Synodal Church: ‘Hotel for saints, hospital for sinners’

As the Church journeys toward the second session of the Synod on Synodality, Fr. Cletus Mwilla explores the hope of a paradigm shift toward a more inclusive and participatory Church.

Jun 29, 2024

Parish priests meet in Rome to discuss synodality

By Sr. Roselyne Wambani Wafula, FSP
Ahead of the second session of the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod set for October 2024, several hundred parish priests from around the globe gathered near Rome in early May.

Fr. Cletus Mwiila, a Zambian priest who took part in the event, spoke to Vatican News about how the Church can become a "hotel for saints and a hospital for sinners."

Following the Second Vatican Council, the Church pledged to embrace the Holy Spirit's guidance and embark on a renewed missionary path, he noted, pointing out that years later, challenges remain.

Pope Francis launched the Synod on Synodality, a multi-year global initiative aimed at fostering a more participatory Church in 2021.

Fr. Cletus, who has embraced the Church’s desire for Synodality, is dedicated to sharing his experiences and promoting this collaborative approach.

Embracing listening and inclusivity
Fr. Cletus described the current movement towards Synodality as a "wind of change" that is calling the Church to embrace listening, humility, and inclusivity. He underlined the need to revisit priestly and religious formation to ensure it fosters these values.

For Fr. Cletus, the media plays a crucial role in modern-day evangelization need to integrate media training into the formation of priests and religious personnel to ensure they remain relevant in the contemporary world.  

He further emphasized that the Church can no longer afford to ignore the power of media in reaching a wider audience. “In today's digital age, media is no longer a luxury but a vital tool for spreading the Gospel,” asserted Fr. Cletus.

A ‘Hotel for Saints and a Hospital for Sinners’
Fr. Cletus also highlighted the need to challenge the practice of requiring a donation for Church services—such as sacraments or votive Masses—saying they can exclude people who are unable to afford them, thus obscuring the essence of compassion.

The Zambian priest envisions a welcoming Church that embraces all, especially those who have drifted away, regardless of their past, so that they can feel accepted and return to the faith.

“I would like to see St. Mary’s, the Church I’m in charge of, become a hotel for saints and a hospital for sinners,” said Fr. Cletus.

Walking together and leaving no one behind
The concept of a synodal Church signifies "walking together," said Fr. Cletus, emphasizing the importance of including everyone – those on the peripheries, the sick, the poor, the young, the elderly, and women.

“The goal of the Synod on synodality,” he added, “is to achieve a process called ‘ecclesial discernment,’ in which every voice will be heard and hence, it will inform the Church's decision-making.”

A shared responsibility
In conclusion, Fr. Cletus expressed his hope that the Synod might help realize Pope Francis’ vision for a synodal Church that serves as a "field hospital for the soul."

By embracing synodality, he said, the Church can move forward as a community united in its mission, so that no one is left behind.

“The winds in favour of synodality are blowing already,” he said. “It is time for us to rise and join the Church, working together, listening to one another and bandaging one another.”--Vatican News

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