In March 2019, almost immediately after the terrorist attacks on the mosques in Christchurch, in which 51 people were killed and many more injured physically and psychologically, the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, coined the phrase ‘They are us’. She was saying as New Zealand reacted in horror to those attacks, the members of the Muslim community are us. They are New Zealanders. They are part of our community, they are us.
We could use something similar to that phrase when we reflect on the Church. ‘All the baptised are us. We are all the people of God.’ St Paul says in his letter to the Galatians ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ – Galatians 3:28.
We are one, we are the people of God.
Because we are the people of God, because we are the Church, Pope Francis has invited all the baptised throughout the world, to be consulted about the topic ‘For a Synodal Church, communion, participation, mission’. It is a wonderful opportunity for us to pick up something of the vision of the 2nd Vatican Council of almost 60 years ago.
The Vatican has sent all Catholic dioceses throughout the world a document to reflect on, to discuss, to discern. The document is for everyone. The consultation, which is to be coordinated by each local bishop, is addressed ‘to the priests, deacons, and the lay faithful of their churches’. Pope Francis has asked for our participation, along with as many groups and organisations within the Archdiocese and the Diocese of Palmerston North as possible.
The final sentences of the Preparatory Document conclude by saying: ‘We recall that the purpose of the Synod and therefore of this consultation is not to produce documents but to plant dreams, draw forth prophecies and visions, allow hope to flourish, inspire trust, bind up wounds, weave together relationships, awaken a dawn of hope, learn from one another and create a bright resourcefulness that will enlighten minds, warm hearts, give strength to our hands.’
These words say something wonderful about what our Church is, and what it is to continue to become. Would it not be wonderful to describe the Archdiocese of Wellington and the Diocese of Palmerston North as a Church that allows hope to flourish, inspires trust, binds up wounds, weaves together relationships? This is our chance to start something new, this can be a new dawn of hope, where we learn from one another and create bright resourcefulness that enlightens minds, warms hearts gives strength to our hands.
All are invited to participate in the consultation in preparation for this synod. There are 10 themes that we are asked to explore on this journey of walking together, as set out below.
In preparation for the Synod everyone is being asked to explore these 10 themes.
1. The Journeying Companions – in the Church and in society, we are side-by-side on the same road.
2. Listening – listening is the first step, but it requires having an open mind and heart, without prejudices.
3. Speaking Out – all are invited to speak with courage and parrhesia (boldness), that is, integrating freedom, truth, and charity.
4. Celebrating – ‘journeying together’ is only possible if it is based on communal listening to the Word.
5. Co-responsible in the Mission – synodality is at the service of the Church’s mission, in which all her members are called to participate.
6. Dialogue in Church and Society – dialogue is a path of perseverance that also includes silences and sufferings, but which is capable of gathering the experience of persons and peoples.
7. With the other Christian Denominations – the dialogue between Christians of different confessions, united by one Baptism, has a special place in the synodal journey.
8. Authority and Participation – a synodal Church is a participatory and co-responsible Church.
9. Discerning and Deciding – in a synodal style, decisions are made through discernment, based on a consensus that flows from the common obedience to the Spirit.
10. Forming Ourselves in Synodality – the spirituality of journeying together becomes an educational principle for the formation of the human person, of the Christian, of families, and of communities.
The opening Mass for the Synod of Bishops will be celebrated on Sunday 17 October. For the Archdiocese of Wellington, the Mass is 10am, at St Teresa’s Pro-Cathedral, Karori. For the Diocese of Palmerston North, the Mass is 6pm, at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit.
‘The People of God’
The phrase ‘The People of God’ appears in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) of the 2nd Vatican Council. This document opened the way for a new understanding and theological insights into appreciating what the Church is and who its members are.
When the document was being prepared in the early 1960s it began with a reflection on the Mystery of the Church and then went straight on to speak of the pope and the bishops, the clergy and then the laity. After much thought and discussion those gathered placed the topic of The People of God straight after the discussion on the Mystery of the Church, so that the People of God came first, then pope, bishops, clergy etc.
The People of God is the promise of full equality and the full inclusion of men and women, lay and ordained, rich and poor, saints and sinners. The Church is us. We are all invited to be part of the synod process that will lead up to the Synod Assembly in 2023.
‘I would love to see hundreds of people involved. It is our journeying together that most effectively shows what the Church really is, people on a journey together, the pilgrim and missionary people of God. Everyone has the opportunity to respond to this consultation that has come from Pope Francis,’ says Cardinal John Dew.