Scheduled to take place this October (4-29), the Synod of Bishops will reflect on the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission” and focus on the life of the Church and its relationship with society, according to the Working Document (Instrumentum Laboris) released last June.
During its official publication, Cardinal Grech, Secretary General of the Synod, considered the text “a document of the whole Church,” the result of a process that has already been considered the most extensive consultation ever made in the Church.
This consultation was carried out, in the first stage, between October 2021 and August 2022, at the level of dioceses, movements, and religious institutes, and, in the second stage, at the level of continental assemblies formed by delegations appointed by the bishops. The two phases resulted in summaries that were at the basis of the drafting of the Instrumentum Laboris by a group of experts.
The document is structured in two large sections. The first presents the characteristics of a Church that wants to be synodal, that is, a Church that listens, that is humble, that knows how to ask for forgiveness and that has much to learn. The second part revolves around the three priorities- communion, mission and participation- that will be the October assembly’s core.
Regarding communion, the question arises as to how to dialogue with cultures and religions without compromising our identity and our determination to be the voice of those on the margins.
The document places listening, encounter and care at the forefront of its concerns: the poor, migrants, the disabled, and victims of all kinds of abuse. The Working Document encompasses other types of excluded and forgotten people: the divorced and remarried, people in polygamous marriages or LGBTQ+ people; those who feel victims of racial, tribal, ethnic, class, or caste discrimination.
Ecumenism is also highlighted. “The ecumenical journey,” says the text, “is an exchange of gifts, and one of the gifts that Catholics can receive from other Christians is precisely their synodal experience.”
The theme of the place of women in the Church is given prominence at various points of the document. Issues such as the participation of women, their recognition, the mutually supportive relationship between men and women, the presence of women in positions of governance and women’s access to diaconate show up as crucial elements of a more synodal Church.