CV NEWS FEED // Two participants at the Synod on Synodality shared with the other delegates this week about how their dioceses prepared for the global gathering in Rome.
On the first day of the synod, Archbishop Grzegorz Ryś of the Archdiocese of Lodz, Poland, and Matthew Thomas, a representative for the Migrant Church in the Arabian Gulf, shared their experiences with their groups in the Circuli Minores, or small round tables.
Thomas shared that his bishop’s parishes prepared for the synod with significant coordination and communication. He explained that all the faithful received a pastoral letter, and a video message was sent to all parishes. Posters and synod prayer cards were placed in churches, and synod prayers were prayed during daily mass. Additionally, coordination teams created training programs used to instruct the faithful about the synod throughout the parishes.
“As a result, we could have 150,000 people directly participating in the synod, sharing their dreams, hopes, frustrations, and suggestions,” said Thomas, noting that the Migrant Church in the Arabian Gulf includes over 100 nationalities. “All the communities, various youth groups, ministries, and sodalities actively participated in the synod. A special mention must be made of the participation of the tiny Catholic community still practicing their faith in the war-torn country of Yemen.”
He talked of the special efforts made to reach the marginalized:
A major part of the migrants in the Gulf region are construction workers, living in labor camps, working 10-12 hours a day for six days a week. The outreach ministry of the Jesus Youth movement was entrusted with the task of reaching out to the people in the labor camps, the fisherfolk and the people who had left the Catholic faith. Hundreds of youth volunteers went around the camps to meet our people. As it was not allowed to gather the people together in the camps, the volunteers met them one by one. And the people were happy that the Church took the initiative to listen to them.
“The people are genuinely happy to have been part of this synodal process,” Thomas concluded, “and for the opportunity they got to open their hearts freely and fearlessly. I feel we are beginning to see a new face of the Church.”
In comparison with Thomas’ experience with 150,000 synod participants, Archbishop Ryś reported that only 7,000 of the 1.3 million Catholics in his diocese participated in discussion groups. He emphasized, however, that:
All those 7,000 people really met… We decided not to publish any questionnaires; we wanted people to meet each other. The groups became a place and experience of unity in a rich diversity; one could see, for instance, the believers of the extraordinary form of the Latin Rite and leaders of charismatic communities together.
He continued, “Those who promote synodality are described as people simply opposing the hierarchy and its leading role in the church… I want to quote a layperson who stood up at a synodal meeting and said, ‘We are not afraid of hierarchy; we are not afraid at all – we are afraid of it only if the clergy…do not listen to the the Word of God, do not confess, do not really belong to any concrete community.. [This is the only] case where we are really afraid of them and their power in the Church.’”
Ryś explained that in Lodz, synod meetings will continue for the next two years. Each parish has instituted a parish synod that discerns, asks questions, and addresses issues that are pertinent to the local community.
Though he says he does not know what the next two years will bring, Ryś is proud that he can say he finally has “a pastoral council in every single parish.”
The Synod on Synodality is a multi-year process that has encouraged bishops’ conferences and dioceses to hold meetings with Catholics about their concerns and hopes for the Church. Bishops have condensed their findings into what became the synod’s working document, the Instrumentum laboris, which is guiding discussions at the gathering currently taking place in Rome. The synod will end with another gathering in October 2024.