“A synodal Church is a Church which listens” – Pope Francis
Without much fanfare, the “synodal process” of the Catholic Church started in dioceses and parishes across the world on Sunday, October 17, with bishops and priests explaining to the faithful what it is all about.
The “process” is one big deal. It’s something “revolutionary.” It is “an expansion” of the established institution called the “Synod of Bishops.”
Instead of only the men of the cloth talking about the Church and its direction, the faithful are supposed to be consulted, to be heard. Parishioners, monks, nuns, and members of the academe, even those who are not attending Sunday Masses are supposed to be heard.
The Catholic faithful are supposed to talk and demand and commit the Church, the institutional Church, to take a stand on human rights, the environment, the abuses members of the clergy have committed, including sex abuses in many parts of the world.
The synodal process is a chance for every Juan and Maria to voice out their concerns, and also their commitment to the Church where they belong. The archbishop of Vienna said “synodality” simply means “to walk together.”
But to walk together, everyone must be settled. Aside from the homilies on Sunday, what are the next steps. How are the faithful heard? What are the processes in place. What is the role of Basic Ecclesial Communities? Will there be a forum provided for everyone?
The country’s Catholic bishops said the process, which will culminate two years from now in a meeting in Rome, aims to discern the “signs of our times” for the Church to respond to the calls of the present-day world.
What are the “signs of the times” that the Church leaders talk about?
These include the coronavirus pandemic, the scandals not only in the Church but in society, in the government, in our daily lives, the “secularism and materialism,” and the “double-edged” power of the digital world.
The bishops noted “the erosion of ethical values and idolatry of relativism,” the “antipathy and disdain against traditional institutions” like the Church, and the effects of “ecological abuse, terror and violence.
How are these translated to the small Christian communities in the barrios, the backbone of the Catholic faithful in many places in the country. How are these big words translated into the daily struggles of the people as they confront the challenges of the pandemic but refuse to be vaccinated because they might turn into zombies?
Following the suggestion of Pope Francis, Philippine Church leaders said that they expect to address the “hard questions” during the process.
“How is our Church within?” “How is this journeying together happening today in our local Church?” “What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our ‘journeying together’?”
That’s a lot to process. That’s a lot of difficult questions. How indeed is the Church doing internally? How are pastors leading the flock in the midst of the pandemic, in the midst of the divisive political exercise in the country, in the midst of clergy’s personal insecurities.
“How is the Church together with the entire human family?” “Are we still salt and light for the world?” “Is dialogue our way of life?” “How willing are we to listen with humility and respect despite differences?” “Have we become haughty or insensitive to the groans of suffering humanity?”
These are questions that the faithful are supposed to reflect and provide answers. These are issues that everyone should honestly address with the lens of the Gospel and address in the spirit of the Church’s social teachings.
There’s a lot of work in the coming months. This early, there’s a lot to hope for, too. Everyone should get involved, should get excited, not only the bishops. Because if we don’t put ourselves into it, the process would just be another futile exercise that would be written later as “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
I just had to quote Macbeth.
Jose Torres Jr is editor-at-large of LiCAS.news