Priests Urged to Continue Fearlessly on the Synodal Path

Joint Letter From Secretary-General of the Synod of Bishops and the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy

Continue Fearlessly

The Secretary-General of the Synod of Bishops and the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy wrote the following joint letter to all the priests of the world urging them to continue fearlessly on the synodal path.


Dear Priests,

Here we are, two priests and brothers of yours! May we ask for a moment of your time?

We would like to talk to you about a topic that touches us all.

“The Church ofGod is convoked in Synod.” The preparatory document for Synod 2021- 2023 begins with these words. For two years the entire People ofGod is invited to reflect on the theme “For a Synodal Church: communion, participation, and mission”. This is a novelty that can arouse enthusiasm as well as perplexity.

Yet “in the first millennium, ‘walking together’, that is, practicing synodality, was the Church’s habitual way of proceeding.” The Second Vatican Council highlighted this dimension of ecclesial life, so important that St. John Chrysostom affirmed: “Church and Synod are synonymous” (Explicatio in Psalmum 149).

It is well known that today’s world is in urgent need of fraternity. Without realizing it, the world yearns to meet Jesus. But how do we make this encounter happen? We need to listen to the Spirit together with the whole People ofGod, so as to renew our faith and find new ways and languages to share the Gospel with our brothers and sisters. The synodal process that Pope Francis proposes to us has precisely this objective: to set out, together, in mutual listening, in sharing ideas and projects, to show the true face of the Church: a hospitable “house”, with open doors, inhabited by the Lord and animated by fraternal! relationships.

So that we do not fall into the risks highlighted by Pope Francis – that is, formalism, which reduces the Synod to an empty slogan; intellectualism, which makes the Synod a theoretical reflection on problems; and immobilism, nailing us to the security ofour habits so that nothing changes – it is important to open our hearts and listen to what the Spirit suggests to the Churches (cf. Rev. 2:7).

Obviously, in the face of this journey, some fears may assail us.

First of all, we are well aware that priests in many parts of the world are already carrying a great pastoral burden. And now- it may seem- one more thing “to do” is added. Rather than inviting you to multiply your activities, we would like to encourage you to look at your communities with that contemplative gaze of which Pope Francis speaks to us in Evangelii gaudium (no. 71) so as to discover the many examples of participation and sharing that are already taking root in your communities. In fact, the current diocesan phase ofthe synodal process aims to “gather the wealth of experiences of lived synodality” (Preparatory Document, 31). We are certain that there are many more of these experiences than what might appear at first glance, perhaps even informal and spontaneous experiences. Wherever we listen deeply to each other, learn from each other, value the gifts of others, help each other and make decisions together, there is already synodality in action. All this should be emphasized and appreciated, so as to increasingly develop that synodal style which is “the specific modus vivendi et operandi of the Church, the People of God” (Preparatory Document, 10).

But there may also be another fear: if so much emphasis is placed on the common priesthood of the baptized and on the sensus fidei of the People of God, what will become of our role as leaders and of our specific identity as ordained ministers? Without a doubt, it is a matter of progressively discovering the fundamental equality of all the baptized and of stimulating all the faithful to participate actively in the journey and mission of the Church. In this way, we will have the joy of finding brothers and sisters who share with us the responsibility for evangelization. But in this experience of the People of God, the special charism of ordained ministers to serve, sanctify and animate the People of God can and should also come to the fore in a new way.

In this sense, we would like to ask you to make a threefold contribution to the current synodal process:

– Do everything so that the journey rests on listening to and living the Word of God. Pope Francis thus recently exhorted us, “let us be passionate about Sacred Scripture, let us allow ourselves to be dug into by the Word, which reveals the newness of God and leads to loving others without tiring” (Francis, Homily for Word of God Sunday, January 23, 2022).

Without this grounding in the life of the Word, we risk walking in the dark and our reflections risk becoming an ideology. Instead, by basing ourselves on the Word put into practice, we will build the house on rock (cf. Mt 7:24-27) and we will be able to experience, like the disciples of Emmaus, the surprising light and guidance of the Risen Lord.

  • Let us strive to ensure that our journey is marked by mutual listening and mutual acceptance. Even before any concrete results, deep dialogue and true encounters are already a value. In fact, there are many initiatives and potentials in our communities, but too often individuals and groups run the risk of individualism and self-referentiality. With his new commandment, Jesus reminds us that “this is how all will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another” (In 13:35). As pastors, we can do much so that love might heal relationships and heal the wounds that often affect the fabric of the Church, so that the joy of feeling that we are one family, one people on a journey, children of the same Father and therefore brothers and sisters to one another may return, beginning with the fraternity of priests.
  • Take care that the journey does not lead us to introspection but stimulates us to go out to meet In Evangelii gaudium, Pope Francis has given us the dream of a Church that is not afraid to get its hands dirty by involving itself in the wounds of humanity, a Church that walks in listening to and serving the poor and the peripheries. This “outgoing” dynamism towards our brothers and sisters, with the compass of the Word and the fire of charity, fulfills the Father’s great original plan: “that all may be one” (In 17:21). In his latest Encyclical Fratelli tutti, Pope Francis asks us to commit ourselves to this unity, together with our brothers and sisters of other Churches, the faithful of other religions and all people of good will: universal brotherhood and love without exclusions, which all and everything must embrace. As servants of the People of God, we are in a privileged position to ensure that this does not remain a vague and generic guideline, but is made concrete where we live.

Dear brother priests, we are certain that starting from these priorities you will find ways to give life to specific initiatives, according to local needs and possibilities because synodality is truly God’s call for the Church of the third millennium. Setting out in this direction will not be free of questions, fatigue, and setbacks, but we can be confident that it will return to us a hundredfold in fraternity and in fruits of evangelical life. We need only think of the first Synod of Jerusalem (Acts 15). Who knows how much effort there was behind the scenes! But we know how decisive that moment was for the nascent Church.

We conclude this letter with two passages from the Preparatory Document that can inspire and accompany us almost like a Vademecum.

” The ability to imagine a different future for the Church and her institutions, in keeping with the mission she has received, depends largely on the decision to initiate processes of listening, dialogue, and community discernment, in which each and every person can participate and contribute.” (n. 9).

“We recall that the purpose of the Synod, and therefore of this consultation, is not to produce documents, but “to plant dreams, draw forth prophecies and visions, allow hope to flourish, inspire trust, bind up wounds, weave together relationships, awaken a dawn of hope, learn from one another and create a bright resourcefulness that will enlighten minds, warm hearts, give strength to our hands”” (n. 32).

Thanking you for your attention, we assure you of our prayers and wish you and your communities a joyful and fruitful synodal journey. May we be close to you and journey with you! And welcome, through us, the gratitude also of Pope Francis who feels very close to you.

Entrusting each of you to the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Good Way, we cordially greet you in the Lord Jesus.

Mario Card. GRECH

Secretary-General of the Synod of Bishops


Archbishop-Bishop em. of Daejeon

Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy