By Mark Pattison | Catholic News Service
BALTIMORE (CNS) — Work is proceeding — and quickly — on next October’s synod on synodality, according to Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas, in Nov. 15 a report to his fellow bishops.
Diocesan listening sessions concluded this fall. Bishop Flores, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, said dioceses “managed to host over 30,000 listening sessions and other means of coming together.”
He added, “While admitting the process was not perfect, we have learned much and can do better in the future.”
Coming right on the heels of the diocesan phase is “the continental stage” of consultations, Bishop Flores said. It will consist of a series of 10 Zoom meetings for delegates chosen by each diocese in the United States and Canada, he said. “It’s an additional level of discernment,” the bishop added.
But dioceses have to act quickly, he noted. The names of their delegates need to be submitted by Nov. 28.
Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, expressed disappointment that the “continent” did not include both North and South America.
Bishop Flores replied it was due to the “logistical diversity and difficulty of gathering so large and diverse a supercontinent, as it were. I think there was a sense on both the North American side and the CELAM side it would be good if it were otherwise, but practically speaking it was not feasible.” CELAM is the Spanish acronym for the Latin American bishops’ council.
Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, expressed his disappointment that none of the continental stage’s meetings were going to be conducted in person. “I think the real work is going to be done in person,” he said.
“My disappointment is not theoretical, it’s existential,” Cardinal Tobin added. “If you remember what 2018 looked like on the ecclesia landscape in our country, it was a difficult moment,” a reference to the clerical sex abuse revelations about former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick and the Pennsylvania grand jury report.
But that year V Encuentro, or Fifth National Encuentro, also took place. He attended the gathering, which he said “was a tremendously hope-filled experience” for the 3,000″ there — “who represented the hundreds of thousands” of faithful. It also, he added, “gave us a pastoral experience going forward.”
Bishop Flores said the virtual meeting setup “allows people to participate” given the “time crunch” with continental reports due March 31, while also enabling “those least able to travel” to take part.
He asked his fellow bishops to “assure that the representatives that you choose reflect the wideness of your local church, especially the marginalized. Please keep in mind those who are never heard from, those who are never asked.”
The document’s theme for the continental stage is taken from Isaiah 54:2 — “Enlarge the space of your tent.” The process, Bishop Flores said, is intended to be “more welcoming, less divisive, and be witnesses true to Christ Jesus himself.”
The synod is “a process of recollection,” Bishops Flores said, “listening attentively to one another, understanding the present pastoral reality. It is also a striving to discern how to grow into better servants of the Lord.”
Its purpose is to “try to integrate a more synodal style in our local churches. We have made a good start with the help of God’s grace,” he said. “Our work is not an opinion poll. It is an ecclesial work in the headship of Christ.”