A theologian's take on how the 2023 Synod is a turning point for the Church
By Lisa Zengarini and Mario Galgano
The 2023 Synod on synodality is a “turning point” in the life of the Church. This is the views expressed by a Venezuelan member of the Theological Preparatory Commission of the Synod in an interview with Vatican Radio. According to theologian Rafael Luciani, the Synodal Process which was officially launched by Pope Francis on October 10, is “the most important event” since Vatican Council II.
Luciani is a theological expert at CELAM (Latin American Bishop's Council) and a member of the Theological Team of CLAR (Latin American Confederation of women and men religious). He has been appointed as one of the 41 members of the four preparatory Commissions established by the Synod, which include the Theological, Methodological, Spirituality and Communications commissions.
Speaking to Vatican Radio's Mario Galgano, he talked about his idea of synodality and of the crucial novelties of this Synod, as well as of the important contributions of Latin American ecclesiology.
The ecclesiology of the People of God
He notices that the core idea behind the Synod is the “centrality of the ecclesiology of the People of God” which was first introduced by Vatican Council II and has been emphasized many times by Pope Francis. This idea, he says, implies that the relationship between the People of God and Church is “not hierarchical anymore, that it is differentiated, but complementary”. It implies that bishops need religious and laypeople to accomplish their mission in the Church: “This, is what co-responsibility is all about”, Luciani points out.
A kairos moment for the Church
The Venezuelan theologian also draws attention to another crucial novelty of the 2023 Synod: that is the enhanced involvement of theologians in the process of listening and discernment aimed at creating this new synodal Church and the inclusion of theological reflection in the structures of the Church. In this way, he notes, “we don’t have theological reflection on one side, and people, on the other, saying: ‘How do we bring that into the real structures in the Church’”. According to Luciani, this moment is an opportunity, a kairos moment, as it expresses a new “ecclesial culture”.
Synodality is about diversity
Speaking about his personal expectations for the 2023 Synod, the theologian says he hopes there will be a “real dialogue” between different sensitivities in the Church, through a consensus process. According to Luciani, the different cultures and nationalities represented on the Theological Commission express this consensus: “Synodality is about diversity."
The essence of the Church
Referring to the contribution of Latin American ecclesiology to this process, Luciani recalled that, in a way, bishops in South America anticipated Vatican Council II by establishing CELAM in 1955 as a continental collegial body. CELAM, he explains, has now engaged a reform process aimed at expanding this collegial dimension in the light of the present process towards a synodal Church.
Highlighting the fact that the 2023 is not focused on single issues, Luciani finally emphasizes that synodality is the “essence of the Church”, a “more complete form of Church”.