Let us plan a year of synodal learning.
There have been many milestones in the history of the Church. The major one in the last century was the Second Vatican Council. As a consequence of it, the Church has entered another turning point: the Synod 2021-2023, whose theme is “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission.” Never before in human history has there been a greater consultation. It is the Catholic Church that is calling together - not just a group of bishops to speak on behalf of their flock as in other synods - the 1.4 billion baptised members of the People of God. It is an authentically “Catholic” process, that is to say, a universal process, to be led by the Holy Spirit.
I believe, dear friends, that this is the closest thing to Vatican II that we are going to experience in our lives, only this time we are called to live it from within, in communion, as participants in the process of listening and discernment, in order to embrace, in a Church “which goes forth,” a renewed and more fruitful evangelising mission.
It is not a question of a new fashion or of introducing something foreign to the culture of the Church, but of recovering what the Church was for the first 1000 years. According to the International Theological Commission, ‘Synod’ is an ancient word highly revered by the Tradition of the Church, the meaning of which is associated with the deepest contents of Revelation [...] it indicates the path which the members of the People of God walk together. It refers therefore to the Lord Jesus who presents himself as “the Way, Truth and Life” (Jn 14:6), and to the fact that Christians, his followers, were originally called “the disciples of the Way” (cf. Acts 9:2; 19:9,23; 22:4; 24:14,22).
Pope Francis wishes to recover this rich tradition of the Church, because he is convinced that “synodality is the path that God expects of the Church of the third millennium” (50th anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops, 17 October 2015). The aim of this Synodal Process is not just to produce a document or a meeting of bishops in Rome, “but rather to provide an opportunity for the entire People of God to discern together how to move forward on the path towards being a more synodal Church in the long-term” (Vademecum 1.3).
Cardinals from other continents attended the first and, for the moment, only Continental Ecclesial Assembly, in Mexico in November 2021. Why did cardinals from outside Latin America join the Assembly? These cardinals participated to learn, because they, their continents, many of the 2,000 dioceses in the world and perhaps our own organisations, have no synodal experience. WUCWO itself has to learn to develop in a synodal style. (The Latin American Assembly incorporated the results obtained by the recently created WUCWO’s World Observatory on Women into the working document with regard to women).
What will this Synodal Process require of us and our organisations in the year ahead?
What should we cultivate in our meetings, whether face-to-face or virtual, with a view to synodality? Time for sharing, humility to listen and courage to speak, willingness to change our opinions based on sincere dialogue, openness to conversion and change to avoid resisting the Holy Spirit, leaving aside prejudices and “it has always been done this way,” overcoming the plague of clericalism, combating the virus of self-sufficiency, leaving aside ideologies and seeing not only the negative but also the positive, with new hope (cf. Vademecum 2.3).
As the head of WUCWO, I urge you to promote the intensive participation of all Catholic women in the Synodal Process of your local churches. This is the step on the way to holiness, which, before God, I see that we have to take in this 2022. Happy and holy Year!
María Lía Zervino, Servidora
WUCWO President General
Prayer for the Synod
We stand before You, Holy Spirit,
as we gather together in Your name.
With You alone to guide us,
make Yourself at home in our hearts;
Teach us the way we must go
and how we are to pursue it.
We are weak and sinful;
do not let us promote disorder.
Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path
nor partiality influence our actions.
Let us find in You our unity
so that we may journey together to eternal life
and not stray from the way of truth
and what is right.
All this we ask of You,
who are at work in every place and time,
in the communion of the Father and the Son,
forever and ever. Amen.