Yesterday, I wrote of the challenge of achieving truly effective synodality in the Church, synodality that would allow all members to listen to each other as they discern together the paths the Spirit is showing us. Of course, in this process of discernment, bishops and pope have a special role to play: that of ensuring that this discernment is always faithful to the Gospel and to the living Tradition that interprets and enriches it over the years. centuries.
In this perspective, Pope Francis has recently renewed the legislation surrounding the Synod of Bishops, as well as its bylaws (which were published this morning). He seeks renewal in continuity: he did not shake everything up but adjusted aspects of the process in order to free up a space of mutual listening and collective discernment that should typify any synodal process.
To do this, he strengthened the framework surrounding the preparatory consultation for the synod. In the past, this consultation was primarily aimed at the bishops of the world who were invited to give their opinion on the chosen theme. Above all, it was an "episcopal" approach. In theory, it was open to wider consultation but most often remained a matter for bishops.
From now on, the synod will be integrated in a longer process of reflection, of speaking and listening by all the people of God. We had our first experience of this approach during the special assembly of Synod on Marriage and the Family in 2014. This time, the method having been honed, the consultation was even more dynamic and richer.
- An online questionnaire allowed thousands of young people to share their experiences and express their views on the Church.
- In dioceses, bishops listened to young people. I myself attended a interesting session that allowed me to listen to students and young workers share their anxieties, their hopes and their thirst for God.
- The bishops of Quebec organized a 48-hour mini-forum with young people representing the entire territory.
- In Rome, an important pre-synodal gathering of young people from all over the world helped develop a document that largely inspired the working instrument of the present synod.
Thus, the month-long meeting that will be inaugurated tomorrow in Rome will not begin from scratch. An impressive work of consultation and reflection has preceded it.
Likewise, in the Archdiocese of Gatineau, the Diocesan Pastoral Council wanted a broad consultation to enable us to accurately paint the portrait of our parish and community reality, to express our hopes and fears and to surface the questions that we need to study. We will also publish an online questionnaire (starting October 11th) so that everyone can express their point of view. Focus groups will be organized to listen to the voices of those who might not otherwise be heard. Meetings will be held in all parishes in October and November to gather the convictions and questions of all the faithful.
The Synod of bishops in Rome ... our own diocesan synodal process in Gatineau ... these are signs that the Church want to listen to the Spirit who through the communities and in the hearts of all the baptized.