It should come as no surprise, though. Pope Francis and the world’s bishops are, in a rare move, asking the world’s Catholics — those who are in the mainstream and those on the periphery — to share their perspectives with church leaders.
In the weeks leading up to Oct. 10, when Pope Francis formally opened the preparatory phase of the synod, The Record received phone calls, social media messages and casual inquiries in passing.
What is the Archdiocese of Louisville planning for the synod?
The archdiocese’s plans, as reported in The Record last week, are still in development, but leaders say they aim to hear from the lay faithful, religious and clergy, as well as those who feel excluded or on the margins of the church.
Pope Francis wants dioceses to listen to the People of God, asking the people to consider how they experience the church in synodality — in community with a shared mission — and how the church might grow in that respect.
He writes in the synod’s preparatory document, “By journeying together and reflecting together on the journey that has been made (since Vatican II), the Church will be able to learn through Her experience which processes can help Her to live communion, to achieve participation, to open Herself to mission.”
The preparatory document — a 44-page explanation of the process — is meant to be used as a tool, it says, “in the hope of helping to set in motion the ideas, energy, and creativity of all those who will take part in the journey to make it easier to share the fruits of their efforts.”
Its first chapter outlines the main objectives “that manifest synodality.” These objectives may provide a good starting point for participants. The objectives are:
- Recalling how the Spirit has guided the Church’s journey through history and, today, calls us to be, together, witnesses of God’s love;
- Living a participative and inclusive ecclesial process that offers everyone — especially those who for various reasons find themselves on the margins — the opportunity to express themselves and to be heard in order to contribute to the edification of the People of God;
- Recognizing and appreciating the wealth and the variety of the gifts and charisms that the Spirit liberally bestows for the good of the community and the benefit of the entire human family;
- Exploring participatory ways of exercising responsibility in the proclamation of the Gospel and in the effort to build a more beautiful and habitable world;
- Examining how responsibility and power are lived in the Church as well as the structures by which they are managed, bringing to light and trying to convert prejudices and distorted practices that are not rooted in the Gospel;
- Accrediting the Christian community as a credible subject and reliable partner in paths of social dialogue, healing, reconciliation, inclusion and participation, the reconstruction of democracy, the promotion of fraternity and social friendship;
- Regenerating relationships among members of Christian communities as well as between communities and other social groups, e.g., communities of believers of other denominations and religions, civil society organizations, popular movements, etc.;
- Fostering the appreciation and appropriation of the fruits of recent synodal experiences on the universal, regional, national, and local levels.
Each of these eight objectives demand serious discernment and open hearts. Some ask us to examine ourselves while others cast a critical eye on the church and her structures.
May we invite the Holy Spirit’s help and inspiration into our discernment, so that its fruits reflect what’s best for the church and not simply what we desire.
Let’s pray that early interest in the synod grows into worldwide participation and leads us to fulfill our potential as the church in the third millennium.
Learn more about the synod at synod.va/en.html.