2022.08.29 Incontro Cardinali

Synod: Church leaders welcome Document for Continental Stage

As the Church gears up for the continental phase of the Synod on synodality, local Catholic Church leaders are encouraging the people of God to continue walking together in the three-year synodal process to discern more deeply what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church today.

By Vatican News staff reporter

The Document for the Continental Stage (DCS) of the 2021-2024 Synod on Synodality is a useful tool to reflect further on the issues emerged from the Diocesan phase, and therefore to discern more deeply what the Holy Spirit is telling the Church at this time, according to Church leaders in various parts of the world.

The Working Document presented on Tuesday in the Vatican is the result of a group reflection on the syntheses submitted to the Vatican by 112 Bishops’ Conferences and 15 Oriental Catholic Churches of the questions raised during the local and national listening sessions held earlier this year, plus reflections from 17 out of 23 Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, from the men’s and women’s international unions of superiors general, and from Catholic lay associations and movements.

Entitled “Enlarge the Space of Your Tent” (Isaiah 54:2), the DCS highlights a wide range of issues emerged during the local sessions, including the desire for greater inclusion expressed by many people who feel unwelcome in the Church, or undervalued: women, young people, people with disabilities, the poor, those who are divorced and civilly remarried, single parents, and LGBTQ people.

Most submissions also included a call for greater participation by all Catholics in the liturgy, working to ensure that it is less “concentrated on the celebrant” and reflects more local cultures. Many reports cited “clericalism” as an obstacle to being a “synodal Church”. The abuse crisis was also brought up.

Walking together as Church 

Bishop Daniel Flores, chairman of the Committee on Doctrine of the US Catholic Bishops’ Conference (USCCB), who has been shepherding the synodal process in the United States, welcomed the DCS, saying it is “a profound reflection that brings together the hopes and concerns expressed by the geographically diverse communities within the universal Church and that it will be “fundamental" in the ongoing discernment  to be carried out in this second stage.

For his part, the President of the Canadian Bishop’s Conference (CCCB), and member of the writing team for the Canadian National Synthesis, noted that the Working Document “invites us to continue to meet, discuss and question, in a spiritual and prayerful context, in order to bring our Church to where the Spirit is leading it.”

“We have all experienced that this ‘walking together as Church’ does not end; but it does have a goal: to create a space for the mission of every baptized person.””

Canada and the U.S. joining together in the Continental stage

For the Continental Stage of the Synod, the USCCB the CCCB will be joining in holding ten virtual Continental Assemblies, in late 2022 and early 2023. Representatives from each diocese in the United States and Canada will be attending one of these assemblies to reflect on and discuss the DCS. Discussions will then be brought together in the North American Continental Synthesis and submitted to the Holy See by 31 March 2023.

According to Richard Coll, executive director of the USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development, who was appointed in June 2021 to coordinate the effort of the U.S. bishops for the Synod, “The North American Continental Stage will create opportunities to engage the diversity of the People of God in the Church in North America in continued listening and meditation on the content and the reflection questions proposed by the Document for the Continental Stage.”

Discerning what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church today

Archbishop Eamon Martin, President of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, has also welcomed the publication of the DCS and encouraged the faithful in Ireland to read it.

“Overall, the document gives us a glimpse of what people from around the universal Church are thinking about their participation in the mission of the Church at the beginning of this third millennium,” he said.

Archbishop Martin will join the Irish 13-member delegation attending European continental Assembly taking place in Prague, Czech Republic, from 5-12 February 2023. According to the Archbishop of Armagh, the upcoming discussions on the document in the Irish dioceses ahead of that Assembly will help better discern what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church at this time.

“It will be interesting to identify those areas of commonality and diversity, as well as to discern more deeply what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church at this time.””

A three-stage process

Formally opened by Pope Francis on 10 October 2021, the Synod on Synodality - typically a month-long meeting of bishops at the Vatican - has been redesigned in this instance as a three-stage process, beginning with local consultations carried out at a national level in dioceses across the world, from October 2021 to April 2022, followed by a continental phase, which will last through March 2023, and finally by the universal phase with the bishops gathering in Rome for the 16th General Synod.


The Synod was originally planned for October 2023, but on 16 October, Pope Francis announced that it will be extended for an additional year to allow more time for discernment and a greater understanding of the concept of synodality as a key dimension of Church life.

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28 October 2022, 16:30