Synod Of Bishops

 In March 2020, Pope Francis announced the theme for the  XVlOrdinary General Assembly  Synod of Bishops to be held in 2023, would be :’For a Synodal Church : Communion, Participation and Mission.’


The journey towards the celebration of the Synod in October 2023 will solemnly open on October 9-10, 2021 in Rome, and on October 17 in each particular Church.

On September 7, 2021, the preparatory document and the vademecum (handbook) for the synodal journey were released. With the convocation of the Synod of Bishops on the themes of communion, participation and mission, Pope Francis invites the entire Church to reflect on a theme that is decisive for its life and mission: “It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium. This journey, which follows in the wake of the Church’s ‘renewal’ proposed by the Second Vatican Council, is both a gift and a task.”

For more information, please click on the links below:

Synod of Bishops – Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney (

XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops – Catholic Church in Australia



“With this convocation, Pope Francis invites the entire Church to reflect on a theme that is decisive for its life and mission: ‘It is precisely t his path of synodality which God expects of the church of the third millennium.”[1]

“The whole Church is called to dal with the weight of a culture imbued with clericalism that she inherits from her history, and with those forms of exercising authority on which the different types of abuse (power, economic, conscience , sexual) are grafted. “[2]

“If, on the one hand, a secularised mentality tends to expel religion from the public space, on the other hand, religious fundamentalism, without respect for the liberties of others, feeds forms of intolerance and violence that are also reflected in the Christian community and in its relations with society. Christians not infrequently adopt the same attitudes, even fomenting divisions and opposition, including within the Church.”[3]

“…to ‘journey together,’ we need to let ourselves be educated by the Spirit to a truly synodal mentality….”[4]

“Synodality much more than the celebration of ecclesial meetings and Bishops’ assemblies, or a matter of simple internal administration within the Church; it is “the specific modus vivendi et operandi of the Church, the People of God…”[5]

“Church and Synod are synonymous.” [6]

“The Council emphasised how, by virtue of the anointing of the Holy Spirit received in Baptism, the totality of the Faithful “cannot err in matters of belief.” They manifest this special property by means of the

 whole Peoples’ supernatural discernment in matters of faith when ‘from the Bishops down to the last of the lay Faithful’ they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals”.[7]

“The consultation of the People of God does not imply the assumption within the Church of the dynamics of democracy based on the principle of majority, because there is, at the basis of participation in every synodal process, a shared passion for the common mission of evangelization and not the representation of conflicting interests. In other words, this is an ecclesial process that can only take place “at the heart of a hierarchically structured community.”17[8]

“The Bishop of Rome, as the principle and foundation of the Church’s unity, asks all the Bishops and all the particular Churches, in which and from which the one and only Catholic Church exists (cf. LG, no. 23), to enter with confidence and courage into the path of synodality” [9]

“…..a synodal Church is a Church “going forth,” a missionary Church “whose doors are open.” [10] This includes the call to deepen relationships with other Churches and Christian communities, with which we are united by the one Baptism. The perspective of “journeying together,” then, is even broader, and embraces all humankind, whose “joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties” we share.[11]

“…practicing synodality is today for the Church the most evident way to be “the universal sacrament of salvation, a sign and instrument of intimate union  with God and of the unity and the whole human race.” [12]

“The Spirit, according to the Lord’s promise, does not limit himself to confirming the continuity of the Gospel of Jesus, but will illuminate the ever-new depths of his Revelation and inspire the decisions necessary to sustain the Church’s journey.”[13]

“…The proclamation of the Gospel is not addressed only to the enlightened or chosen few. Jesus’ interlocutor is the “people” of ordinary life, the “everyone” of the human condition…” [14]

“The insidiousness that divides – and, thus, thwarts a common path – manifests itself indifferently in the forms of religious rigor, or moral injunction that presents itself as more demanding than that of Jesus, and of the seduction of a worldly political wisdom that claims to be more effective than a discernment of spirits.”[15]


“From the beginning of my ministry as Bishop of Rome, I intended to enhance the Synod, which is one of the most precious legacies of the Second Vatican Council. For Blessed Paul Vl, the Synod of Bishops was meant to be keep alive the image of the Ecumenical Council and to reflect the concilar spirit and method….We must continue on this path. The world in which we live and that we are called to love and serve even with its contradictions, demands from the Church the strengthening of synergies in all areas of her mission. And it is precisely on this way of synodality where we find the pathway that God expects from the Church of the third millennium. “[16]

“A synodal church is a listening church, knowing that listening “is more than feeling.” It is a mutual listening inw hich everyone has something to learn. Faithful people, the College of Bishops, the Bishop of Rome: we are one in listening to others; and all are listening to the Holy Spirit, the ‘Spirit of truth’ (Jn 14:17), to know what the Spirit is “saying to the Churches.” (Rev 2:7)”

Finally, the synodal process culminates in listening to the Bishop of Rome, who is called upon to pronounce as “pastor and teacher of all Christians,” not based on his personal convictions but as a supreme witness of “totius fides Ecclesiae” (the faith of the whole Church), of the guarantor of obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church.”

“The fact that the Synod always acts cum Petro et sub Petro – therefore not only with Peter, but also under Peter – this is not a restriction of freedom, but a guarantee of unity. In fact the Pope, by the will of the Lord, is “the perpetual and visible source and foundation of eh unity both of the bishops as much as of the multitude of the faithful……

As a constitutive dimension of the Church, synodality gives us the more appropriate interpretive framework to understand hierarchical ministry…

Jesus founded the Church by placing at its head the Apostolic College,  in which the apostle Peter is the “rock” (Mt 16:18), the one who will confirm his brothers in the faith (cfr Lk 22:32). But in this church, as in an inverted pyramid, the summit is located below the base. For those who exercise authority are called to be “ministers” because, according to the original meaning of the word, they are the least of all. It is in serving the people of God that each Bishop becomes for that portion of the flock entrusted to him, vicarius Christi (vicar of that Jesus who at the Last Supper stooped to wah the feet of the Apostles (cfr. Jn 13:1-15).”

“The commitment to build a synodal Church to which all are called, loaded with ecumenical implications ….and offers a significant contribution to the progress of relations between our Churches.”

“Our gaze extends also to humanity. A synodal church is like a banner lifted up among the nations …As a Church that “walks together” with men and women, sharing the hardships of history, let us cultivate the dream that the rediscovery of the inviolable dignity of peoples and the exercise of authority, even now will be able to help civil society to be founded on justice and fratermity, generating a more beautiful and worthy world for mankind and for generations that will come after us.


3. THE SPIRIT OF THE SYNODS  – Antonio Spadaro, SJ, La Civilta Cattolica                            12 Nov 2021

“The Pope has very much insisted on the fact that the Synod is not a parliamentary assembly where people discuss and vote to decide issues by a majority……The Synod is an experience of spiritual discernment in search of God’s will for the Church.” [17]

“…a need for attentive listening. Listening to God, in prayer, in the liturgy, in spiritual exercises; listening to the ecclesial committees in their exchanges and debate on experiences (because it is on experiences that discernment can be made and not on ideas); listening to the world, because God is always present there inspiring, moving, stirring.”[18]

“Putting the Church in a synodal state means making her restless, uncomfortable and tense because she is agitated by the divine breath…it blows where it wills…If there is no sense of vertigo, if one does not experience the earthquake, if there is no methodical doubt – not skeptical doubt – the experience of uncomfortable surprise, then perhaps there is no synod. If the Holy Spirit is in action, Francis once said, then he “kicks the table.”[19]



– Massimo Faggioli – Sept 2021

“The  synodal process is about “helping to develop the synodal conversion of the Church”, said Synod secretariat undersecretary, Sister Nathalie Becquart, during the Sept 7 briefing at the Vatican…….

It is to be expected that in the global Catholic Church there  will be a wide variety of kinds of reception – and even of non-reception – of Francis’ invitation to the synodal process 2021-2023. This is not new. Historiians know well that the history of synods is, from an institutional point of view, also a history of failure……..

In the contemporary Church, charismatic leadership – at least until recently – was supposed to sustain the Church’s credibility, even when it was confronted with the unsustainable. That institutional and charismatic ecclesial order has been swept away by massive forces: the abuse crisis, the globablisation of the Church, and a new media ecosystem, to name just a few. “




“In different areas of the Catholic world, there are ecclesial events of a synodal nature unfolding and being prepared.

There is Australia’s historic Plenary Council,…and there is a “synodal path” already underway in Germany. Preparations are currently being made for a national synod in Ireland and, after much insistence from the pope, the Church in Italy is finally beginning plans for its own synod.

…The synodal movement is unfolding at a time of great uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic…Pandemic aside, postponing the assembly on synodality could be a good thing. It would mean more time for preparation. So far, most of the discussion has focused on its pastoral aspects. But a two-article dossier published by theologians …points out that there are theological and institutional dimensions to synodality that need attention……

One particular aspect that will have to be addressed is the role of papal primacy in synodality – both at the universal level and the national / local level. This is a key issue that will have important consequences……

Discernment, not a vote in parliament

What  we have seen from the Synod of Bishops assembly for the Amazon region (Oct 2019) and its aftermath. (the apostotlic exhortation Querida Amazonia of Feb 2020), Francis seems to understand his role as the referee of a the presence or absence of genuine discernment in a synodal event. This is how he phrased it in a note published in Sept 2020: “There was a discussion but no discernment, which is something other than arriving at a good and justified consensus or relative majorities. We must understand that the Synod is more than a parliament; and in  this specific case, the Synod could not escape this dynamic. On this issue, the [2019] Synod was a rich, productive and even necessary parliament.”

This way of assessing synodality is more typical of the superior of a religious community that has undertaken a process of discernment than that of a bishop. But the Catholic Church is not the Society of Jesus. Discernment works, if at all, in very rarified spiritual groups. Most bishops have no background or training in it. The same can be said for the People of God who are supposed to be involved in synodality….

Especially after Vatican ll, papal primacy is not really (or no longer) about defining the faith. Rather it is about witnessing and confirming the faith of the people, voiced in consensus of their representatives and in light of Scripture and Tradition….

Renewal or change?

Is synodality  a way to renew the pastoral style of the Church in the existing institutional and theological system? Or is it a moment for addressing issues such as the role of women in the Church and ministry, and opening the Church to the possibility of institutional and theological developments? This is an essential question that will have to be clarified at some point…”

*NOTE: I have tried to provide excerpts, expressing varying views from the shorter papers that were made available to parish leaders. for discussion on the synod.  I did not include extracts from  Querida Amazonia : Commentary on Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation by Antonio Spadaro, SJ, La Civilta Cattolica, 19 Feb 2020 (not really  relevant for global church) OR

the excellent article by Catherine Clifford – Pope Francis’ Call for the Conversion of the Church in our Time, Australian ejournal of Theology 21.1(April 2015) I will provide links to this and other articles from which I will take a further few quotes. (following) in the email.

An excellent article : Synodality and the Catholic Church in Australia by Peter John McGregor, Jan 20, 2022 also makes some very valid points and is not a difficult read.


I am quoting some of the following because of Cardinal Sarah’s holiness and impeccable and courageous standing in the Church; much of the following is concerned with the issues that synodality raises.

In the CATHOLIC WORLD REPORT – March 29, 2019, Robert Cardinal Sarah, who was then prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments (2014 – 2021) sat down with Laurent Dandrieu to talk about the publication of his (then) new book, The Day is Now Far Spent.

In that interview Cardinal Sarah was critical of some priests who presented a “fuzzy proclamation of what God teaches, because of the fear of disapproval and who said imprecise things to escape all criticism. Cardinal Sarah said that if such a priest does not teach the faith but revels in activism instead of reminding people that they are made  for prayer, he betrays his mission; Jesus has said he will strike such a shepherd and the sheep will scatter.

He said, some priests want a church that is open, welcoming, attentive, modern. But the Church was not made for listening, she is made for teaching – she is Mata et magistra – mother and teacher. He continued with the analogy of mother and child. Yes mother listens to her child, but her first place is to teach, to guide, supervise, because she knows better than her children what path to take.

Cardinal Sarah said that some priests have adopted the world’s ideologies under the fallacious pretext of being open to the world – -BUT we should be about bringing the world to be open to God, the source of our existence!

Referring to pastoral care advice given by some pastors on  moral issues, Cardinal Sarah said that, like a house, pastoral care must always be built on good foundations i.e. pastoral care must always be built on doctrine. Too often, he said, people forget about doctrine so as to focus exclusively on pastoral care – this results in empty, ‘stupid’ pastoral care. The Church cannot sacrifice doctrine to pastoral practice reduced to congruent part of mercy. God is merciful, but only to the extent to which we acknowledge that we are sinners. There is a perverse tendency to falsify pastoral care and pit it against doctrine in order to present a merciful God, who demands nothing! BUT there is no such thing as a father who demands nothing of his child – because he has ambitions for him and the Father wants us to be in His image and likeness.

When asked if he considered that faith was becoming insipid, he quoted Benedict XVl who called it “bourgeois Christianity” and Pope Francis who referred to it as the “paganisation of Christian life”. He said that this ‘softness’ is part of contemporary culture: to be tolerant, to respect people, to evolve with them. Yes, he said, we have a duty to be understanding, to walk alongside people but at the same time we must help them to develop their muscles to be a mountain climber, muscles of faith, of will, of hope, of love. Cardinal Sarah stressed the importance of not deceiving the faithful with soft, undemanding, amoral religion. The Gospel IS demanding –“If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out..” (Mt 5:29-30). Our role is to bring people back to this evangelical requirement.

The interviewer asked Cardinal Sarah: “how do you talk to people about God, when they “do not feel the need to be saved?” Cardinal Sarah referred to Christ – not everyone wanted to listen to him – he had opposition – this has always existed. Opposition to God. to truth occurs more during our time because the comfortable, pacified society thinks it has no need of him. But even with material comfort, man still needs more without knowing it.

The Church must reveal to man these interior needs, riches of the soul that will make him fully human. The Church’s mission is to guide man in his assent to God – BUT if priests are bogged down with materialism, they will not be able to guide the world toward true happiness.

True reform concerns our own conversion. If we do not change ourselves, all structural reform will be useless. Asked what is responsible for the disaffection with the Church, ? the ways of the modern world or society developments, Cardinal Sarah said No! The primary responsibility for the Church’s losses lies with priests, & seminaries. Catholic universities have not always taught doctrine but what they likes; Catechism for children was abandoned; Confession disdained – in 1970’s 80’s  each priest did what he wanted. Benedict XVl says that the crisis of the liturgy (no two Masses looked alike -> Catholics stopped going to Mass, leading to the crisis in the Church. Lex orandi, lex credendi: as we pray, so we believe.

If there is no longer faith in the liturgy, but it is presented as a show, a display, they humanise and desacralized the Mass to make it understood – it is still a mystery beyond our comprehension!

Today there is excessive horizontal pastoral practice – how can people think of God if the church is occupied solely with social issues? Mother Teresa said “Care for the poor but care first for God”. If we are not enriched by the presence of God in us, we cannot care for the weakest.

The Catholic World Report – The Church is plunged into the darkness of Good Friday (Part 1)

The Catholic World Report – The Church is plunged into the darkness of Good Friday (Part 2)