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Synods, Synodality and Listening to the Holy Spirit

Last year, nearly 1,000 church leaders — lay and religious — from Latin America and the Caribbean met in Mexico City. Voices from this gathering called for a more inclusive church, one that pays attention to people’s realities, opens increased roles for women and excluded groups, combats clericalism and continues taking the Gospel to the peripheries of society.

The Pope regularly gathers bishops together to discuss a particular theme, challenge or issue. These gatherings are called “Synods.” For example, a Synod on Youth was held in October 2018. The final document, Christus Vivit (Christ is living), was promulgated on 25 March 2019.

Pope Francis  is very keen on expanding the idea of having people meet to listen and discern the voice of the Holy Spirit. He feels synods have been too exclusive in the past. For example, the Church reached out to millions of young people worldwide for their input for the Synod on Youth. The Holy Father has called this more inclusive process of meeting and listening “Synodality.” Spoiler alert! You’re going to be hearing a lot about this in the months ahead. It’s also going to directly affect you – in a good way.

A look at the Mexico City gathering give an indication of Pope Francis’ thoughts on this process. From “Catholic Philly” .

“Bishops from the region had met in historic meetings five previous times, the Nov. 21-28 Ecclesial Assembly of Latin America and the Caribbean was the first such meeting to include laity. The assembly drew approximately 100 in-person participants to Mexico City, but also included participation by another 900 people who tuned in virtually.

“It was a space for participation, a lot of diversity and a lot of listening … which is a novelty,” said Consolata Father Venanzio Mwangi Munyiri, coordinator of the Afro-Colombian ministry of the Archdiocese of Cali, Colombia. “Listening to the cries of each person, of the experiences, enriches the vision of the church on the continent and naturally also challenges the way we evangelize.”

That synodality, or listening, must occur within the church itself, participants said, along with a need to address the role of women and impact of clericalism.

“There was talk of the need for a transformation in the way of living out our relationships within the church, moving from clerical relationships to more synodal relationships,” said Sister Liliana Franco, a member of the Sisters of the Company of Mary and president of the Latin American Confederation of Religious.

I’ll be talking and writing more about this in the weeks ahead. Another spoiler alert … you’re going to have homework to do, but I think you’ll like it, find it useful, and exciting.  

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