Pope Francis launches two-year consultation to shape the Church
Pope Francis has opened a two-year consultation with leading Catholic figures around the world to shape the future of the Catholic Church in three stages.
Over the years, one of the world’s major religions has found itself in hot water on many points – from its conservative views in a progressive world to scandals over sex and finance.
But now the current 84-year-old Church figurehead is looking to the future. Pope Francis has launched an initiative that many hope will modernize the Church’s views on social issues and the role of women in Catholicism.
On Sunday, Pope Francis announced the start of “For a Synodal Church: communion, participation and mission”. It is essentially a gathering of Catholic figures from all over the world, where current and future issues will be tackled in three stages.
BBC News describes them as follows:
- The “Listening phase” – Catholics who work in a “diocesan level” around the world will discuss whether or not the Church converses with other social / minority groups, including youth and women. At this point, the role of the Church in modern life will also be discussed.
- The “Continental phase” – the bishops will collect their conclusions.
- The “Universal phase” – the bishops will meet in the Vatican to report on the information. This should last a month and will take place in October 2023.
During a homily in front of a crowd (approximately) 3,000 people at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, Pope Francis pointed out that the “The art of meeting” will be a lifeline for the Church as it moves forward.
Synodality is an expression of the style of the Church. The word “synod” says it all: it means “to walk together”. And the movement is the fruit of docility to the Holy Spirit, who directs this story, in which everyone has a role to play. #Synod
– Pope Francis (@Pontifex) October 9, 2021
“Everything changes once we are capable of real encounters with [Jesus] and with each other, without formalism or pretense, but simply as we are ”, said the Pope (quoted by the US-based National Catholic Reporter).
“Let us ask ourselves: in the church, are we good at listening? How good is our heart’s hearing? “
Pope Francis encourages the opening to the Synod: “This expression -“ We have always done it this way ”- is poison for the life of the Church.
– James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ) October 9, 2021
“Do we allow people to express themselves, to walk in faith even though they have had difficulties in life, and to be part of the life of the community without being hindered, rejected or judged?
Additionally, Pope Francis also revealed that he hopes the consultation will create an environment “Where everyone can feel at home and participate”.
“Let’s not silence our hearts; do not remain barricaded in our certainties. Let’s listen to each other ”, he said.
The announcement received a mixed reception.
The National Catholic Reporter welcomed the move, acknowledging that it may not be the best solution, but “The Church is more likely to meet the needs of God’s people with her than without her”.
George Weigel, theologian writing for the American Catholic Journal, First things, criticized the consultation. Weigel wrote that it would only amount to “Two years of self-referential Catholic gossip” it would not help to solve problems such as “[people] moving away from faith en masse “.
If successful, such a move could improve global numbers of people identifying as Catholics – something that has been decline since the 1970s.