Synod Continental Stage comes to conclusion
By Vatican News
The broad-based consultation of the People of God around the world has officially finished its "continental stage," consisting of a time of listening, dialogue, and discernment among the Churches of the same geographical area. This process came after the "Local Stage" of diocesan and national meetings. Both experiences represent a new style of dialogue, engagement, and involvement of the faithful presented by this synodal process.
Listening and discernment
Seven continental assemblies have taken place, marking a unique process of listening and discernment on a continental level. All looked at the key question at the center of the synodal process, how the 'walking together' that enables the Church to proclaim the Gospel in accord with its mission can be achieved today at all levels, from local to universal.
Various levels of Church involvement assisted the process, following the principle of subsidiarity. Local organizing committees helped prepare and bring to fruition the continental assemblies with the onsite accompaniment and presence of heads of the Vatican's General Secretariat of the Synod or the General Rapporteur of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. This presence has served as a sign of the closeness and desire of the Holy See to listen to the local Churches.
The seven continental assemblies took place over February and March 2023, bringing together members at all levels of the Church: bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and the laity. They discussed and responded to three key synod questions in the continental stage document. The questions regarded what topics in the document resonated most with them, and the others to identify areas of tension and priorities.
The General Secretariat of the Synod noted with satisfaction that participants in the various continental assemblies all found areas they could relate to in the document as well as paths forward for the Church, despite the wide-ranging ecclesial and cultural differences and diversity of perspectives.
The fruit of these discussions features in the Final Document that each Assembly produced and that will contribute to the work of the first session of the Synod of Bishops, which is set for 4-29 October 2023.
Time of grace
The Synod General Secretariat in its statement noted how all the assemblies have marked a time of grace for the Church, reflecting a great desire for renewal by walking together in unity with Christ. The continental process brought out the deep joy and love of so many faithful for their Church, the People of God, despite its shortcomings and weaknesses, as well as the importance of listening as an instrument and ongoing dynamic of ecclesial life. The assemblies also confirmed the method of “spiritual conversation” as a way to foster authentic listening and community discernment to arrive at ecclesial consensus.
Implementing synodal reforms
In conclusion, the Synod General Secretariat in its release expressed its heartfelt gratitude to all those who make this process happen and bear fruit. It also notes how this consultation will continue, focusing now on implementing the "synodal reforms" in the daily life of the local Church, with the awareness that much of what has been discussed and identified so far at the local level does not require the discernment of the universal Church or the intervention of the Magisterium of Peter.
The Final Documents published so far are available here.
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