CV NEWS FEED // After the final session of the Synod on Synodality on Saturday, participants released a document in which they proposed ways for the Church to become more synodal.
The 42-page document, known as the “synthesis report” and initially released in Italian, called itself “a tool at the service of ongoing discernment.” It summed up topics addressed at the month-long meeting, and proposed ways for the Church to adopt synodality in the next 11 months before the final Synodal Assembly, scheduled for October 2024.
Participants voted on each paragraph, which required a two-thirds vote for approval. They admitted a lack of consensus around the most controversial issues, but praised the new methodology used during the synod, known as “conversation in the spirit,” as a model to replicate in the Church around the world.
After the introduction, the document contained three sections: “The face of the Synodal Church,” “All disciples, all missionaries” and “Weave connections, build community,” as well as a conclusion titled “To continue the road.”
The introduction noted that “the Synthesis Report does not take up or reiterate all the contents of the Instrumentum laboris but relaunches those considered priority. It is in no way a final document, but an instrument at the service of discernment which will still have to continue.”
In the first section, the document said that “’synodality’ is a term unknown to many members of the People of God, which arouses confusion and concern in some. Among the fears, there is that the teaching of the Church will be changed, distancing us from the apostolic faith of our fathers and betraying the expectations of those who even today hunger and thirst for God. However, we are convinced that synodality is an expression of the dynamism of the living Tradition.”
It continued: “…the richness and depth of the lived experience lead to indicating as a priority the expansion of the number of people involved in the synodal paths, overcoming the obstacles to participation that have emerged so far, as well as the sense of distrust and fears that some have.”
Also in the first section, the delegates listed issues the Church must address, such as material and spiritual poverty, violence, war, the environment, education, health, migration, interreligious dialogue and social services.
“The Church is also affected by polarization and mistrust in crucial areas, such as liturgical life and moral, social and theological reflection,” the document said. “We must recognize the causes through dialogue and undertake courageous processes of revitalization of communion and reconciliation to overcome them.”
“In our local Churches, we sometimes experience tensions between different ways of understanding evangelization, which focus on the testimony of life, on the commitment to human promotion, on dialogue with faiths and cultures and on the explicit announcement of the Gospel.”
In the second section, synod delegates acknowledged that “the family is the backbone of every Christian community. Parents, grandparents and all those who live and share their faith in the family are the first missionaries. The family, as a community of life and love, is a privileged place of education in Christian faith and practice, which requires particular accompaniment within communities.”
They also recognized that lay people “contribute in a vital way” to the life of the Church.
Addressing the role of women in the second section, the document said: “…we were created male and female, in the image and likeness of God. From the beginning, creation articulates unity and difference, giving women and men a shared nature, vocation and destiny and two distinct experiences of the human; and highlights the need to encourage a better understanding of the role of women in the Church, especially since women make up the majority of those who attend churches and are often the first missionaries of the faith in the family.”
Expanding on this, the document reported a lack of consensus on the discussion around the ordination of women to the diaconate. “Different positions have been expressed regarding women’s access to the diaconate ministry. Some consider that this step would be unacceptable as it is in discontinuity with Tradition. For others, however, granting women access to the diaconate would restore a practice of the Church of the origins.”
The document proposed “theological and pastoral research on women’s access to the diaconate…If possible, the results should be presented at the next Session of the Assembly.”
Regarding the possibility of married priests, the document acknowledged that “different evaluations have been expressed on the celibacy of priests. Everyone appreciates its prophecy-laden value and the testimony of conformity to Christ; some ask whether its theological convenience with the presbyteral ministry must necessarily translate into a disciplinary obligation in the Latin Church, especially where the ecclesial and cultural contexts make it more difficult. This is not a new theme, which requires further consideration.”
Synodal discussions about blessings for same-sex couples or a specific mention of issues related to “LGBT outreach” were not included in the document.
Among the proposals, the document requested the creation of “boards” that would supervise and evaluate bishops in the Catholic Church: “Structures and processes for regular verification of the Bishop’s work must be activated, in legally, to-be-defined ways, with reference to the style of his authority, the economic administration of the assets of the diocese, the functioning of the participation bodies and the protection against any type of abuse.”
Moreover, the document requested “an in-depth study of the way in which a renewed understanding of the episcopate within a synodal Church impacts the ministry of the Bishop of Rome and the role of the Roman Curia.”
In the third section, the document insisted on the need for keeping a connection between truth and love when the Gospel is lived and preached. It argued that “some issues, such as those relating to gender identity and sexual orientation, the end of life, difficult marital situations, ethical problems connected to artificial intelligence, are controversial not only in society, but also in the Church, because they pose new questions.”
To deal with significant differences in approaches to controversial issues going forward, synod delegates said: “We propose to promote initiatives that allow shared discernment on doctrinal, pastoral and ethical issues that are controversial, in the light of the Word of God, the teaching of the Church, theological reflection and, valorising the synod experience. This can be achieved through in-depth analysis between experts of different skills and backgrounds in an institutional context that protects the confidentiality of the debate and promotes frank discussion, giving space, when appropriate, also to the voice of the people directly affected by the controversies mentioned. This process must be started in view of the next Synodal Session.”
The synodal assembly was supposed to conclude with an action plan for the next 11 months separating the concluding meeting from the final month-long session scheduled for October 2024.
Instead, the document decided to propose: “‘How will this happen?’ Mary asked herself in Nazareth (Lk 1:34) after listening to the Word. There is only one answer: to remain in the shadow of the Spirit and allow herself to be enveloped by his power.”
“As we turn our gaze to the time that separates us from the Second Session, we thank the Lord for the journey undertaken thus far and for the graces with which he has blessed us,” the document concluded.