Synodality – a Way of Being Church

Synodality – a Way of Being Church

Pope Francis reminds us that the Synod on Synodality is about synodality, and not about this or that issue. Several issues have surfaced through the Synod process and will be addressed in various ways within or beyond the Synod, but above all the Synod has become a school of synodality.

My role at the First Assembly was to help facilitate the round tables at which people from many ‘places’, geographically, culturally, socially, and economically, theologically, and politically, and in terms of rites, ecclesial status, and roles, sat together.

The Members of the Synod had varying degrees of exposure to the process of Conversation in the Spirit and different levels of comfort with it.

One African bishop who struggled to keep the time limits explained to me that in his diocese people walk for half a day to attend Mass – when they get there, they expect a good long homily! If there is a conflict, people talk for as long as it takes to reach a resolution that everyone can live with.

Some felt that an Ignatian process was being imposed, disregarding other spiritual traditions in the church. Others did not share Pope Francis’ vision. Yet a public critic of Pope Francis and his synodal agenda told me it was the best synod he had attended because people really got to speak with one another.

Serving the process at the round tables was a profound experience. Despite any reservations or difficulties, Members made a genuine effort to speak intentionally and listen actively. Above all, they tried to listen to the Holy Spirit at work in themselves, in their table companions, the synod hall, the church, and the world. The tables became a way to walk together rather than a place to sit – a via theologicus and a way of being church.

With thanks to Dr Sandie Cornish for this contribution to the JISA Discernment Series. Sandie is a Senior Lecturer in Theology at the Australian Catholic University and a Member of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. Her area of specialisation is Catholic social teaching, thought and practice. Sandie was one of the periti for the Australian Plenary Council and served on its Drafting Committee. She is the Chair of the NSW Executive Committee of the Christian Life Community. Her Social Spirituality website shares the tradition of Catholic Social Teaching and her major publications are listed here

Dr Sandie Cornish, Professor Renee Köhler-Ryan and Adjunct Professor Susan Pascoe (left) attended the synod last October.

Dr Sandie Cornish with Fr Vitalis Anaehobi at the Synod on Synodality in October 2023.