There have been rumblings of complaints from sectors of the Church about certain aspects of the synod on synodality. In a recent interview at the Vatican, Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, and Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, Jesuit Cardinal of Luxembourg and General Rapporteur of the Synod, gave their views on the synod’s progress and touched on a few Complaints.
The worldwide synod began in October 2021. They explained that the synod is now close to the completion of the “continental phase” – a time of listening and discernment “of all the people of God and all the local churches “. We are now moving on to the next phase, which will lead to the creation of a document summarizing the results of the global listening sessions and surveys conducted in each country so far.
Cardinal Hollerich said more than 100 abstracts were received from 114 individual episcopal conferences around the world. “This incredible figure tells us that yes, the Church is in synod,” he said, adding that 98% of the world’s episcopal conferences have responded – as well as the appointment of a synodal team or person of contact in each diocese – marks a great success. He explained that the summaries sent to Rome of these conferences “are the fruit of the discernment of the synthesis received from the dioceses”, resulting from the “listening sessions” and surveys of parishes, associations, movements, religious congregations. , Catholic schools and universities.
It also included all Vatican Dicasteries, Eastern Catholic Churches, International Unions of Religious Congregations, Institutes of Consecrated Life, Societies of Apostolic Life, and representatives of other Christians and world religions. He also said that this phase of the synod included more than 1,000 contributions from groups unaffiliated with the Church.
One of the synod’s criticisms was a weak numerical response to the listening sessions held across the world. An example of this would be the survey response sent to around 20 million people with only 110,000 people responding. Cardinal Hollerich said that despite the low number of responses, the accomplishment of a first try at a world synod should be considered more by the quality of participation than by the number. He explained that the data received so far convinces him “that we are facing an ecclesial dialogue unprecedented in the history of the Church, not only for the amount of responses received or the number of people involved, which for some who want to rely only on the number, which can only be approximate, may seem limited but also on the quality of participation.
During the interview, they were asked if these priests and faithful attached to the Latin Mass were listened to throughout the process. Cardinal Grech replied: “Precisely because no one in the Church has the exclusive right to the truth, consulting the People of God requires discernment. All that is said is not the voice of the Spirit: we must grasp in the sound of the voices, the voice of the Holy Spirit. This is where the function of discernment resides, which already operates in the process of listening, when the community converges on a point.
Cardinal Hollerich was asked directly about the comments he made when he appeared to say he disagreed with Church teaching on the immorality of homosexual acts and wanted let that change. He replied that he had “no personal agenda for this synod; I fully believe in the tradition of the Church, and what I think is important in this process is not to change doctrine.
But he added that it is important to listen to all people and all positions, saying: “This welcome does not mean that there cannot be discussion. … If we close the door to people, we drive some people to despair, and that’s something we don’t want.
The cardinals were asked if politics or anything else could possibly hijack the synod. Cardinal Grech said, “The Synod will be hijacked by one, the Holy Spirit, if I may use that term.”
Cardinal Hollerich added that the work of the Synod “is not to create a ‘shock’ for the Church, but to listen to what the People of God are saying!” He added, “It is a very complex thing that cannot be reduced to simple positions, and I think that the synod model is a model based on ecclesial consensus.”
Father Joseph D. Wallace is Diocesan Director of Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs and Pastor of Christ the Redeemer Parish, Atco.