Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation
Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation
Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation
Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation
Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation

Synodality and democracy

Butembo 20.12.2021 Jpic-jp.org

Pope Francis launched a two-year “synod on synodality,” on October 10, 2021 while celebrating a Eucharist in St. Peter’s Square as the first act of the Synod. On October 17, 2021 in all dioceses across the world, bishops celebrated also the opening of the synodal process in their respective dioceses. What is the interest of this event of the Catholic Church for the social commitment of Justice and Peace?

Pope Francis’ call for a synod on synodality to all the members of the Catholic Church across the world is meant to be a process of listening to the Holy Spirit and to each other in order to discern the path we must walk together.

The word “synod”, actually, traces its roots to the first centuries of the Church. Coming from Greek words meaning the “same road,” synod and synodality express of the fundamental root of the Church. The Church is a people who are gathered from every corner of the earth to be “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his (God) own”, so that it may announce the praises of God who calls out of darkness into his wonderful light every person and every people.

While the Synod of Bishops has taken place up until now as a gathering of bishops with and under the authority of the Pope, the Church increasingly realizes that synodality is the path for the entire People of God. That means making pastoral decisions “that reflect the will of God as closely as possible, grounding them in the living voice of the People of God.”

While this perspective is a call to the Catholic Church to become more “democratic”, it is a reminder to all nations that the true democracy is the “government of the people, by the people, for the people” inthe words of Abraham Lincoln. 

The Catholic Church’s synod will take place in three stages. First, every diocese in the world isexpected to promote a special time of prayer, listening, dialogue and recommendations. Second, this dialogue will continue at national and continental assemblies of Catholics. Finally, in October 2023, bishops and others will gather in Rome with the Pope to chart the future of the Catholic Church.

Who can participate in this synod? All baptized people are invited. Pope Francis never tires of reminding that the participation of all must be an undeniable commitment of the whole Church. Every parish has to have the opportunity to participate in this important moment in the history of the Church. However, they will also be concerned with voices from the “periphery,” voices that are easily and often overlooked in Catholic discussions. The most important thing, therefore, is not answering a questionnaire or attending a meeting, but living synodality, that is, experiencing Church as walking together with others. Each Christian has received a call and gifts for the good of all the Church. Synod is a time in which all have a commitment to answer two fundamental questions: How are we living this “walking together” and what steps does the God invite us to take in order to grow as a people “walking together”.

While the Synod will be a special time for the Catholic Church, since "in a Catholic Church strongly marked by centralization, in the name of unity", the Synod "intends to open up, gradually, to a legitimate diversity in communion. One way for the Church to try to bridge the growing gap between its ways of exercising authority and the aspirations of many of its faithful, sons and daughters of democratic modernity. Without renouncing, however, the Pope recalls, his hierarchical structure. Thin challenge!"

The novelty of this synod is the “intermediate” phase at the level of each continent. This innovation clearly reveals the horizon towards which Pope Francis wants to lead the Church. A future where the Episcopal Conferences at the level of the local Churches (that is to say in each country) and the Episcopates of continents marked by different economic, social, political and cultural realities, could make pastoral choices that would be their own, without tangling the same common doctrine to all.

It is not difficult in all this to perceive for the Catholic Church that “Synodality faces the challenge of democratic aspiration (La synodalité au défi de l’aspirationdémocratique), but in perspective thatthe synodalexperience of the Catholic Church would become "a challenge for democratic aspiration” of all the contemporary societies sick of nationalism and of so-called sovereignist parties.

For this reason, during this year, our Newsletter will follow the process of the Catholic Church’s Synod in the perspective of Justice and Peace for the good of our societies.


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The comments from our readers (1)

Margaret Handerson 18.03.2022 It could be interesting to know in what I thought of the article on Synodality. What seems to happen in African churches is such a contrast to the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, which has its strong, points but also weaknesses. From the very start, about 1545, there was a huge emphasis on education here. The leaders of the Church insisted that the whole population go to school so that everyone could read the bible and interpret for themselves what they believed in. (The fact that almost the entire population was literate was unique in the world at that time and allowed Scotland to develop very early.) The church structure was, and still is, very democratic. No hierarchical structure. Every year one minister is chosen to be the Moderator (the Chair of the annual meeting of the whole church) for 12 months but, at the end of the year, he has to go back to being an ordinary minister again. Within individual congregations, the members of the church have MORE say than the minister about many issues. I found this very difficult when I was trying to persuade churches to let me use their halls for asylum seekers’ emergency shelters. Time and time again the minister was willing but it only took a few vociferous people in the congregation feeling hostile to asylum seekers to make such projects impossible. What I regretted was that the minister could not persuade the congregation that helping the project was a Christian act. I suppose a model between the African and the Scottish one is an ideal structure.