Bishops of England and Wales offer reflections on National Synodal Synthesis
By Lisa Zengarini
As the Church in England and Wales concludes the first phase of the synodal journey leading to the 2023 Synod on synodality, English and Welsh Bishops have pledged to continue working for a more listening, collaborative and inclusive Church, acknowledging the need to reflect further on the “hurt and pain” voiced during the diocesan consultations, but also pointing to the “many signs of hope” that have emerged.
“Seeking Our Hearts’ Desire”
In a statement released on Tuesday, the bishops offer their initial reflections on the National Synthesis issued early in June by a special team collating the submissions presented by parishes and dioceses as well as Catholic organisations and individuals after their synodal encounters.
Titled “Seeking Our Hearts’ Desire”, the document acknowleges the concerns expressed by many participants about “how power is exercised in the Catholic Church” as well as “the devastating impact of clerical sexual abuse on survivors and within the wider Church”. It further notes that: “The voices of those who feel marginalised or unwelcome because of their marital situation, sexual orientation or gender identity”, and of others “who feel excluded from the life of the Church, or identify as being on the peripheries” have been “raised and heard” during the synodal process of encounter.
Noting that “some voices” are absent, “not least, the distinctive voice of different ethnic communities who enrich many parishes in the Church in England and Wales”, the bishops pledge to try and engage with “the nine in ten Catholics that attend Sunday Mass but have not yet taken part in any of the synodal process”.
Missionary dynamism and formation
On a positive note, the English and Welsh bishops remark the concern emerged from all responses “to renew the missionary dynamism of the Church at local level”, and “to provide increased opportunities for lay formation in the faith”.
They “echo strongly” the desire expressed for a schooling in prayer, spirituality and liturgy, stressing that “the more we are formed in the love of Christ the better equipped we are to be the love of Christ to and for others”. “This – they say – is especially so as we look to greater clergy and lay collaboration in serving the Church’s missionary mandate”
The reflection finally emphasizes the importance of “journeying together” in the ecclesial community and of accompanying those “who experience hurt, pain and a sense of distance or exclusion from the life of the Church”, noting that the recent experience of the pandemic has revealed a “deep yearning for human and spiritual communion”.
“Our synodal conversations have increased this desire through an emphasis on welcome, evangelisation and outreach”, the reflection concludes.
The bishops’ reflection, together with the National Synthesis document, wil form part of the European continental synodal phase planned in March 2023 and the process will culminate with the Synod of Bishops in Rome in the following October.