders and subordinates, between those who teach and those who must learn, forgetting that God loves to reverse the positions”.

And he warned that “in the name of God, we cannot discriminate”, thinking that “we are the pure, we are the chosen, we belong to this movement that knows everything....”

“No. We are the Church, all together,” the Pope reiterated.

Synodality is not an inquiry
He said synodality is a “dynamism of mutual listening”, where everyone must listen to each other at all levels.

“Bishops must listen to each other, priests must listen to each other, religious must listen to each other, lay people must listen to each other,” he continued.

But he cautioned that synodality “is not about collecting opinions”.

Rather, he said, it is about listening, first of all, to the Holy Spirit and trying “to grasp (the Spirit’s) presence”.

The Church is not a parliament
In light of this, it would be an error to think of the Church as akin to a parliament, Francis said.

He also warned against the temptation of “going it alone”, of trying to fill the void left by Christ after he ascended to heaven with our own theological options, when it is actually a matter of moving forward with the Holy Spirit.

“We are not studying this or that case, no. We are on a journey of listening to each other and to the Holy Spirit, of discussing with each other, and also of discussing with the Holy Spirit, which is a way of praying,” the Jesuit Pope insisted.

He said the way a parliament works, with the logic of majority rule, should not prevail in a synodal Church. --LCI (https://

Total Comments:2

Eddy W.
The German synod proposed to investigate whether priests are still needed in the Catholic Church. More than half voted yes. Think about it. No priest, no bishop, no pope. Sounds more and more protestant by the day.
Eddy W.
Our Church has been polluted by modernism, the culmination of all herecies. Pope St. Pius X drove them underground for a while but said they would come back.