In comments made to Vatican Media, Cardinal Mario Grech, head of the Vatican’s office of the Synod of Bishops, said the change “from an event into a process” was chosen because “the time was ripe for a wider participation of the people of God in a decision-making process that affects the whole church and everyone in the church.
“The Second Vatican Council teaches that the people of God participate in the prophetic office of Christ,” says Cardinal Grech. “Therefore, we must listen to the people of God, and this means going out to the local churches.”
Cardinal Grech explained, “The governing principle of this consultation of the people of God is contained in the ancient principle ‘that which touches upon all must be approved by all.’” He added, “This is not about democracy, or populism or anything like that. Rather, it is the church that as the people of God, a people who by virtue of baptism, is an active subject in the life and mission of the church.”
Cardinal Grech emphasized the importance of allowing e everyone to have their voices heard, “God willing, one of the fruits of the Synod is that we might all understand that a decision-making process in the Church always begins with listening, because only in this way can we understand how and where the Spirit wants to lead the Church.”
The theme of the Synod of Bishops concluding the synodal process is “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission.” It will convene in Rome in the fall of 2023.
TIMELINE FOR THE SYNODAL PROCESS
Oct. 9-10, 2021: Pope Francis opens the three-phase event from the Vatican.
Oct. 2021-April 2022: Phase 1: The synodal process is held in Catholic dioceses
Each diocese undertakes consultation meetings with local Catholics and hosts its own “pre-synodal” gathering to produce a summary to submit to the national bishops’ conference.
In “a period of discernment,” the national conference reviews the texts received from the local dioceses and composes its own document to submit to the Vatican’s office for the Synod of Bishops. Vatican officials will create a first draft of the synod’s instrumentum laboris, or working document, from the submitted texts by September 2022.
Sept. 2022-March 2023: Phase 2: Bishops meet at the continental level
In the second phase of the process, bishops gather on each continent to create texts about their discussions and submit them to the Vatican. A second draft of the instrumentum will be created from these texts and released by June 2023.
Oct. 2023: Phase 3: The bishops meet in Rome for the final phase
The theme of the final phase is: “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission.”
More information on the 2023 Synod of Bishops:
- Vademecum for the Synod on Synodality: Official Handbook for Listening and Discernment in Local Churches
- The Synod 2023 Preparatory Document
- Catholic News Agency Media Coverage