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

The synod report calls for a Church open to all and close to the wounded world

Città del Vaticano 28.10.2023 Salvatore Cernuzio Translated by: Jpic-jp.org

Women and the laity, diaconate, ministry and magisterium, peace and climate, the poor and migrants, ecumenism and identity, new languages and renewed structures, old and new missions (including digital), listening to everyone and deepening even the most 'controversial' topics: the synthesis report approved and published on Saturday 28 October 2023 by the XVI General Assembly of the Synod on Synodality casts a new look at the world, the Church and their demands.

The first session of the Synod at the Vatican began on 4 October in the Paul VI Hall, lasted four weeks and ended at the end of the same month. This forty-page document is the result of the work of the assembly, which "took place while old and new wars raged in the world, with the absurd drama of countless victims. The cry of the poor, of those forced to migrate, of those suffering violence or suffering the devastating consequences of climate change resounded among us, not only through the media, but also from the voices of many, personally involved with their families and peoples in these tragic events,” the synod fathers write.

The Church sought to respond to these challenges and many others throughout the month of October. All has been collected in the synthesis report, divided into three parts, which outlines the work to be done in the second session in 2024.

Listening to all, starting with the victims of abuse

As in the Letter to the People of God, the Synodal Assembly reaffirmed its "openness to listening to and accompanying everyone, including those who have suffered abuse and injury in the Church". As part of the journey "towards reconciliation and justice," it asks "to confront the structural conditions that allowed such abuses to occur and to make concrete gestures of penance.”

Synodality is a first step. A term that, according to the Synod participants themselves, is "unknown to many members of the People of God" and "causes confusion and concern in some" who fear a break with tradition, a weakening of the Church’s hierarchical nature, a loss of power or, on the contrary, immobility and a lack of courage for change.

Synodality is a term "indicating a way of being Church through communion, mission and participation. It is therefore a way of living the Church, of valuing differences and developing the active involvement of all, starting with priests and bishops,” because "a synodal Church cannot do without their voice."


Synodality goes hand in hand with mission, hence the need for "Christian communities to share fraternity with men and women of other religions, convictions and cultures, avoiding on the one hand the risk of self-referentiality and self-preservation, and on the other the risk of loss of identity." In this pastoral style, it becomes important to make "liturgical language more accessible to the faithful and more embodied in the diversity of cultures."

The report devotes ample space to the poor, who ask the Church for a love to be understood as "respect, welcome and recognition." The preferential option for the poor and those left behind is a theological rather than a cultural, sociological, political or philosophical category. The poor are migrants, indigenous peoples, victims of violence and abuse (especially women), racism and trafficking, dependent people and minorities, the abandoned elderly, and exploited workers. "The most vulnerable of the vulnerable, for whom constant advocacy is needed, are the children in the womb and their mothers," the new poor created by wars and terrorism, as well as by "corrupt political and economic systems."

The Church must engage both in “public denunciation of the injustices” perpetrated by individuals, governments and businesses, and in political action through associations, trade unions and popular movements. Without neglecting the consolidated action of the Church in the fields of education, health and social assistance.

The document therefore takes up the work of the Synod and reviews the main themes.


The emphasis here is on migrants and refugees, "many of whom bear the wounds of uprooting, war and violence," but who can be "a source of renewal and enrichment for the communities that welcome them and an opportunity to establish a direct link with geographically distant Churches." The Synod invites "to practise an open welcome, to accompany them in the construction of a new life project and to build a true intercultural communion between peoples.” One way is to respect their liturgical traditions and religious practices.

A word like mission, in contexts where "the proclamation of the Gospel has been associated with colonisation and even genocide," is loaded with a painful historical legacy and hinders communion. "Evangelising in these contexts requires acknowledging the mistakes made, and learning a new sensitivity of these issues." The Church must show attention to a "culture of dialogue and encounter, combating racism and xenophobia, particularly in pastoral training programmes," identifying "the systems that create or maintain racial injustice within the Church and combat them."

Eastern Churches

Migration led the Synod Assembly to turn its attention to recent conflicts that are ling a large numbers of faithful from the Catholic East into predominantly Latin territories. It is necessary "that the local Churches of the Latin rite, in the synodality name, help the emigrated Eastern faithful to preserve their identity." Ecumenism is, in fact, a spiritual renewal that requires "processes of repentance" and "healing of memory." Citing the Pope's expression the blood ecumenism, referring to Christians of different affiliations who have given their lives together for faith in Christ, the Synod relaunched the proposal for an ecumenical martyrology. Collaboration between Christians is a resource "to heal the culture of hatred, division and war that sets groups, peoples and nations against each other." 

Laity and families 

The synod document emphatically reaffirms that "lay women and men, consecrated women and men, and ordained ministers have equal dignity" and must be increasingly "present and active also in service within Christian communities." As teachers of the faith, theologians, formators, spiritual animators and catechists, administrative personnel, "their contribution is indispensable for the Church’s mission." Lay people are not there to make up for the lack of priests, or worse, to be ignored, underused or clericalized. Therefore, their different charisms must be highlighted, recognised and fully valued.

The Church is asked to make a strong commitment to accompanying and understanding women in all aspects of their lives, including pastoral and sacramental care. Women "demand justice in societies still deeply marked by sexual violence and economic inequalities, and by the tendency to treat them as objects”. Their accompaniment and promotion go hand in hand.

"Many women expressed deep gratitude for the work of priests and bishops, but they also spoke of a Church that wounds." "Clericalism, machismo and inappropriate use of authority continue to scar the face of the Church and damage communion." A profound "renewal of relationships" and "structural changes" are needed for dialogue between men and women to be without subordination, exclusion or competition.

Opinions on women's access to the diaconate were mixed: for some it is an unacceptable step, "in discontinuity with Tradition;" for others, instead, it would "restore a practice of the early Church" and they consider it "an appropriate and necessary response to the signs of the times" to renew energy in the Church. Some feared it would lead to dangerous anthropological confusion, aligning the Church with the spirit of the times. The Synod concluded with the request to continue "theological and pastoral research on women's access to the diaconate," using the results of the commissions set up by the Pope and the theological, historical and exegetical research already carried out to present the results at the next session of the Assembly.

Discrimination and abuse

The urgent need to "ensure that women can participate in decision-making processes and assume roles of responsibility in pastoral care and ministry" is reiterated in the document, which calls for canon law to be adapted accordingly. Discrimination in employment and unequal pay must be addressed, also in the Church, where consecrated women "too often are considered cheap labour."

On the other hand, there is a need to expand women's access to theological education and training programmes, encourage the use of inclusive language in liturgical texts and Church documents, and abandon the "authoritarian style that makes no room for fraternal dialogue."

Deacons "called to live their service to the people of God in an attitude of closeness to people, welcoming and listening to all" must avoid clericalism, which is only a distortion of the priesthood, and combat it through living contact with people and those in need. Seminars and training courses for candidates to the ministry must be linked with the communities’ daily life to avoid formalisms and ideologies that lead to authoritarian attitudes.

In this context, the issue of celibacy has been evaluated in different ways. While appreciating its prophetic value and witness of conformity to Christ, some have questioned whether "the priestly ministry should necessarily be translated in the Latin Church into a disciplinary obligation," especially where the ecclesial and cultural context makes it more difficult.

The bishop’s figure and role has been the subject of much reflection. An example of synodality for the bishops would be to exercise co-responsibility, involving other diocesan and clergy actors in their service alleviating insofar their overload of administrative and juridical commitments that often hinder their mission. A bishop who does not find human and spiritual support is condemned to painful loneliness. Abuse by priests, for example, makes it difficult for many bishops to “reconcile their role of father and that of judge.” It would be good “to entrust the judicial task to another body, to be specified canonically.

This set of issues calls for a synodal approach in the ministers’ formation withing the Church and to "deepen the issues of affective and sexual education, to accompany young people on their path of growth and to support the affective maturation of those called to celibacy and consecrated chastity" in dialogue with the human sciences for a better understanding of controversial issues, even within the Church.

These issues raise questions concerning "gender identity and sexual orientation, the end of life, difficult marital situations and ethical issues related to artificial intelligence." We must give ourselves the necessary time and energy to reflect, without giving in to simplistic judgments that hurt people and the body of the Church. After all, the Magisterium has already offered many indications that are waiting to be translated into pastoral initiatives.


Finally, the document renews the invitation to authentically listen to "people who feel marginalised or excluded from the Church because of their marital situation, identity and sexuality" and who "ask to be listened to and accompanied, and have their dignity be defended." Their desire to "come home", in the Church, and "to be listened to and respected, without fear of feeling judged", stems from the respect and dignity due to each person.

The experiences reported to the Assembly by the members of SECAM (Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar) encourage also the promotion of "theological and pastoral discernment on the issue of polygamy and the accompaniment of people in polygamous unions who are coming to faith."

The summary report concludes with a discussion on the digital environment. It encourages us to "reach out to today's culture in all spaces where people seek meaning and love, including their mobile phones and tablets," bearing in mind that the Internet "can also cause harm and injury, for example through bullying, misinformation, sexual exploitation and addiction." "There is an urgent need to reflect on how the Christian community can support families in ensuring that the online space is not only safe, but also spiritually life-giving."

See, La relazione di sintesi approvata e pubblicata sabato 28 ottobre 2023

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