I am sure you have heard much in the news about the Synod of Bishops that has been held in Rome. This is the 16th Synod of Bishops which happen every few years. The first one was held in 1967. These Synods are a gathering of Bishops and experts on a particular topic in order to listen, to learn, and to finally write a document summarizing the discussions and insights. The final document is written by the Pope and is called a “Post Synodal Exhortation.”
While I studied in Rome, we had the Synod on the Word of God, a few years ago the Synod on the Family. These solicit input from Bishops and Catholics from around the world to better understand lived realities by the faithful on a particular topic. A Synod does not have the authority to change Church teaching—in practice or doctrine. Synods in general are a new phenomenon in the Church, which has been used to gatherings of Bishops in Ecumenical Councils where doctrinal issues are addressed. The current Synod on Synodality was called by Pope Francis mostly to listen to the faithful. What are our concerns when it comes to living out our faith? How does the Church respond to the modern world and present-day challenges? Why do so many feel marginalized by the Church? Local listening sessions were held two years ago, 22 sessions just in our diocese. This happened for all 1.2 billion Catholics in the world. The fruit of these discussions is now being evaluated and discussed in Rome.
Those prophets of doom from within the Church who believe the Synod will lead to major doctrinal change are wrong. Likewise, those who rejoice that the Church will now change teachings it has held for centuries are also wrong. The Synod will give us a reflection of the present state of the Church—it is an exercise of listening even to those we disagree with.
This Synod also explores the role of this new structure within the Church, what exactly is its purpose? How does the Church listen before acting? Those from within the Church who disparage the Holy Father do not understand him, and do not profess the Catholic Faith in its fullness. To break away from union with the Pope is to cease to be Catholic. Historically, those who wish to be more Catholic than the Pope end up either being sheep without a shepherd, or sheep with the wrong shepherd. We pray for Pope Francis, and that this Synod will give us a better understanding of the state of the Church and the world, and how the Church can better provide what it has to offer the world — Jesus Christ.
I published this in my parish bulletin after receiving many questions about the Synod occurring in Rome.