Synod 2023: What has Pope Francis said about synodality?

CNA Staff   By CNA Staff

Pope Francis addressed pilgrims and tourists at his first outdoor general audience after the summer on Sept. 6, 2023. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Sep 17, 2023 / 13:15 pm (CNA).

The Synod on Synodality is set to launch the first of two assemblies on Oct. 4.

The global meetings in Rome are the culmination of two years of preparation, and during that time, much has been said about synodality, including by the pope.

In some of his more recent comments on synodality, Pope Francis said, “speaking of a ‘Synod on Synodality’ may seem something abstruse, self-referential, excessively technical, of little interest to the general public,” but it is “something truly important for the Church.”

“Precisely at this time, when there is much talk and little listening, and when the sense of the common good is in danger of weakening, the Church as a whole has embarked on a journey to rediscover the word together,” he said to media representatives on Aug. 26.

“Walk together. Question together. Take responsibility together for community discernment, which for us is prayer, as the first Apostles did: this is synodality, which we would like to make a daily habit in all its expressions,” he added.

Here are some of the other things Pope Francis has said about synodality during his papacy:

Oct. 17, 2015: Address marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Synod of Bishops

“The world in which we live, and which we are called to love and serve, even with its contradictions, demands that the Church strengthen cooperation in all areas of her mission. It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium.

Synodality, as a constitutive element of the Church, offers us the most appropriate interpretive framework for understanding the hierarchical ministry itself. If we understand, as St. John Chrysostom says, that ‘Church and Synod are synonymous,’ inasmuch as the Church is nothing other than the ‘journeying together’ of God’s flock along the paths of history towards the encounter with Christ the Lord, then we understand too that, within the Church, no one can be ‘raised up’ higher than others. On the contrary, in the Church, it is necessary that each person ‘lower’ himself or herself, so as to serve our brothers and sisters along the way.

In a synodal Church, the Synod of Bishops is only the most evident manifestation of a dynamism of communion which inspires all ecclesial decisions.”

Nov. 29, 2019: Address to the International Theological Commission

“In the last five years you have produced two relevant texts. The first offers a theological clarification on synodality in the life and mission of the Church.

You have shown how the practice of synodality, traditional but always to be renewed, is the implementation, in the history of the People of God on their journey, of the Church as a mystery of communion, in the image of Trinitarian communion. As you know, this theme is very close to my heart …

And for this I thank you for your document, because today one thinks that synodality is taking each other by the hand and setting out on a journey, celebrating with the young, or carrying out an opinion poll: ‘What do you think about the priesthood for women?’ That is mostly what is done, isn’t it? Synodality is an ecclesial journey that has a soul, which is the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit there is no synodality.”

Sept. 18, 2021: Address to the faithful of the Diocese of Rome

“Synodality is not a chapter in an ecclesiology textbook, much less a fad or a slogan to be bandied about in our meetings. Synodality is an expression of the Church’s nature, her form, style and mission. We can talk about the Church as being ‘synodal,’ without reducing that word to yet another description or definition of the Church. I say this not as a theological opinion or even my own thinking, but based on what can be considered the first and most important ‘manual’ of ecclesiology: the Acts of the Apostles.”

Oct. 9, 2021: Address for the opening of the Synod on Synodality

“The synod, while offering a great opportunity for a pastoral conversion in terms of mission and ecumenism, is not exempt from certain risks. I will mention three of these.

The first is formalism. The Synod could be reduced to an extraordinary event, but only externally; that would be like admiring the magnificent facade of a church without ever actually stepping inside. If we want to speak of a synodal Church, we cannot remain satisfied with appearances alone; we need content, means, and structures that can facilitate dialogue and interaction within the People of God, especially between priests and laity.

A second risk is intellectualism. Reality turns into abstraction and we, with our reflections, end up going in the opposite direction. This would turn the synod into a kind of study group, offering learned but abstract approaches to the problems of the Church and the evils in our world. The usual people saying the usual things, without great depth or spiritual insight, and ending up along familiar and unfruitful ideological and partisan divides, far removed from the reality of the holy People of God and the concrete life of communities around the world.

Finally, the temptation of complacency, the attitude that says: ‘We have always done it this way’ (Evangelii Gaudium, 33) and it is better not to change. That expression — ‘We have always done it that way’ — is poison for the life of the Church. Those who think this way, perhaps without even realizing it, make the mistake of not taking seriously the times in which we are living. The danger, in the end, is to apply old solutions to new problems.”

Sept. 4, 2023: Aboard the papal plane returning to Rome from Mongolia

“There is no place for ideology in the synod. It’s another dynamic. The synod is dialogue between baptized people in the name of the Church, on the life of the Church, on dialogue with the world, on the problems that affect humanity today. But when you think along an ideological path, the synod ends.

There is one thing we must safeguard: the synodal climate. This is not a TV program where everything is talked about. There is a religious moment, there is a moment of religious exchange. Consider that in the synod sessions they speak for 3-4 minutes each, three [people], and then there are 3-4 minutes of silence for prayer … Without this spirit of prayer there is no synodality, there is politics, there is parliamentarianism.

In the synod, religiosity must be safeguarded and the integrity of the people who speak must be safeguarded …”

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  1. The October Synod on Synodality is about the Synod next year on Synodality to create a Synodaling Church by walking together on a Synodal path as we live a synodal style for welcoming everyone to accompany them by Synodaling.

  2. Yes, yes…but then on certain inserted “tensions,” how much do earlier synods still count?

    Like the 1985 Extraordinary Synod of Bishops which, in its recommendations, called for creation of the Catechism (the Creed, Commandments, prayer, and sacraments). And, regarding the Church itself: “We cannot replace a false unilateral vision of the Church as purely hierarchical with a new sociological conception which is also unilateral” (Final Report, n. 3 Councils and synods are what the Church DOES, not what the Church IS.

    So, in 1985 this also:

    “Twenty years after the conclusion of the Council, this common assembly appeared necessary, indeed absolutely demanded, after the great and vast heritage of the Ecumenical Council of Vatican II. It was necessary that at this moment above all those who were called to take part in it express their judgment on Vatican II IN ORDER TO AVOID DIVERGENT INTERPRETATIONS” (John Paul II, “Continuing the Work of Vatican II,” n. 4, caps added; issued with the Final Report).


    “Christ the Lord…by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, [ALSO] fully reveals man to himself…” (Gaudium et Spes, n. 22).

    Where the earliest councils defended the revealed nature of a TRIUNE GOD, today in a secularized world might the (exaggerated?) synodal “style” now fail to defend the revealed nature of MAN…e.g., the indissolubility of marriage versus “irregular” serial bigamy and cohabitation, and the LGBTQ mindset/lifestyle advanced by those intent on recruiting even the Church itself?

    • Synodality? If “not a parliament,” then what?

      For those bigoted backwardists not willing to accommodate all of its composite and “welcoming” Instrumentum Laboris (IL)—with its ideological and upside-down ecclesiology and bottoms-up LGBTQism—why not this?…

      “Whoever refuses to obey the General Will will be forced to do so by the entire [synodal?] body; this means merely that he will be forced to be free” (“The Social Contract,” 1762).

      Who needs the German Bishop Batzing, or the American Fr. James Martin, or even the Austrian Cardinal Hollerich when we can have the very inclusive and consensual (!) “Citizen of Geneva,” Jean-Jacques Rousseau?

      • Like any Peronist you deny what you affirm and affirm what you deny. And worse, you believe it. The personal narcissism of Francis has an entertainer’s flair. Make both audiences happy and remain oblivious even if you infuriate both of them, not to mention betraying God in the process, especially when you infer that God (of surprises) likes to confuse us. Francis once said in the same sentence: Yes, homosexuality is sinful, but they are created to be homosexuals and are a blessing to those around them.

  3. Thing is the Pope may have put his feet in it and can wash his shoes or throw them out; but 1. it is still there and 2. for him it is a ruinous habit.

    Many aspects to this, here’s a an instance.

    Consider Henry VIII in Man For All Seasons. There are people I know who side with Pope Francis and still hold to the death penalty (for example) and tell you this very frankly; meanwhile the Pope says he is not running a parliament. Then Fernandez asserts that it is a papal doctrine that would make you heretic if you don’t alter with it. And in the parallel breath the Pope, to carry the day, endorses those who side with him (Francis). He could in the instance indirectly correct Fernandez but it hasn’t happened and it appears not even indirect correction will ever follow when there should be a correction.

    ‘ The problem of the next Synod will not be papal secrecy, which has always been there, nor communication, because the bishops will always be able to speak. It will be more about understanding terminology. It will be necessary to return to the original meanings of the words, to contrast their historical meaning with their present meanings, and to overcome the dichotomies between mercy and doctrine and between the Christian ideal and reality, which do not reflect reality. And that is, that the Christian life is an integral vocation. The doctrine serves to assist this vocation, and sin is a specifically human limit but a limit that can be overcome with the grace of God.

    Probably, this is what helps the synodal debate. The rest risks being just a stretch.

  4. According to a Vatican document, copiously titled the “Vatican’s Synod 2023 Preparatory Document: For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” it appears that a strange form of “infallibility” is being asserted for all the Vatican-II-tainted input into the currently ongoing Synod on Synodality. In the document’s words, “the authority of the sensus fidei of the entire People of God … is infallible ‘in credendo’.”
    As authority for this entrusting of a remarkably curious in-credendo (in matters of faith) form of infallibility to the entire People of God, the Vatican document only cites paragraph 119 of an Apostolic Exhortation (Evangelii Gaudium), issued by Pope Francis back in 2013. These are Pope Francis’s words in the Apostolic Exhortation:
    “In all the baptized, from first to last, the sanctifying power of the Spirit is at work, impelling us to evangelization. The people of God is holy thanks to this anointing, which makes it infallible in credendo. This means that it does not err in faith, even though it may not find words to explain that faith. The Spirit guides it in truth and leads it to salvation. As part of his mysterious love for humanity, God furnishes the totality of the faithful with an instinct of faith – sensus fidei – which helps them to discern what is truly of God. The presence of the Spirit gives Christians a certain connaturality with divine realities, and a wisdom which enables them to grasp those realities intuitively, even when they lack the wherewithal to give them precise expression.”
    Apparently, according to Pope Francis, God the Holy Spirit gives baptized Christians as a group (“the people of God”) a certain “connaturality” with “divine realities, and a wisdom which enables them to grasp those realities intuitively” but He withholds from those same baptized Christians “the wherewithal to give them precise expression.” God the Holy Spirit, one presumes, entrusts the “precise-expression” wherewithal to the sensus fidei of the Pope and his Vatican bureaucracy.

    • Raymond, you’re hitting on the most nefarious and theologically ridiculous aspect of this synod. All of the language equating the, “people of God” and their sensus fidei with the wisdom and will of the Holy Spirit and making them interchangeable, is simply a way to bludgeon supposed backwardists when they point out that synodal recommendations or innovations don’t conform with the deposit of faith. It’s a way for the protestantizers and heretics to cover themselves by claiming, “The Holy Spirit is giving this to the Church” rather than owning their own agenda. The arrogance of this smoke and mirrors act leaves many of us aghast and agog. I recently re-read M. Scott Peck’s book, “People of the Lie”. In it, he notes that normal people when in the presence of evil do not react with revulsion or horror, but with confusion. If this synod, and the constant barrage of theological mumbo jumbo and opaque word salads from the Pope don’t cause confusion – I don’t know what does. I am not saying the Pope is evil, but the enemy certainly seems to be involved in all of this.

  5. Matthew 27:20 The Sentence of Death.
    The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas but to destroy Jesus. The governor said to them in reply, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” They answered, “Barabbas!” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus called Messiah?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” But he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” They only shouted the louder, “Let him be crucified!”

    I think we ought to take a close look at the God Authorized Church Synod and Church Council of Caiaphas in the year 33 A.D. Our first Pope St. Peter was actually at the God Authorized Church, Church Council of Caiaphas in 33 A.D.

    Matthew 26:57 Jesus Before the Sanhedrin.
    Those who had arrested Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. Peter was following him at a distance as far as the high priest’s courtyard, and going inside he sat down with the servants to see the outcome. The chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus in order to put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward who stated, “This man said, ‘I can destroy the temple of God and within three days rebuild it.’” The high priest rose and addressed him, “Have you no answer? What are these men testifying against you? But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I order you to tell us under oath before the living God whether you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “You have said so. But I tell you:
    From now on you will see ‘the Son of Man
    seated at the right hand of the Power’
    and ‘coming on the clouds of heaven.’”
    Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! What further need have we of witnesses? You have now heard the blasphemy; what is your opinion?” They said in reply, “He deserves to die!” Then they spat in his face and struck him, while some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy for us, Messiah: who is it that struck you?”

  6. What Francis may say and what he firmly believes is not always apparent. Belief in such a case is difficult to determine. Response to the enigma is most likely found, not in the specifications whether in documents or word of mouth, rather in the overall effects.
    A catchall phrase that impinges Synodality, hacer lío, particularly regarding its widely acknowledged deleterious effects, was articulated by Francis some years back when he referred to the mess scenario. Words to the effect that, ‘We need to shake things up in order to effectively respond to the crisis of loss of faith. Eventually God will straighten things out’. That may be a benevolent intent, although we can’t endanger the eternal loss of so many persons who are drawn into a mercy first we’ll think about dogma later approach to the crisis.
    That worked during ancient Israel betrayals of God and his prophets when God would chastise then repent of his anger and respond with great generosity. In our day we have the Eternal Word spoken to us in Christ. A general Apostasy from the faith may more likely incur an eschatological response.

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