By Lisa Zengarini
As dioceses throughout the world are preparing to embrace the Synodal Process starting from the weekend of 16/17 October, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster has called on the faithful to join in this phase focusing on “listening”, before talking. This, he says, will help to better “discern” what the Holy Spirit is asking of the Church today.
In a Pastoral Letter issued on Sunday, October 10, the English Catholic Primate explained the phases of the two-year process leading to the Synod of Bishops in Rome on synodality in 2023 and the idea behind it.
Sharing experiences of faith
In starting this Church-wide process, Pope Francis is “inviting us to listen again to each other, hearing experiences of faith with all its joys and disappointments, and to find new ways of strengthening each other”, Cardinal Nichols writes. “He hopes this will help us to discern how God’s presence comes into our lives and what the Spirit of God is prompting us to do anew, so that we might be more alive and creative in our response to the call of Jesus, our Way, Truth and Life”.
The purpose of the Synod is not to produce more documents
Citing the recent guide on the synodal process issued by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, the letter further explains that the purpose of the Synod is not to produce more documents: “Rather it is intended to inspire people to dream about the church we are called to be, to make hopes flourish, to stimulate trust, to bind up wounds, to weave new and deeper relationships, to learn from one another, to build bridges, to enlighten minds, warm hearts and restore strength to our hands for our common mission.”
Listening “should come first”
This is why participation in the process should be focused not so much on discussing ideas, but in “sharing experience” and, on that basis, “trying to sense what needs to be done, all shaped by prayer and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit”.
Though talking is important for every relationship, listening “should come first”, Cardinal Nichols points out: “The pathway is listening, the task is discerning together the important lessons and prompting of the Holy Spirit, and the outcome greater participation in the life and mission given to us by the Lord”, the letter explains.
Cardinal Nichols therefore calls on the faithful to join in the process in the coming weeks: “This lovely initiative of Pope Francis is an opportunity for us to show our care for the family of the Church. It shines with the Holy Father’s character of openness, compassion, and eagerness for renewal”, he concludes.