12–15 January 2023
“It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium” (Pope Francis). It can be said that from the very beginning, synodality belongs to the genetics of Christianity and it has permeated all the basic dimensions of the Church from its local to its universal existence. Ecumenical councils, regional or provincial synods, and diocesan synods were held throughout the centuries. Synodal and conciliar activities were part and parcel of the Church during the first millennium. At the same time, centralization, clericalism, and hierarchicalism have existed side by side, making the members of the Church unequal, and distorting the synodal nature of the Church and disrupting dialogue and participation of all the faithful.
One of the greatest ecclesiological contributions of the Second Vatican Council is the re-discovery of the communion and collegial character of the Church. The Council spent considerable time for reflecting upon collegiality, the major result of which is Lumen Gentium. The Council’s preference for collegiality is seen in other documents also. For example, the Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops, Christus Dominus, states: “This sacred ecumenical synod earnestly desires that the venerable institution of synods and councils flourish with fresh vigor” (CD 36, 2). The establishment of the Synod of Bishops in 1965 and its regular meetings to a great extent express the collegial character of the Church.
Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have spoken about the importance of synodality. However, Pope Francis has frequently referred to synodality and his vision of synodality has given it new levels of meaning and new vitality for the life and mission of the Church. He speaks of a participatory Church, which is open and ready for dialogue, a Church in which everyone participates as equals. According to Pope Francis, synodality is an essential dimension of the Church: “what the Lord is asking of us is already in some sense present in the very word synod.” In his view, “A synodal Church is a listening Church…It is a reciprocal listening in which each one has something to learn.” The International Theological Commission, in the document Synodality in the Life and Mission of the Church (2018) has developed further this concept of synodality.
In developing a theology of synodality and its practical implications, the Eastern traditions can be of particular help, since Eastern Churches always had the Synod of Bishops, and participatory bodies at various levels of ecclesial life. Indian Church with three ecclesial traditions can greatly contribute to the development of a theology and praxis of synodality.
A synodal Church assures the participation of each member—women and men, young and old—without discriminating anyone, listens to one another, learning from one another, taking responsibility for proclaiming the Gospel. It is about a path taken together, People of God walking together, under the guidance of the Risen Lord, led by the Holy Spirit.
To reflect more profoundly on synodality and its implications for the day-to-day life of the Church and its importance in re-vitalising the life and mission of the Church, we propose to organise a conference on “Towards a Synodal Church.”