In early October, there were Masses in each diocese of Scotland ‘starting the synodal process’. But what does that mean, and will it change the Church?
Usually a Synod of Bishops is held in Rome and presided over by the Pope. It brings together two to three hundred bishops from all over the world and discusses a theme like family or young people. Afterwards, the Pope will sum up the discussions together and write something on the theme to guide the Church.
The next Synod of Bishops is to be held in October 2023 and Pope Francis has said he wants every Catholic in the world to be involved, and it is to be on the theme of synodality.
“It’s not a word we’ll hear in the pub or on the news,” Bishop Gilbert explained in his homily at the opening Mass of the Synod in Aberdeen. “It’s a theological word which goes back to a Greek word which means to ‘travel together’ and to ‘meet together’. And it means a third thing too, which makes sense of the other two, road or way. So, the Pope would like us to meet together to see how we can better travel together, along Christ’s way.”
Bishop Gilbert sad there are 1.3 billion Catholics in the world of every kind ‘but beyond the variety is a unity’.
“We have one Lord and Master, Jesus Christ,” he said. “One Faith. We are all children of God through baptism. The Holy Spirit is part of our lives. We are all under the same commandment to love as Christ loved us.”
He said the question the Holy Father is posing with the synod was ‘how are we doing with this?’
“Do we allow each other to make our contributions to the whole? As we know, there are people in the Church who are disconnected, who feel marginalised, sometimes hurt. Are we listening to and supporting one another as much as we could? What forums do we have for doing this? Could they be improved or new ones created? What is our experience of walking together? Are the clergy too clerical, control-freaks? Or, conversely, are we allowing them to shepherd us as they are called to? How do women feel? Young people? The elderly? And so on.”
Archbishop Cushley of St Andrews and Edinburgh, said we were being asked ‘to open our hearts and our minds to his Spirit and his Word; and to train ourselves for mission, spiritually, intellectually and morally’.
“Then we will be ready to participate worthily and maturely in the renewal of the Church of Christ that we all of us long very much to see.”
Sr Anna Marie McGuan, the Archdiocesan synod delegate for the Synod, spoke at the end of
Mass, calling for us to put Jesus, “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6) at the centre of the process as we seek to do His will for the Church.
Bishop Toal of Motherwell said he felt felt ‘quite excited about the process’.
“You know, it’s something that’s been we’ve been invited to do by Pope Francis and he wants us to have a room for this,” he said .”He wants us to be very open about the church today, share our insights and play our part. Something I’d like to see coming from it would be ideas and concrete initiatives to benefit parishes and help us reach out to others who are a bit distant from the Church.”
Bishop McGhee of Argyll and the Isles said: “It is important that each individual and the Church as a whole, makes every effort to hear the message of God in its fullness so that we all discern as much as possible God’s Will. Of course, no one person or group has all the insights. However, everyone can be gifted with a unique but authentic insight from God. This is we should not be afraid to listen to the wisdom of others, even when it is challenging.”
The different dioceses of Scotland will meet in Parishes and other groups over the next six months. Those discussions will be summarised in Diocesan Documents which are shared at national level. These will then be shared at the Continental level before the final Synod in at the Vatican in 2023.