The Synodal Challenge . . . A Utopia? (Part III)

What Other Form of Church Is Possible, If Not the Synodal?

The Synodal Challenge A Utopia
Monsignor Cabrejos in the Church Assembly © Enrique Soro

Social communicator Enrique Soros offers the article “The Synodal Challenge . . . A Utopia?” (Part III).

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The writers of the conclusions went to bed at 3:00 am. Breakfast for all was a 6:30 am. For many, it meant sleepless nights. Although the first Ecclesial Assembly of Latin America and the Caribbean in Mexico City, from November 20-28, was a real marathon, in which the most varied voices expressed themselves, in which innumerable social, pastoral, spiritual projects were discussed, in which thousands of suggestions, reports, and advice were given; in which one event gently succeeded another, perceived at all times as peace, harmony, brotherhood . . ., yes, a true Synodal spirit.

I could summarize the process I witnessed personally as a journalist, with one verb: flow. Everything flowed in the Spirit, with the complicity of one thousand assembly members — 100 in situ and 900 virtual.

God Loves the Humble that Are Silent, in Order to Listen

 Rather than magnificent ideas, great theologians trapped in the genius of their concepts printed in essential books, God loves the simple, the humble one that is silent in order to listen, the great one who makes himself little, to adore the God that manifests Himself in His brothers, who prostrates himself before the ‘Christs’ that cry out their anxieties without no one listening to them. God loves one who evangelizes with a look, with a smile, with an embrace. Then there will be time for more.

An Intense Experience

 I must say that the experience of the Assembly was intense. In face of each exposition, each opinion, each comment, I wondered: What other form of Church is possible if not this, the synodal, the family Church, the Church that listens, that serves, that gives a radical witness of Jesus’ love?

In different interviews with Bishops, priests, laypeople, I asked if, as Church, we were not behind by two thousand years. The answers were always integrating: “much has been done in this field in the course of the centuries, and of the last decades.” However, if being family, or using the concept established for the present and future time (the words can change, but not the essence), if being synodal is medullar for the Church, what was distracting us over so many centuries?

It’s Time for All of Us to Open to the Spirit

 However, it’s not important to pause now on the past. It is time to open to the Spirit in the present. Instead of looking for errors, we should engage in consensus, break the destructive tendency to absolutize one’s position destroying that of another, no matter how irreconcilable they are, and find points in common. There is a trick that never fails, well, almost never. Starting with “Do you know that on this point I am in agreement with you, but I opine that  . . .” Do not move to confrontation, but to an embrace, and, in that embrace, each one should express what the Spirit inspires him. This is the synodal spirit, applicable to every circumstance of life. It’s the foundation to build the Church: love and unity in diversity.

Regarding the 12 Pastoral Challenges

 The twelve pastoral challenges that emerged as the conclusion of the Assembly are found in the order of representativeness. This means that the first are the ones expressed most by the one thousand assembly members, which takes away the value of others, given that all express in a summarized way the voice, and thought of the majority of the participants.

As we mentioned before, we believe that all stems from a personal experience with Christ, expressed in point number 11: the encounter with Jesus that leads us to love every brother. Challenge 9 gives us the perspective to lower that experience to the Continent’s reality: in the light of the Word of God and of the Magisterium of the Church, we are invited to strengthen the experience as People of God, giving value to a lay leadership that promotes pastoral conversion.

Clericalism Doesn’t Allow the Community to Shine

For the synodal path to be possible, it’s indispensable to create community environments, in which the leadership of its members is promoted. This vision goes counter to clericalism, word mentioned on innumerable opportunities in the Assembly. It refers to priestly authoritarianism, fuelled by the clergy as well as the laity, which hinders communities from experiencing an environment of integral development. It cuts off life and hinders personal gifts from enabling the community to shine, and personalities to arise with their originality.

Other Essential Topics for the Church of Latin America

 Other topics that carried great weight in the Ecclesial Assembly’s talks and debates, and which are expressed in the 12 pastoral challenges, are:

  • The importance of giving a role to young people as agents of social transformation.
  • The need for the active participation of women in the ministries and instances of ecclesial government.
  • The defense of life and of the human person from conception to natural death.
  • The accompaniment of the poor and of victims of social injustices.
  • The promotion of synodal formation and participation of the laity in areas of cultural, political, social and ecclesial transformation.
  • The reform of formative itineraries, including integral ecology, native peoples, and interculturality.
  • The reaffirmation of an integral ecology from the four dreams of Querida Amazonia.
  • The accompaniment of native peoples and Afro-descendants in their struggles.

What Was New in This Assembly

 Although the Church in the Continent has been engaged in this process for several decades, what was new in this Assembly is that it was not about a meeting of Bishops, in which the laity also participated, but that the participation of the People of God was expressed in a very representative way by the most diverse social and ecclesiastical realities.

Synod on Synodality

 The Church is following the path of the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on Synodality. This first stage is the diocesan, and it extends from October 2021 to August 15, 2022. The result of the diocesan consultation will be sent to the Synod’s General Secretariat, which will draft a first Instrumentum Laboris. The second stage will be Continental and will extend from September 2022 to March 2023, whereas the third stage will be at the level of the universal Church, through the participants in the Synodal Assembly of October 2023.

April 2022: Congress on Synodality in Washington, D.C.

 Innumerable meetings, reunions, congresses will unfold worldwide to reflect further on the synodal spirit locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. One of these is the “Roots and Wings” National Congress of Hispanic Pastoral Care, which will be held in Washington, D.C. from April 26-30, 2022, and which will work on four pastoral priorities: Youth, Family, Social Justice, and Pastoral Formation. The congress will be fully developed from the perspective of synodality. The idea is to integrate the experiences of Hispanic Pastoral Care in the USA with the Ecclesial Assembly of Latin America, in which 70 assembly members took part from the USA, pointing out its challenges and those of the Synod of Bishops on Synodality.

A Utopia?

 It was high time for the Church to perceive herself as family, and that her main task, her main mission, is to invite everyone without exceptions, to sit at the Lord’s Table. A utopia? Probably, however, no conquest has been achieved in history without naïve believers in utopias, who did their utmost to make them a reality.

The Church Addresses The Synodal Challenge (Part I)

The Church Faces The Synodal Challenge (Part II)

Translation by Virginia M. Forrester