Involve other churches in synodal process, says Vatican
Extract from Christopher Lamb, The Tablet, 9 November 2021
The Vatican is calling on bishops across the world to involve Christian leaders from other churches in the synod process in a move that could turn it into the most significant ecumenical event of recent times.
A joint letter from two Rome-based cardinals recommends leaders of Christian communities take part in the bishops’ synodal discussions and help them draft the official reports. It also suggests that delegates from other churches are sent to take part in the diocesan synods taking place across the world; that they address synod assemblies, send in written reflections and organise “listening sessions”.
The 2021-2023 synod process launched by Pope Francis last month is the most ambitious Catholic renewal project in 60 years. It includes a listening and consultation process across the 1.3 billion-member Church.
Each diocese has been asked to hold a synod with bishops in each country and region synthesising the results and submitting them to Rome. A synod assembly of bishops will then take place in the Vatican in 2023. The instruction from the Vatican says ecumenical representatives should be involved at every stage of the process, which will involve all denominations in a Catholic renewal process in a way that is without modern precedent.
“One of the gifts Catholics can receive from the other Christians is precisely their experience and understanding of synodality,” explain Cardinals Mario Grech and Kurt Koch in the letter. “The synodal shaping of the Catholic Church at all levels has significant ecumenical implications as it makes it a more credible dialogue partner.”
Cardinal Grech, who is Secretary-General of the Synod of Bishops, and Cardinal Koch, who is President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, sent their letter to all bishops with responsibility for ecumenism and to the synods of the eastern Catholic Churches. It was, they explained, “designed to some practical suggestions to ensure the ecumenical dimension of the synodal journey.”
The synod handbook emphasises that ecumenism has a “special place in the synodal journey” adding that consultations should include “all the baptised”, regardless of denomination. In their letter the cardinals point out that “listening should concern the totality of those who are honoured by the name of Christian,” pointing out that “all the baptised participate to some degree in the sensus fidei.” The sensus fidei is the notion that the Church as a people, united with the bishops, carries the living tradition of Christianity’s essential teaching