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Synod, October 25: Assembly approves message: listen to everyone

October 25, 2023

The Synod of Bishops has issued a “Letter to the People of God,” describing the work of the October meeting and asking all the faithful to “concretely participate” in the synod process that will continue through the next year and conclude with another plenary assembly in October 2024.

As this year’s assembly nears its conclusion, the participants discussed a draft of the message that was presented on October 23, and—after a few amendments—approved the text by an overwhelming 336—12 vote on October 25.

The Synod message placed heavy emphasis on the wide-ranging consultations that have characterized the Synod on Synodality and given rise to concerns that the process will bring about changes in—or confusion about—Church doctrine. Pope Francis encouraged discussion of criticisms levelled by Catholic dissidents and by non-Catholics. The Letter to the People of God confirmed that decision, saying: “To progress in its discernment, the Church absolutely needs to listen to everyone, starting with the poorest.”

Unlike previous meetings of the Synod of Bishops, the Synod on Synodality has adopted an extended three-year process. Whereas previous meetings culminated with a plenary assembly at which delegates voted to approve a set of propositions, Pope Francis has directed that the Synod on Synodality will meet again before issuing a final statement. So the Letter looks forward to a continuation of the process.

The Letter opens with thanks to those who supported the Synod deliberations with their prayers, and reports that it was a “beautiful and enriching experience” for the participants, a “blessed time in profound communion.” Looking forward, the message says:

And now? We hope that the months leading to the second session in October 2024 will allow everyone to concretely participate in the dynamism of missionary communion indicated by the word “synod.”

This month’s meeting was “an important phase of this process,” the Letter says. It was also an “unprecedented experience” because Pope Francis chose to invite lay men and women to be full participants in the discussions. Thus although the message came from the Synod of Bishops, about 20% of those who voted to approve it were not bishops.

The message placed great weight on the consultations that had preceded this October meeting, with preliminary sessions at the parish, diocesan, regional, national, and continental levels. The Letter even mentioned the opinions gathered from “homeless people near St. Peter’s Square.” Although the message did not address critics who have pointed out that less than 1% of the world’s Catholic population was involved in the process, it did call for still more consultation:

It means listening to those who have been denied the right to speak in society or who feel excluded, even by the Church; listening to people who are victims of racism in all its forms—in particular in some regions to indigenous peoples whose cultures have been scorned.

“This is not about ideology,” the Letter insisted, in an apparent bid to calm fears among tradition-minded Catholics, “but about an experience rooted in the apostolic tradition.”

“Our assembly took place in the context of a world in crisis, whose wounds and scandalous inequalities resonated painfully in our hearts,” the Letter reported. The participants said that they had prayed “for the victims of deadly violence, without forgetting all those who have been forced by misery and corruption to take the dangerous road of migration.” Echoing other themes that are frequently invoked by Pope Francis, the Letter called for unity in the faith, and entrusted to Christ “our common home where the cries of the earth and the poor are becoming increasingly urgent.”

The message concluded with a call for cooperative work in evangelization, quoting the words of Pope Francis: “It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium.”

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  • Posted by: feedback - Oct. 26, 2023 10:57 AM ET USA

    "Listen to everyone" has the same meaning as, "Listen to no one, other than yourself." Can. 212 §1. says "...The Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church." The key words are "sacred pastors" and "inasmuch as they represent Christ." This synod substituted ancient wisdom of the Church for bumper sticker kind of emotional mumbo-jumbo.

  • Posted by: nantista9155 - Oct. 25, 2023 5:36 PM ET USA

    Well, which is it? "An unprecedented experience" or "an experience rooted in the apostolic tradition"? And in what capacity does this assembly presume to address "the people of God"? A true synod is composed of bishops and addresses its findings/recommendations to the pope.