Synod reports show enthusiasm for mission, but also identify obstacles

Cardinal Mario Grech, center, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, spoke at a press conference at the Vatican Oct. 27 to present the document of the continental phase of the Synod of Bishops on synodality. Also represented are Msgr. Piero Coda, Secretary General of the International Theological Commission; the Italian Jesuit Father Giacomo Costa, adviser to the general secretary of the synod; Anna Rowlands, Professor of Catholic Social Thought and Practice at Durham University in the UK; and Matteo Bruni, director of the Press Office of the Holy See. (SNC photo by Junno Arocho Esteves)

By Cindy Wood

VATICAN CITY – Catholics around the world yearn to share the gospel with a world in need, but they see situations and tensions within the Church that call into question their ability to do so, the one of the editors of the document for the continental phase of the Synod of Bishops.

Reports sent to the Vatican from local and national listening sessions show “a deep, deep hunger for a new confidence in the Church, a confidence in her ability to proclaim the gospel to a world that so deeply need,” said Anna Rowlands, a professor of Catholic social thought and practice at Durham University in England.

Rowlands, who read many contributions to the synod before helping draft the new document, told reporters at the Vatican on Oct. 27 that reports showed trust was being tested by internal church issues. , in particular the clerical abuse scandal.

With “equally” emphasis on mission, she said, the reports ask, “What condition does the church need to be in in its own internal life and relationships to be able to carry this message in the world? To meet Christ in the world and bring Christ to the world in a Spirit-led way? »

Speaking of exclusion and clericalism and a lack of mutual listening, “reports say there are aspects of our own relationships, our capacity for true unity in diversity”, that stand in the way, a Rowlands said. The reports recognize that it is difficult to speak with authority to the world about reconciliation in Christ “if we ourselves cannot be brothers and sisters, if we cannot heal our own divisions, our mutual suspicions, our lack of basic trust”.

The synod document is titled “Enlarge the Space of Your Tent,” a quote from the Lord’s command to the people of Israel in the book of Isaiah.

“Expanding the tent requires welcoming others there, making room for their diversity,” the document says. But echoing submissions to the synod’s Vatican office, the document lists people and groups who often feel or are perceived to be excluded: women, young people, people with disabilities, the poor, divorced and civilly remarried people. , single parents, people living in polygamous marriages and members of LGBTQ communities.

When asked if there are limits to who can enter the church tent and about Catholics who do not want the tent enlarged, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, general rapporteur of the synod, replied: “There will be groups sitting in the tent who are not very happy that certain people are in a corner.

“But who is invited to the tent? All people created and loved by God. Everyone,” he said. “Our behavior is maybe a little bit more fragmented sometimes, and our love is not as great as God’s love, so we create segregations, even inside the tent.”

Everyone naturally loves some people more than others, but in the church everyone is called to see each person as “one loved by God, called into existence by God.” Christ died for that person on the cross, so if I’m not able to accommodate that person in the tent, I have a problem with God.

Asked about the drafters of the document pushing or prioritizing certain themes, such as the call for women to have a greater role in church leadership, to continue to explore the possibility of women deacons, and mention of some reports that even called for the ordination of women priests, Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary general of the synod, insisted that the document only reflects what the reports sent say.

“No decision has been made” on any issue, he said. “We are not pushing any program. This has been said from the start. Our responsibility was to present and render to the people of God what had been entrusted to us. There is no agenda. »

Rowlands added that in drafting the document, if an issue came up “again and again” in the national summaries, “we had to honor it” and include it in the document.

The issue of women’s role in church and society and their experiences in both “have been raised in the reports; it’s an amazing and common theme,” she said. But it is also important to note how they talked about the issue; “It’s rooted in people’s sense of the common dignity that comes from their baptism.”

The discussion was not about women’s rights, but about “living a common baptismal vocation in the Church so that the charisms of the Spirit, the gifts, abilities and skills of all the baptized may be honored and nurtured and flourish,” Rowlands said.

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