Dioceses across the Philippines are preparing for the local consultation process for the Synod on Synodality that Pope Francis has called for the universal Church.
Local churches started engaging in the synodal process on October 17, during which parishioners will be encouraged to submit feedback to their diocese.
The pope launched the synodal process at the Vatican on October 9 to engage the entire Church in preparing for the Synod of Bishops’ next ordinary assembly in 2023.
The country’s Catholic bishops said that the Synod on Synodality is seeking to discern the “signs of our times” in order to respond to the calls of the present-day world.
They said the Church is trying to do so amid the challenges of Covid-19 pandemic, the scandals in the Church and in government, the secularism and materialism, and the “double-edged” power of the digital world.
The bishops said they cannot brush off “the erosion of ethical values and idolatry of relativism,” the “antipathy and disdain against traditional institutions” like the Church, and the effects of “ecological abuse, terror and violence.
“In looking at the Church from the inside and looking at the Church with the entire human family, we cannot ignore the signs of our times,” they said in a pastoral message.
The bishops said the process will look at “two landscapes not with our eyes but with the eyes of the Lord.”
“The first is ‘How is our Church within?’” read the bishops’ letter, adding that the pope asks everyone to look at “How is this journeying together happening today in our local Church? What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our ‘journeying together’?”
“The second is ‘How is the Church together with the entire human family?’ Are we still salt and light for the world? Is dialogue our way of life? How willing are we to listen with humility and respect despite differences? Have we become haughty or insensitive to the groans of suffering humanity?”
The bishops also identified three “tools” for the diocesan phase which will run until February 2022: sensitivity, time and conversion.
“We must become a Church that makes attentive and selfless listening its lifestyle. Sensitivity will gain for us a discerning heart to know the will of the Lord,” read the statement.
“It will win for us a deeper kind of perspective of persons and events, that we may go deeper than the eyes. We see with our souls.”
“Time is greater than space. We can work slowly and patiently not obsessed with immediate results. We move with tenacity and clarity of convictions without anxiety but rather trusting in the Lord who walks with us,” it added. “We cannot proceed to be a synodal Church without conversion.”
After the diocesan phase that kicked off on Sunday under the theme, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” the bishops will prepare for a three-day assembly on the national level from March 7 to 9, 2022, “so that we can submit a national report to the Synod General Secretariat by April 2022.”
It will be followed by a continental phase from September 2022 to March 2023. The final “universal Church phase” will culminate in the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October 2023.
Archbishop Soc: Pray, synod ushers a ‘new church’
As Philippine dioceses opened the synodal process, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan asked for prayers that it will lead the church to renewal.
Villegas said during a Mass that, first and foremost, “it must be the Church of Jesus Christ.”
“Let us pray that the two-year consultation in preparation for the Synod on Synodality will truly bring about the new Church,” Villegas said in his homily at the Dagupan Cathedral.
He said this also means that the Church should always choose Christ over ideology and must emulate Christ’s “all-embracing” and “all-sacrificing” leadership.
“The Church cannot be yellow or red or pink because these things separate us. The Church of Christ does not choose any colors [because] Christ should be the center of decision making,” the archbishop said.
The world, he added, also needs a “Church that leads without being elitist” and “a Church that goes to the margins without being marginalized.”
“This is the dream Church. This is the Church that we want to be. This is the Church we want to become,” Villegas said.
“We cannot do it by ourselves. We can only do it by the power of God and the power of Christ working in our lives,” he added.
Advincula to Filipinos: ‘Your voice counts’
Cardinal Jose Advincula of Manila has called on the people to take part in the synodal process “no matter what your social, political, and economic, intellectual, or spiritual affiliation of our status is.”
Opening the synod’s diocesan phase with a Mass for the Archdiocese of Manila, Advincula pointed out that Pope Francis wants the widest participation possible in the process of consultation and discernment.
“Your perspective as well as your experience of God can be part of the Synodal journey of the whole archdiocese,” Advincula said in his homily at the archdiocese’s chapel.
“In God’s family, you have a voice, and your voice counts,” he said.
Their consultation, he said, will involve not only the “church people” or those active in the church but “as many people as possible.”
He said this includes women, children, elderly, those in the business sector, government officials, the members of the LGBTQ+ community, the ordinary workers, among others.
The archdiocese, according to him, will also reach out to the people in the peripheries and even those who belong to other faith-based communities, and those who left the church.
“No matter how far you feel you are from the church and even from God, you have something to contribute,” Advincula said.
“We want to listen to you. We want to journey with you. We want to discern God’s will with you,” he added. “Yes, an essential part of the synodal process is listening.”
“As we embark on this Synodal journey, I invite each one of you, each one to give value and time to listening,” Advincula added.
“Our consultations will be no other than listening to each other’s stories of faith and experiences in life,” he said. CBCP News