Pope Francis formally opened the synodal process celebrating Mass in St Peter’s Basilica on Sunday 10th October. This ‘listening’ process will take two years to complete and will focus on ‘encounter and listening which leads to discernment’.

Formally titled ‘For a synodal Church: communion, participation, mission’, Pope Francis described the upcoming Synod as a journey in which the whole Church is engaged. It will take place between October 2021 and October 2023, and that the itinerary has been conceived as “a dynamism of mutual listening, conducted at all levels of the Church, involving the whole people of God”. The first stage of the process (October 2021 – April 2022) is the one concerning the individual diocesan Churches. He explained that “synodality expresses the nature of the Church, its form, its style, its mission”. The word “synod”, in fact, contains everything we need to understand: walking together and listening to the totality of the baptised. There is much resistance to overcome the image of a Church rigidly divided between leaders and subordinates, between those who teach and those who have to learn, forgetting that God likes to overturn positions. Walking together discovers horizontality rather than verticality as its line.It is necessary to feel part of one great people who are the recipients of the divine promises open to a future that awaits everyone to participate in the banquet prepared by God for all peoples I encourage you to take this synodical process seriously and to tell you that the Holy Spirit needs you. “Listen to Him by listening to yourselves and do not leave anyone out or behind”. This holds not only for those present, but for the whole of the Church which is not strengthened only by reforming structures, giving instructions, offering retreats and conferences, or by dint of directives and programmes, but if it rediscovers that it is a people that desires to walk together, among itself and with humanity. 

Pope Francis has made it clear that the process of this SYNOD is to enable our Church to move forwards ‘in a process of discernment that consists of listening together to the Spirit’. The question for the people of God in the first stage of the process is direct and clear:

A synodal Church, in announcing the Gospel, “journeys together:” How is this “journeying together” happening today in your particular Church? What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our “journeying together”?

Bishop David will open the diocesan stage of the process on Sunday 17th October in Northampton Cathedral at 3.00pm.