Archbishop Broglio: Synod an opportunity to combat polarisation
By Joseph Tulloch
Archbishop Timothy Broglio, Archbishop for Military Services in the United States, spoke to Vatican News on Tuesday about the upcoming Continental Stage of the synodal process.
The Archbishop, who was recently appointed head of the US Bishops’ Conference, was in Rome for a meeting of the Presidents and Coordinators of the Continental Assemblies of the Synod.
During the interview, he discussed the meeting in Rome, strategies for listening to the voices of the marginalised, and the opportunity the synod offers to combat polarisation in the US Church.
The following transcript has been lightly edited for reasons of style.
You're just coming to the end of this two-day meeting with the Secretariat of the Synod. How has it been? What have you talked about? What have you discussed? What have you learned?
Well, I think it's been a very useful meeting. In terms of what we've discussed, we basically saw how each Continental group has approached the Continental session. It's interesting that all the continents that are represented are doing it in different ways, and that also reflects the different realities that are represented here. The United States and Canada are using a virtual approach because of the size of the countries and also the question of logistics, but very interesting to see the variety of approaches.
And I think in terms of things learned, the time we spent this morning on spiritual conversation has been very useful. Of course, it was a Jesuit who made the presentation so you could see the spirit of Saint Ignatius kind of lurking over the process, but really fascinating.
I think now the challenge will be how do we put this into action in our different continental gatherings. Obviously, the role of facilitator will be very important, but also this ability to listen and then to put together what we've heard.
One of the things that you read in the Working Document for the Continental Stage is that they're quite interested in making sure that the Synod hears the voice of all of the people of God. They talk particularly about making heard the voices of women and laypeople, people who live in conditions of poverty and marginalisation. How is the Church in the U.S. going to try and put that into practice?
Well, we're trying to use, as I said, a virtual method … the hope with that is that by not obliging people to go someplace, we can reach out to those who are more marginalised, and also those for whom affronting the cost of a trip might be problematic.
Now, it's going to depend very much on each diocesan bishop to recruit those people because each one can have 3 to 5 delegates. So it will depend on the individual dioceses to make sure that they have this cross representation of people. But hopefully, that is taking place now, and also the fact that we've extended the deadline by a few days will make it a little bit easier, I think, for some of the dioceses that were lagging behind to catch up. But I hope that it'll be a fruitful exchange.
And we have ten opportunities to participate; there are five in English, two in French and three in Spanish. So hopefully it will be a wide cross-section of both the United States and Canada because we're doing it together.
One of the things you hear people talk a lot about in the context of the U.S. Church is polarisation. And I'm wondering if you think that the synodal path has any potential to help with that.
I certainly hope that it does. I think the emphasis that's been placed on listening will be a great help if people enter into these moments of conversation and dialogue and discernment with a spirit of listening to the other.
Unfortunately, one of the aspects – I don't know how prevalent this is in the Church, but certainly one of the aspects of the society in general in the United States – is the inability to listen to the other. You only listen to the newscasters that tell you what you want to hear, or from your point of view, and if you don't agree with someone, then you don't listen to him or her.
We even see this on university campuses, where you would think a fundamental aspect of learning is also to listen to those who don't necessarily agree with me. But we have this closing off where we don't we don't want to hear people, if they represent a certain position they're not welcome on a campus.
I'm hopeful that at least among Catholics in those who participate in the Synodal process, perhaps this opening to the presence of the spirit will allow … and that doesn't necessarily mean that this is a moment of changing convictions, but it is a moment of hearing where the other person is and trying to respond and put together that sharing of views. I hope that that will help heal, at least as far as the church is concerned, some of the polarisation.
What are you most excited about going forward with the Synod process in this next continental stage?
I'm most excited about the fact that we'll be working together with Canada. As my Canadian brother has pointed out repeatedly, it's the longest border in the world that's unfortified.
And so we do have a lot in common – and there's of course, there's enough to make the two realities distinct as well – but that's an enrichment to be able to enter into the other country and to listen with them.
Because of these sessions, you won't need a passport to participate in them. So they will be mixed. All of the sessions, obviously, probably the two in French should be a little more aimed at Quebec, but I intend to participate, at least in one of them in French, so that I can hear what's going on.
So I think there will be a great opening and a great appreciation of the church in both countries. And then it will be interesting to see, when we come to the conclusions, what the Church in North America has to contribute to the whole synodal process. I think that will be very interesting to see.