In order to continue the aggiornamento of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Francis has decided to launch a synodal journey on the theme: “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission.” On September 7, 2021, the Holy See released the synod's preparatory document, as well as a vademecum, prior to this synod on synodality.
These instruments aim to help dioceses around the world to carry out the first phase of listening to and consulting with the People of God, which will take place from October 2021 to April 2022—the continental phase. The universal phase will follow. The synod will conclude in October 2023.
This work must lead to a “synodal conversion” of the whole Church. One of the challenges, the document says, will be to put an end to the “culture steeped in clericalism” that may have led to dramatic abuses.
To carry out this conversion, the Vatican calls on everyone to listen to the Holy Spirit and to remain open to “surprises,” in order to rediscover the synodal spirit which animated the Christians of the first centuries.
The first phase of this journey takes place in the dioceses for six months. It emphasizes inclusiveness and the participation of all, “especially those who for various reasons find themselves marginalized.”
Those who should be especially listened to are the poor, young people who want to act within the Church, but also women to respond to the demand for greater appreciation.
The preparatory document proposes some 50 questions to shed light on this “walking together,” centered around these two questions: how is the “walking together” carried out today in each diocese? What means does the Spirit invite us to take to make it happen?
The Holy See foresees that the reflections will allow the rereading of lived experiences, to identify visible wounds and to put forward intuitions.
The document specifies that the discussions to come should not be limited to a series of meetings or a data collection exercise, but should be seen as a spiritual process turned towards discernment. The fruits of prayer and reflection will have to be condensed into a synthesis of no more than ten pages.
More than 4000 dioceses are invited to lead this reflection. The work of this diocesan phase will be the main support for the continental and universal phases. The preparatory document concludes:
“The purpose of this Synod is not to produce more documents. Rather, it is intended to inspire people to dream about the Church we are called to be, to make people’s hopes flourish, to stimulate trust, to bind up wounds, to weave new and deeper relationships, to learn from one another, to build bridges, to enlighten minds, warm hearts, and restore strength to our hands for our common mission.”