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My comment on the synthesis

Here is my comment on the synthesis to be submitted by the Apostolic Administration of Estonia to the Synod on Synodality. Automated Google translation in Estonian, German or French. See also My conclusion (June 2022).

As the Synodal Contact Person, my job was to form and lead a synodal team that organized the consultation phase in Estonia and synthesized what people have to say at the Synod. Catholics in Estonia are a small community. We humbly did our best to fulfil the instructions received from the Secretariat of the Synod. Our synodal team consisted of five lay persons and one priest, all lay persons were active members of the Tallinn Peter and Paul congregation. Receiving inspiration from the Holy Mass, we managed to focus on administrative topics during our meetings. We invited other confessions and non-religious people to participate in our synodal meetings, but as expected they showed little interest. During the discernment phase we proceeded systematically: each member received two of the ten topics to focus on, then read the 17 reports and sent their observations to the main editor. The main editor synthesized these observations into a final draft, which she presented to the team on 2022-06-04. The team suggested two corrections. Our draft was given to the Bishop on 2022-06-08. We carefully avoided causing controversial noise in public. We did not publish our final synthesis because it is just an intermediate result of the Synod.

My thanks to the members of the synodal team, who faithfully did their job despite my disturbing presence. My special thanks to the main editor who wrote the final synthesis despite her high work load. My special admiration to the Bishop, who remained a wise and constructive advisor even in the most critical moments.

I was the only disturbing element in the team, the only to remain deeply dissatisfied with our synthesis because I feel that it leaves out an important part of the church’s reality. In a personal endeavour I had formed a second team (“Team B”) during the consultation phase, this time taking care for diversity. Team B consisted of mostly Protestant, several Catholic, one Anglican and one Orthodox Christians and even of non-religious people. Team B published 17 intermediate versions of a draft report, collected feedback from several dozens of contributors, we met 4 times 4 hours in a prayerful atmosphere, where we discussed about our draft. The final draft was produced by an editor team of 4 authors. Besides the four authors, ten more team members agreed to have their name published in our report, which we submitted on 2022-03-31 at the end of the consultation phase. The work of team B is abundantly documented on my personal website: https://hw.saffre-rumma.net/sc

The work of team B is not mirrored –not even mentioned– in our synthesis because the synodal team did not consider it noteworthy. I had been hoping for a single text to which both teams would have agreed. When I realized that this was not going to happen in due time, my hopes collapsed. I even considered leaving the church. I had failed across the board: I failed to care for diversity when forming the synodal team. I am impatient, doing things on my own and too quickly. I lack experience with managing bigger projects. I don’t speak clearly when needed. My provocative style causes counter-productive emotions.

But there is no way out of the church once you “have believed, and have come to know, that [Jesus] is the Holy One of God” (John 6:66-69). And indeed there is no reason to despair. The Bishop found comforting words for me: “if the Holy Spirit didn’t blow sufficiently in Estonia during this phase of the Synod, let’s hope that it blew elsewhere.” And I would add that it actually does blow quite much also here in Estonia, we are just very good in silencing things down.

I remain confident that God can turn even our poor input into a useful contribution to the Synod. The mere fact of having failed to reach a consensus might be our most valuable contribution to the Synod.

I hope that the Synod on Synodality will encourage all church leaders to take the fundamental steps required for reconciling and uniting in full diversity all those who follow Jesus.

Luc Saffre
Synodal Contact Person
Apostolic Administration of Estonia
June 2022