What is a synod?
The word “synod” comes from the Greek synodos, meaning “an assembly.” In the Catholic Church, synod has a particular meaning. A synod generally features an assembly of bishops, who come together to help the Pope to address the needs of the Church. Synods date back to apostolic times; for example, we can read about an early synod in the book of Acts chapter 15.
In more modern times, the synodal assembly discusses issues and questions that the Pope would like considered, and then drafts a report to the Pope summarizing their discussions and making suggestions as to how the Church might approach various problems, both universal and regional.
Have there been other synods?
In 2021 Pope Francis convoked a synod on the theme “For a Synodal Church.” But there have been many synods convoked by both Pope Francis and his predecessors. For example, Pope St. John Paul II’s synod on “The Consecrated Life and Its Role in the Church and in the World,” Pope Benedict XVI’s synod on “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church,” and Pope Francis’s synod on “Communion, Participation, and Mission.”
What is the subject of Pope Francis’s latest synod?
Pope Francis has asked the “Synod on Synodality” to address the synodal process itself. “Synodality” refers to the way that these synods make decisions. It is a model that includes listening to a broad range of people and then discussing the issues together with the goal of hearing where the Holy Spirit is calling the church. Pope Francis feels that the synodal process is an important tool for guiding the Church into the future, for addressing problems it is experiencing, and for identifying opportunities for its growth in holiness. This synod will provide him with an improved understanding of how a Church can be led using the input of every level of the Church. As he stated, “It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium.”
How will the Synod proceed?
Pope Francis decided that the synod would open in the Vatican and in every diocese throughout the Catholic world in October 2021. Its first phase will be the “diocesan phase”, from October 2021 until April 2022, During this phase our diocese. A diocesan team will organize the consultation of members of the diocese as they consider two questions:
- “How does this ‘journeying together’ take place today on different levels (from the local level to the universal level), allowing the Church to proclaim the Gospel?”
- “What steps is the Spirit inviting us to take in order to grow as a synodal Church?”
Subsequently a “continental phase” (September 2022 through March 2023) will gather the input from all of the dioceses for discussion at the regional level before concluding in “the universal church phase” at the Vatican with the synod of bishops in October 2023.
You can find more prayers here.
What can we do?
Starting February 12, 2022, Bishop Koenig will officially begin the diocesan phase of the Synod with listening sessions held for parish representatives throughout the diocese. Listening sessions will be made available to Catholic parishes, schools and organizations throughout the diocese until May 31, 2022. If you are asked to participate, please realize that your input is important and that it will be used to produce a working document on which further discussions will rely.
It’s true that not all of us can participate directly, but we can certainly pray for those who are called to serve and represent us. Bishop Koenig has asked us to pray for the synod, its participants, and its goals, using the Adsumus Sancte Spiritus (“We stand before you Holy Spirit”) Prayer. It is the prayer which has been used for hundreds of years at Councils, Synods and other Church gatherings.
We stand before You, Holy Spirit,
as we gather together in Your name.
With You alone to guide us,
make Yourself at home in our hearts;
Teach us the way we must go
and how we are to pursue it.
We are weak and sinful;
do not let us promote disorder.
Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path
nor partiality influence our actions.
Let us find in You our unity
so that we may journey together to eternal life
and not stray from the way of truth
and what is right.
All this we ask of You,
who are at work in every place and time,
in the communion of the Father and the Son,
forever and ever.
Estamos ante ti, Espíritu Santo,
reunidos en tu nombre.
Tú que eres nuestro verdadero consejero:
ven a nosotros, apóyanos, entra en nuestros corazones.
Enséñanos el camino,
muéstranos cómo alcanzar la meta.
Impide que perdamos
el rumbo como personas débiles y pecadoras.
No permitas que la ignorancia nos lleve por falsos caminos.
Concédenos el don del discernimiento,
para que no dejemos que nuestras acciones se guíen
por prejuicios y falsas consideraciones.
Condúcenos a la unidad en ti,
para que no nos desviemos del camino de la verdad y la justicia,
sino que en nuestro peregrinaje terrenal nos esforcemos por alcanzar la vida eterna.
Esto te lo pedimos a ti,
que obras en todo tiempo y lugar,
en comunión con el Padre y el Hijo
por los siglos de los siglos.
Where can I find out more?
Some sources of additional information are listed below:
“Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Faithful of the Diocese of Rome“
“Synod on Synodality: Communion, Participation, and Mission”
“Diocese of Wilmington: Synod 2021 – 2023“
Bishop Koenig’s homily for the opening of Synod 2021 – 2023