Synod organizers tell Continental Assemblies not to ‘impose an agenda’ on discussions


Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, archbishop of Luxembourg, (left) and Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Jan 30, 2023 / 09:18 am (CNA).

Cardinals organizing the Synod on Synodality have written a letter to all of the world’s bishops sharing urgent considerations for the Continental Assemblies, seven of which are set to take place by the end of March.

In the letter published by the Vatican on Jan. 30, Cardinal Mario Grech and Cardinal Jean Claude Hollerich stressed that the Synod of Bishops is not meant “to address all the issues being debated in the Church.”

“There are in fact some who presume to already know what the conclusions of the synodal assembly will be. Others would like to impose an agenda on the synod, with the intention of steering the discussion and determining its outcome,” the cardinals wrote.

“However, the theme that the pope has assigned to the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is clear: ‘For a Synodal Church: communion, participation, mission.’ This is therefore the sole theme that we are called to explore in each of the stages within the process.”

The cardinals added that “those who claim to impose any one theme on the synod forget the logic that governs the synod process: we are called to chart a ‘common course’ beginning with the contribution of all.”

While the North American Continental Assembly has already begun to meet virtually, other continents are hosting in-person meetings in February and March:

  • Europe and Oceania will both begin their Continental Assemblies on Feb. 5.
  • Two hundred delegates will meet in Prague, Czech Republic, for the first part of the European Continental Assembly Feb. 5-9 followed by a meeting of the 39 European bishops, who each serve as the president of his country’s bishops’ conference, from Feb. 9-12 with an additional 390 delegates participating online (10 for each bishops’ conference.)
  • Bishops from Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea will join together with delegates from other parts of Oceania for a five-day meeting in Suva, Fiji, for the Oceania Continental Assembly Feb. 5-9.
  • The Middle East Continental Assembly will take place in Beirut, Lebanon, Feb. 12-18, with the participation of clergy from at least seven Eastern Catholic Churches.
  • Bishops and delegates from across Asia will meet in Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 24-26 for the Asian Continental Assembly with 100 expected participants.
  • The African Continental Assembly will take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with the participation of 95 laypeople, 12 religious sisters, 18 priests, 15 bishops, and seven cardinals, a total of 155 delegates, March 1-6.
  • The Latin American and Caribbean Continental Assembly will be held as four separate meetings across the region. The first will be in El Salvador Feb. 13-17 with participants from Mexico and Central America. The second for the Caribbean is in the Dominican Republic Feb. 20-24. The third is in Quito, Ecuador, Feb. 27-March 3, and the fourth is in Brasilia, Brazil, March 6-10.

The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops describes these Continental Assemblies as a meeting to “reread the journey made and to continue the listening and discernment … proceeding in accord with the socio-cultural specificities of their respective regions.”

The discussion at the Continental Assemblies will be guided by a 44-page working document officially called the DCS (Document for the Continental Stage).

The text calls for “a Church capable of radical inclusion” and says that many local synod reports raised questions about the inclusion and role of women, young people, the poor, people identifying as LGBTQ, and the divorced and remarried.

In the letter signed by Grech and Hollerich on Jan. 26, the cardinals stressed that the themes proposed in the document guiding the synod’s continental phase discussions “do not constitute the agenda” for the Synod of Bishops assembly in October 2023.

“The decision to restore the DCS to the particular Churches, asking that each one listen to the voice of the others … truly manifests that the only rule we have given ourselves is to constantly listen to the Spirit,” it said.

The synod organizers added that it will be the task of the Continental Assemblies to identify “the priorities, recurring themes, and calls to action” that will be discussed during the first session of the Synod of Bishops Oct. 4-29.

Each Continental Assembly is required to submit a final document of no more than 20 pages providing the region’s response to three reflection questions based on the DCS by March 31:

  1. Which intuitions resonate most strongly with the lived experiences and realities of the Church in your continent? Which experiences are new or illuminating to you?
  2. What substantial tensions or divergences emerge as particularly important in your continent’s perspective? Consequently, what are the questions or issues that should be addressed and considered in the next steps of the process?
  3. Looking at what emerges from the previous two questions, what are the priorities, recurring themes, and calls to action that can be shared with other local Churches around the world and discussed during the First Session of the Synodal Assembly in October 2023?

The final, universal phase of the Synod on Synodality will begin with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in October 2023 and continue in October 2024.

The feedback from the seven Continental Assemblies on the Document for the Continental Stage (DCS) will be used as the basis for another instrumentum laboris, or working document, that will be completed in June 2023 to guide the Synod of Bishops’ discussion.

If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!

Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.

About Catholic News Agency 9795 Articles
Catholic News Agency (


  1. Nevertheless, there’s a difference between “continents” and “continence…”

    Such complex and titanic clarification counts for little coming from Cardinal Grech whose announced agenda (!) is to “stretch the gray areas,” and Cardinal Hollerich who witlessly spilled the beans when he signaled his own adolescent agenda (!!) to overturn natural law and, therefore, the Catechism, on human sexual morality.

    Does the new guidance mention anything about the magisterium’s Veritatis Splendor, for example, or is it only about the “aggregated, compiled and synthesized” plebiscite of the seven-fold Continental Drift?

    The new seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: the synodal intuitions, tensions, divergences, emergences, experiences, priorities, and themes !!!!!!!

    Beyond their depth, as with the Titanic, these occupiers of previously respected Church offices.

  2. Courtney Mares’ report conveys a message, that the Synod leaders Cardinals Hollerich and Grech wish to change the narrative most journalists, the concerned have with the Synod’s heterodoxy.
    If editor Carl Olson chose the photos of the two, the pics of their smiling faces are highly convincing. That righteous orthodoxy is their selling point. As convincing as the ‘trust me’ smiles. Are we to be convinced that previous overtures for doctrinal change on sexual morality by Hollerich, the doctrinal gray areas of Grech have lost significance?
    The DCS three “reflections”, resonating intuitions, geographical divergences, and consequent results are sufficiently vague to assure the progressive that the fruits of Amoris Laetitia have not quite lost their exoticness.

    • In addition to specific and flipped “doctrinal change,” the LARGER QUESTION is whether synodality is about flipping the Church itself upside down, altogether? The flipped pyramid? The polyhedral (c)hurch but with a silent center?

      The only “theme” not mentioned in the article is the Deposit of Faith, and the responsibilities of the Apostolic Succession. Surely these are is not the explicit “agendas” most troubling to this duet!

      A genuine “listening” exercise is a good thing, a good starter for real dialogue and improved “communion, participation and mission.” May the cardinals be respected and may it succeed.

      But, DO WE HAVE HERE, infiltration by moral ambiguity and worse, and even the foundational inability to simply get it right—meaning the synodal (!) Second Vatican Council, i.e., Lumen Gentium: a real “hierarchical communion” (not the ideologically alleged pyramid of power)? Instead, is it now “Call to Action” all over again, after having been disavowed and left rotting for half a century? But now disinterred and flashed onto the big screen!

      Sexual abuse metastasized into broadened textual abuse?

      The QUESTION is whether the individual and personally responsible Successors of the Apostles, now congregated into “continental” artifices, will carefully avoid the appearance of so-called “agendas,” but then end up lending their fingerprints to a deeply rooted and subliminal agenda…

      Or will they find a decisive way to FLIP THE LIGHTS ON, for the real good of the perennial Catholic Church? Like they did ALREADY in 2018 when they unanimously “demanded” (!) that Cardinal Baldiserri remove the editorially imposed category “LGBTQ” from the final report on the Synod on Young People?

      • Let’s hope, in the theological sense because it appears the Vatican wants to move forward with the LGBT agenda. Since 2018 bishops have been pummeled psychologically with constant argumentation, rationale to change doctrine. Nevertheless I’m confident the African bishops [perhaps the American despite the trio of collaberateurs Cardinals McElroy, Cupich, Tobin] will refuse it regardless of what Europe does. Francis will then be bound to abide [again we hope] to his diversity of opinion position as he did through CDF prefect Card Ladaria on the communion for pro abortion Catholic politicians.

  3. St. John Paul II: “The mystery of the Eucharist—sacrifice, presence, banquet—does not allow for reduction or explanation; it must be experienced and lived in its integrity, both in its celebration and in the intimate converse with Jesus which takes place after receiving Communion or in a prayerful moment of Eucharistic adoration apart from Mass. These are times when the Church is firmly built up and it becomes clear what she truly is: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic; the people, temple, and family of God, the body and bride of Christ, enlivened by the Holy Spirit; the universal sacrament of salvation and a hierarchically structured communion” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 2003).

    …“integrity, clear, universal, hierarchically structured communion.”

    How far above is this from the synodality’s “inverted pyramid and inverted morality” “polyhedral” incoherence; And reductionist “communion” (post-Eucharistic?), inclusive “participation” (post-universal receptivity?), and “mission” (post-apostolic?).

    Who are these slapstick Keystone Cops–Grech, Hollerich & Co–now trying to put the agenda back in the toothpaste tube after McElroy publicly sat on it! You just can’t get good help these days.

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Synod organizers tell Continental Assemblies not to ‘impose an agenda’ on discussions | Passionists Missionaries Kenya, Vice Province of St. Charles Lwanga, Fathers & Brothers
  2. Synod organizers tell Continental Assemblies not to ‘impose an agenda’ on discussions – Catholic World Report – The Old Roman

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments posted at Catholic World Report are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative or inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.