On October 11, the Church celebrated the memorial of Saint John XXIII, Pope. This date was chosen since it is the day on which he opened the Second Vatican Council in 1962. In his famous opening message, Pope John XXIII noted:
“In calling this vast assembly of bishops, the latest and humble successor to the Prince of the Apostles who is addressing you intended to assert once again the magisterium (teaching authority), which is unfailing and perdures until the end of time, in order that this magisterium, taking into account the errors, the requirements, and the opportunities of our time, might be presented in exceptional form to all men throughout the world.
“It is but natural that in opening this Universal Council we should like to look to the past and to listen to its voices, whose echo we like to hear in the memories and the merits of the more recent and ancient Pontiffs, our predecessors. These are solemn and venerable voices, throughout the East and the West, from the fourth century to the Middle Ages, and from there to modern times, which have handed down their witness to those Councils. They are voices which proclaim in perennial fervor the triumph of that divine and human institution, the Church of Christ, which from Jesus takes its name, its grace, and its meaning.” (For a full text of the opening message of Vatican II, click here.)
Nearly sixty years hence and not unlike Saint John XXIII, Pope Francis is calling forth the voices of the Church.
Preparatory Document – English Translation (Vatican; 2021)
Pope Francis on Pentecost and the Synod (America Magazine, May 2023)
Cardinal McElroy on Inclusion in the Synod Process (America Magazine, January 2023)
United States Synopsis of the Diocesan Phase (Summer 2022; Synopsis Available in English and Spanish; Study Guide available in English and Spanish)
For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission (North American Final Document for the Continental Stage of the 2021-2024 Synod)
About the Synodal Process—2021 to 2023
A vademecum is a “guidebook” which will be on hand and consulted throughout the process. The term comes from the Latin – “go with me.” The preliminary document contains a diocesan process. It is also being adapted for various Catholic organizations, religious communities, and religious conferences. For more information, please consult the links below.
- Synodal Process Website — 🇬🇧🇺🇸 English / 🇪🇸🇲🇽 Spanish
- Preparatory Document — The main reference for the Synod is the Preparatory Document which gives an overview of the theme of the Synod, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.” It also explains the objectives of the Synod and the consultation process. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 English / 🇪🇸🇲🇽 Spanish
- Vademecum (Official Handbook for Listening and Discernment in Local Churches) — This Vademecum is designed as a handbook that accompanies the Preparatory Document at the service of the synodal journey. The two documents are complementary and should be read in tandem with one another. In particular, the Vademecum offers practical support to the Diocesan Contact Person(s) (or team), designated by the diocesan Bishop, to prepare and gather the People of God so that they can give voice to their experience in their local Church. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 English / 🇪🇸🇲🇽 Spanish
- Roadmap for the Diocesan Phase — This section provides resources for those organizing the consultation in the diocese for the First Phase of the Synod 2021-2023. Here you will find suggested methods for conducting the consultations, reflection questions for participants, templates, and other useful links. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 English / 🇪🇸🇲🇽 Spanish
- Suggestions for the Liturgy to Celebrate the Opening of the Synod in Local Churches — The opening celebration for the Synod on October 17 in all dioceses could be a Eucharist, but it could also take another form: a Liturgy of the Word, a Pilgrimage, a Prayer service, etc. In this document, you will find: 1) The Objectives of the Liturgical Celebration to open the diocesan phase of the Synodal Process; 2) General ideas and suggestions for the Opening Celebration; 3) The Prayer of the Synod Adsumus Sancte Spiritus; 4) A proposal for the forms to be used in a Eucharistic Celebration; 5) A proposal for the structure of a Liturgy of the Word; 6) A proposal for a Procession during the Liturgy and/or a Pilgrimage; 7) Another proposal for the Prayers of the Faithful; 8) A proposal for the Blessing. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 English / 🇪🇸🇲🇽 Spanish
Inspiring Quotations from Pope Francis on the Synodal Process
- There is no need to create another church, but to create a different church,” Pope Francis (quoting the words of Yves Congar O.P., one of the great theologians of the Second Vatican Council). Pope Francis made this remark on October 9, in his talk to a gathering of more than 200 cardinals, bishops, clergy, religious and laity from all over the world.
- “I am certain the Spirit will guide us and give us the grace to move forward together, to listen to one another and to embark on a discernment of the times in which we are living, in solidarity with the struggles and aspirations of all humanity.”
- The synod is “not a parliament nor a survey of opinions,” rather it is, “an ecclesial moment whose protagonist is the Holy Spirit.” He insisted, “Without the Spirit, there is no synod.”
- He prayed that it would bring unity in the church. Quoting St. Cyprian, he said, “We must maintain and firmly uphold this unity, above all among ourselves, the bishops who preside in the church, in order to demonstrate that the episcopate is itself one and undivided.”
- The synod has three key words: “communion, participation and mission.” He recalled that the Second Vatican Council “taught that ‘communion’ expresses the very nature of the church, while pointing out that the church has received ‘the mission’ of proclaiming and establishing among all peoples the kingdom of Christ and of God, and is, on earth, the seed and beginning of that kingdom.”
- He recalled that St. Paul VI, who guided the council’s last three sessions, explained that communion entails “cohesion and interior fullness, in grace, truth and collaboration,” while mission means “apostolic commitment to the world of today.”
From Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego
In an Oct. 8 interview by America magazine:
Q. Pope Francis has made synodality the central focus over the next two years for the renewal of the church worldwide, but it doesn’t seem to have gained much traction in many dioceses of the United States. How important do you think synodality is for the renewal of the Catholic Church?
A. I think synodality is a moment and a movement of profound opportunity, which invites us at all levels to understand that when we undertake action together, when we set goals, when we discern where God is calling us, we need to do so in a way which honors the participation of everybody.
I remember the Gallup Organization did a survey, maybe 20 years ago, which asked the question, why do people come to church? The criterion that made a difference regarding why they keep coming was if they feel they would be missed if they don’t. In other words, the people around them in the pews would miss them. What that boils down to is people feel they count in the life of the church. To me synodality is trying to accomplish an ecclesial life where people feel they count at all levels in the life of the church.