Synthesis report complete, but bishop finds synodal path is just beginning

While the report summarising tens of thousands of US listening sessions in the first phase of the Catholic Church’s synodal process has been submitted to the Vatican, the experience of synodality is just beginning.

Sep 30, 2022

(photo/Synod.va)


WASHINGTON:
While the report summarising tens of thousands of US listening sessions in the first phase of the Catholic Church’s synodal process has been submitted to the Vatican, the experience of synodality is just beginning.

“The local work doesn’t become obsolete because we published a national synthesis,” said Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, who is overseeing the effort for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

“There are many things that can be addressed immediately. … There are some issues raised that can be resolved at the local level. We don’t have to wait for the outcome of the Synod of Bishops,” said Flores, who chairs the USCCB Committee on Doctrine.

“There are some issues raised that can be resolved at the local level. They cannot be resolved at the national level. The great gift of the synodal style, which the Holy Father keeps insisting, is a manner of expressing the style of Jesus, which is always listening and always attentive and always responsive,” he explained.

The bishop compared the Pope’s invitation to synodality to the act of planting a seed.

“If we can plant the seed once again of being the Church that understands its own identity as the body that has many voices but has cohesion that is given by the Holy Spirit, then we’re better fit to fulfil our mission in the world, which is a witness that we don’t always have to be fighting each other and that we can, at the very least, assist each other in what is a very difficult life,” he said.

The synthesis report was developed in much the same manner as the reports prepared by parishes and dioceses: through prayer, listening and inspiration from the Holy Spirit. The team of writers convened by the USSCB gathered in August to discern what common themes emerged in the 290 documents received from throughout the country, shared two of the coordinators of the effort at the USCCB.

Flores said that early scepticism about the synodal process among some participants “thinking this is another programme that we’re going to do and we’re going to put it on the shelf” gave way to an openness and “peace with it.”
He credited the willingness of people to listen and to welcome inspiration from the Holy Spirit for the change of mind.

The next step in preparation for the Synod of Bishops is the continental phase. The North American report will be written by Canadian and US Church representatives once the instrumentum laboris, or working document, to guide continental or regional ecclesial assemblies that will take place by March.

Flores expects that the synthesis reports generated at the continental level will greatly vary in their message to the Church as a whole. He said he understands the invitation to synodality from the Pope has been “ultimately about conversion.”

“Conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit in that you’ve got to understand the suffering of the other person and not just a number that you see on a newscast,” he said.

“We can learn a lot once the national syntheses and the international ones come out, what the priorities are from some of our poorer parts of the world,” he said. “I myself think that a Church that is more affluent needs to pay particular attention to how the Church that is poor lives its faith and how it hopes because that is something that we desperately need to hear.” --Crux

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