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Extracts from the Vademecum (handbook for the synod process)  Extracts from the Vademecum

Introduction

In creating the opportunity for listening and dialogue on the local level through this Synod, Pope Francis is calling the Church to rediscover its deeply synodal nature. This rediscovery of the synodal roots of the Church will involve a process of humbly learning together how God is calling us to be as the Church in the third millennium.

Authentic discernment is made possible where there is time for deep reflection and a spirit of mutual trust, common faith, and a shared purpose.

…this journey together not only unites us more deeply with one another as the People of God, it also sends us out to pursue our mission as a prophetic witness that embraces the entire family of humanity, together with our fellow Christian denominations and other faith traditions.

 

By convening this Synod, Pope Francis invites the entire Church to reflect on a theme that is decisive for its life and mission: “It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium.”

…the diverse members of the Church will be able to learn from one another’s experiences and perspectives, guided by the Holy Spirit (PD, 1)

…the life and mission of the Church, expressing her nature as the People of God journeying together and gathering in assembly…

In parishes, small Christian communities, lay movements, religious communities, and other forms of communion, women and men, young people and the elderly, we are all invited to listen to one another in order to hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit,

The objective of this Synodal Process is not to provide a temporary or one-time experience of synodality, but rather to provide an opportunity for the entire People of God to discern together how to move forward on the path towards being a more synodal Church in the long-term.

the Church increasingly realizes that synodality is the path for the entire People of God. Hence the Synodal Process is no longer only an assembly of bishops but a journey for all the faithful,

The faithful have received the Holy Spirit in baptism and confirmation and are endowed with diverse gifts and charisms for the renewal and building up of the Church, as members of the Body of Christ. Thus the teaching authority of the Pope and the bishops is in dialogue with the sensus fidelium, the living voice of the People of God (cf. Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church, 74).

We do so by listening together to the Word of God in Scripture and the living Tradition of the Church, and then by listening to one another, and especially to those at the margins, discerning the signs of the times.

the purpose of this Synod is not to produce more documents. Rather, it is intended to inspire people to dream about the Church we are called to be,

“every one of the baptised should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need. This change calls for a personal and communal conversion that makes us see things as the Lord does.”

Participation: A call for the involvement of all who belong to the People of God – laity, consecrated and ordained – to engage in the exercise of deep and respectful listening to one another.

Genuine efforts must be made to ensure the inclusion of those at the margins or who feel excluded.

It is intended to enable the Church to better witness to the Gospel, especially with those who live on the spiritual, social, economic, political, geographical, and existential peripheries of our world.

Equally valuable will be the contribution of other ecclesial entities to which the Preparatory Document [and this Vademecum] will be sent, as well as that of those who wish to send their own contribution directly.

Religious communities, lay movements, associations of the faithful, and other ecclesial groups are encouraged to participate in the Synodal Process in the context of the local Churches. However, it is also possible for them, and for any group or individual that does not have an opportunity to do so at the local level, to contribute directly to the General Secretariat as stated. 

The unfolding of the Synodal Process at a local level must also involve: 

 

Principles of a Synodal Process

…the objective of this diocesan phase is to consult the People of God so that the Synodal Process is carried out through listening to all the baptized.

 

…in order to participate fully in the act of discerning, it is important for the baptised to hear the voices of other people in their local context, including people who have left the practice of the faith, people of other faith traditions, people of no religious belief, etc.

 

Humility in listening must correspond to courage in speaking … Synodal dialogue depends on courage both in speaking and in listening. It is not about engaging in a debate to convince others … We must be willing to change our opinions based on what we have heard from others.

 

Overcome the scourge of clericalism: The Church is the Body of Christ filled with different charisms in which each member has a unique role to play. We are all interdependent on one another and we all share an equal dignity amidst the holy People of God.

 

Synodality is not a corporate strategic exercise. Rather it is a spiritual process that is led by the Holy Spirit.

 

A Synodal Process is a time to dialogue with people from the worlds of economics and science, politics and culture, arts and sport, the media and social initiatives. It will be a time to reflect on ecology and peace, life issues and migration.

Much of the richness of this listening phase will come from discussions among parishes, lay movements, schools and universities, religious congregations, neighbourhood Christian communities, social action, ecumenical and inter-religious movements, and other groups.

 

Travelling the Synodal Path in Dioceses

The Gospel witnesses to Jesus’ constant approach of reaching out to people who are excluded, marginalized, and forgotten.

 

…the diocesan phase should begin by finding the most effective ways of achieving the widest participation possible.

 

…the Bishop can discern the most fruitful processes for listening to the People of God in his diocese…

 

Care should be taken to ensure that the presence of the Bishop and clergy does not have the inadvertent effect of stifling authentic and unfettered input by the faithful, especially in circumstances where there has been scandal, or simply because of cultural deference.

 

Each diocese should aim for the widest participation possible, involving a variety of platforms. These could include parish-level meetings, interparish gatherings, school-based groups, local associations, online platforms, special language groupings, and suitable means of reaching those who have been distant from the Church. 

 

Resources for organizing the Synodal Process

This Synod poses the following fundamental question: A synodal Church, in announcing the Gospel, “journeys together.” How is this “journeying together” happening today in your local Church? What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our “journeying together”? (PD, 26)

In responding to this question, we are invited to: 

- Recall our experiences: What experiences of our local Church does this question call to mind? 

- Re-read these experiences in greater depth: What joys did they bring? What difficulties and obstacles have they encountered? What wounds did they reveal? What insights have they elicited?

 

Where in these experiences does the voice of the Holy Spirit resound? What is the Spirit asking of us?

What groups or individuals are left on the margins?

How are the laity listened to, especially women and young people? What facilitates or inhibits our listening? How well do we listen to those on the peripheries? How is the contribution of consecrated men and women integrated?

 

How do prayer and liturgical celebrations actually inspire and guide our common life and mission in our community?

 

…how is every baptised person called to participate in the mission of the Church? What hinders the baptised from being active in mission? What areas of mission are we neglecting?

 

To what extent do diverse peoples in our community come together for dialogue? What are the places and means of dialogue within our local Church?

How does the Church dialogue with and learn from other sectors of society: the spheres of politics, economics, culture, civil society, and people who live in poverty?

 

How does our Church community identify the goals to be pursued, the way to reach them, and the steps to be taken? How is authority or governance exercised within our local Church?

 

How are lay ministries and the responsibility of lay people promoted?

 

How do we promote participation in decision-making within hierarchical structures?

 

What formation is offered to foster discernment and the exercise of authority in a synodal way?

 

The [diocesan] synthesis should be faithful to the people’s voices and to whatever emerged from their discernment and dialogue, rather than a series of generalized or doctrinally correct statements.