- The objective of the current Synod is to listen, as the entire People of God, to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church.
[JS. Rather than assuming that the Church already possesses in full what God has to say to her, she opens herself to receive the communication of the Holy Spirit – ongoing, unending, continuing, unfinished, ever-new and creative, surprising and probably disturbing. This means that, instead of a backward-looking emphasis on preserving and reiterating something she already owns – and is often tempted to think – she controls – the Church recognizes the need to be open and vulnerable to what God still has to say – and require of us – today: new learning and deeper conversion is required from all of us.]
- The whole Synodal Process aims at fostering a lived experience of discernment, participation, and co-responsibility, where a diversity of gifts is brought together for the Church’s mission in the world.
[JS. These central teachings from Vatican II have been very slow in being applied to church life and experience. Often they have remained idealistic principles rather than any serious, prolonged and penetrating attempt to put them into practice. Church leadership has not encouraged real co-responsibility or serious listening. Both of these (co-responsibility and serious listening) call for a very high level of maturity from disciples, a level of maturity that would be discomforting for many church leaders and also a level of maturity from which many lay people would shy away as asking too much of them. Too passive and too minimal a model of discipleship has been encouraged over the years, so much so that a major cultural shift within the Church will be necessary if the synodal way is to flourish.]
- It is intended to inspire people to dream about the Church we are called to be, to make people’s hopes flourish, to stimulate trust, to bind up wounds, to weave new and deeper relationships, to learn from one another, to build bridges, to enlighten minds, warm hearts, and restore strength to our hands for our common mission.
[JS. Although I have not seen it made explicit in the documentation about synodality, it seems to me that one possible major benefit of the synodal way is that it has the potential to engage constructively with the polarisation that unfortunately undermines harmony within the Church, the divisiveness and mutual recrimination that is too evident, for example, between traditionalists and progressives, between supporters of Pope Francis and those people who have constantly opposed him throughout his papacy. Nobody can ‘win’ these battles; we all lose out and, in the process, our witness to the faith is seriously impaired. The synodal way offers a path towards better mutual understanding – provided that people from all ends of the spectrum (in terms of their interpretation of Catholicism) participate. It must be acknowledged that some people will rule themselves out from such engagement.]
John Sullivan, 23/09/21