As the leadup to the Plenary Council continues we are going to hear the phrase ‘SYNODAL CHURCH’ more often, nad it will no doubt leave many wondering just what that phrase means.
In his Address to the Synod of Bishops (17 October 2015, in Rome) as they commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the Institution of the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis stated that the synod was “one of the most precious legacies of the second Vatican Council” and that it was something that he has sought to enhance since the beginning of his papacy.
The word ‘synod’ derives from the Greek syn meaning ‘together’ and hodos meaning ‘road’ or ‘way’ and signifies a ‘coming together’, ‘assembly’ or ‘meeting’. Synods are the earliest and traditional forms for collegial discussion, debate and decision making in the Church.
Pope Francis says that this “journeying together – laity, pastors the Bishop of Rome – is an easy concept to put into words, but not so easy to put into practice.”
Pope Francis continues: “a synodal church is a church which listens, which realises that listening ‘is more than simply hearing.’ (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 171.)
It is a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn. The faithful people, the college of bishops, the Bishop of Rome: all listening to each other, and all listening to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth.”
In bringing a synodal church into being in Australia, we first need to understand the Synod process which “begins by listening to the people of God, which ‘shares also in Christ’s prophetic office (SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 12.)…then continues by listening to the pastors’ and only then do “the bishops act as authentic guardians, interpreters and witnesses of the faith of the whole Church, which they need to discern carefully from the changing currents of public opinion.”