Pope Francis has invited the entire People of God to journey together in a global listening process called “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.”

What does it all mean? The word “synod” is rooted in a Greek term denoting a “journey together.” The synod process, therefore, is a journey of the whole church, an encounter with the Good News and with one another. It is about listening … listening to one another and listening to the Holy Spirit active among us in our time.

Pope Francis has asked local diocese, religious communities, and laity to create opportunities to dialogue together. The intention of this journeying together is to be present with one another, to listen and learn with each other, and to grow closer to God and God’s dream for the church.

“This is a moment to be co-creators with the Spirit. … It is a chance for reinvigorating an engaged community through creativity and the call to be open. There’s a chance to reaffirm the good and reimagine some things that could be better.”

Julia McStravog- USCCB Consultant

What does the word Synod mean?

Synod is a greek word (synodos) meaning a meeting or assembly. The two Greek words that make up synod are syn meaning together and hodos meaning way or journey.

What is the Synod of Bishops?

Synod of Bishops is a gathering of bishops that:

  • fosters closer unity between the bishops and Pope.
  • provides counsel to the Pope on matters of faith and morals, and discipline of the Church.
  • studies questions concerning the Church in the world (c.f. Code of Canon Law c. 342).

Voting in the Synod of Bishops is limited to bishops present at the synod gathering. However, clergy, men and women religious, theologians, catechists, canon lawyers, and lay experts all participate in the synod gathering with bishops by providing their counsel.

What is Synodality?

“Synodality” refers to the way that these synods make decisions. It is a model that includes listening to a broad range of people and then discussing the issues together with the intention of hearing where the Holy Spirit is calling the church. Practically, Pope Francis has said, this means not entering the discussion with the idea that there will be “winners” who get their way and “losers” who do not but leaving agendas at the door, speaking with parrhesia (a Greek word that appears in the New Testament and means “frankness,” “boldness” or “courage”), listening humbly and being open to others’ ideas.

What is different about this Synod?

This Synod is unique for two reasons.  One, Pope Francis is asking that the entire People of God to participate in this Synod.  All are invited to pray, listen, and talk together. Initial reports are due by June 2022 in preparation for the gathering of Bishops in October 2023.

Second, this Synod is a unique gift for our local communities. It is an opportunity to invite people to a deeper spiritual life. This invitation starts with listening – listening to each other’s joys, hopes, sorrows and anxieties. Listening to each other is the basis of dialogue, friendship, and community life. This Synod is about encountering each other as brothers and sisters in Christ in post-pandemic world.