Bishop David spoke to the chairs of our diocesan pastoral area councils on Saturday 11th September at the newly opened St Thomas Centre at our Cathedral in Northampton. The day focussed on the upcoming SYNOD announced recently by pope Francis. Canon Francis Higgins, appointed to oversee the synod at its diocesan level, shared the vision of the synod being an opportunity for “gracious listening”.

For the first time, the Synod Office in Rome has produced a comprehensive process which encompasses the stated aim of the Holy Father that “the Church in today’s world should have a vision of missionary communion orientated to evangelisation”.

The process follows on from Vatican 2, in that it reflects Vatican 2’s teaching that the universal body of the Church, all the baptised, are part of the infallibility of the Church.

In this process, everyone has a right to speak. All Catholics are invited to take part in this Synod.

Pope Francis says “The Synod is concerned mainly with how teaching can be lived and applied in the changing contexts of our time.” Therefore any topic can be raised

There will be many things that people will want to share during this process, but what a golden opportunity to express our concern for the environment, our desire for strong leadership from the bishops and the Vatican concerning our duty to change our lifestyles to mitigate environmental damage!

The Synod will be opened by the Pope on 9-10th October 2021, and subsequently in the individual dioceses by the respective bishops, on 17 October.

The process has 3 phases:

Diocesan (Local) Phase October 2021 – April 2022

Each individual faithful can participate in this diocesan consultation. This phase will end with an Assembly.

National Phase May 2022 – August 2022

During this period, the Bishops’ Conference will look at and discuss what has been offered by the Dioceses. The contributions from each local church, plus a ‘synthesis’ of the contributions will be sent to the General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops.

Continental Phase September 2022 – March 2023

The Regional Area of Bishops’ Conferences now will have the task of discussing the work. For England and Wales this is the European Council of Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE).

Finally, the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will discuss the work, under the theme heading: “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission” in October 2023.