Synods should get more input from lay faithful, church experts say

IMAGE: CNS photo/Maria Grazia Picciarella, pool

By Carol Glatz

(CNS) — An assembly of bishops at the Vatican should have more input from the
lay faithful, said church experts attending a seminar hosted by the head of the
Synod of Bishops.

A renewed
understanding of the role of the people of God and their bishops “warrants
considering not just the bishop of Rome (the pope) and the episcopate in the
synodal process, but also the lay faithful,” said a communique issued by
the synod’s secretary general, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri.

The communique, released
by the Vatican press office Feb. 17, provided a brief summary of the conclusions
reached by a seminar held Feb. 6-9 at the Vatican. Sponsored by the synod’s
secretary-general, the gathering looked at the Synod of Bishops as being at the
service of a “synodal church.”

who included professors and experts in ecclesiology and canon law from all
over the world, reflected on Pope Francis’ call “to overcome
self-referentiality in the ordained ministries in order to go back to seeing
bishops as those” who each represent their local diocese and together
represent the entire church, the statement said.

This rediscovery
of the bishop’s relationship to the local and universal church and the role of
the lay faithful requires rethinking ways lay Catholics can play a bigger part
in the entire synodal process — in preparing for a synod, in the actual
gathering and in implementing final decisions, it said.

Based on the past
two synod gatherings on the family, which consulted with the lay
faithful beforehand through questionnaires and other methods of input, this kind
of consultation with “the people of God” must become a permanent
feature in preparing for a synod, it said.

A number of
participants at the seminar said they hoped there would be “greater
listening to and involvement of the faithful who take part in a synodal
assembly,” specifically by taking greater advantage of the presence and
input of lay experts and observers, it said.

“Even though
they cannot vote, they can carry out a role that is important, in any case, in
the discernment and decision-making process,” it said.

The communique
repeated Pope Francis’ call for a more “listening church.”

involves more than just hearing, it said, in that the process recognizes
“each one has something to learn — the faithful, the episcopal college,
the bishop of Rome. Each one listening to the other and everyone listening to
the Holy Spirit, the spirit of the truth.”

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