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What it is all about

The Synod on Synodality

In October 2023 there will be the 16th “General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops” in Rome, a world-level meeting of bishops that will potentially lead to a series of really important decisions regarding the modus vivendi et operandi of the Roman Catholic church. It’s not about whether priests or queer people may marry, or what to when some important decision turns out to have been a mistake. This Synod is not about some hot topic, it’s about how the church handles hot topics in general. I would say that synodality is a topic where the Church and the “political” world can learn a few fundamentally important things from each other.

And in order to prepare this synod, Pope Francis asked us to run a consultation where we ask every human on the globe for their input. More precisely only those who “want to help the Church on her synodal journey of seeking what is good and true”. You don’t need to be Catholic, the only condition is your good will (source: Vademecum, section 2.1 and PD, 18).

Estimations about how many voices this actually means range between 1 and 8 billion. Pope Francis is known to have crazy ideas.

Here is the main question of this gigantic poll:

A synodal Church, in announcing the Gospel, ‘journeys together’.
How is this ‘journeying together’ happening today in your local Church?
What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our ‘journeying together?’

We probably agree that this question cannot have a simple answer. That’s why Christians around the world are currently organizing lots of meetings where they exchange about this question.

What I have to do with it

I am the official main responsible for organizing this consultation in Estonia (see How I got appointed). I see it as a honour and a challenge. At least one friend sees my appointment as a wise decision.

My job is to write a text of maximum of 10 pages, which answers the question “What do the faithful in Estonia have to say at this Synod?” And for me, “faithful” means everybody who cares about their faith.

I will write this text together with the sinoditiim, a group of 5 lay persons and one priest. We published a website for the consultation phase: https://sinod.katoliku.ee

Our big job from April to August 2022 will be to write a summary of all the responses received during the consultation phase. More precisely our report is not a “summary” but a “synthesis”. Some people have a loud voice and speak much. Some others have a faint voice and speak rarely. We are not asked to write a statistically representative summary but to apply the method of discernment.

Our summary will be merged with the summaries of all other dioceses in Europe. And the continental summaries will be summarized again into a summary of all summaries, and this document (called instrumentum laboris) will serve as the official input for the Synod.

The “fathers of the Synod” (about 300 bishops from around the globe) will read this document and then meet in Rome in October 2023 in order to talk about it. They will themselves produce a document with recommendations to the Pope. And then the Pope alone will decide what to do. That’s how the Roman Catholic church works. I call this apostolic governance.

I want more than the Bishop

While working for the Synod on Synodality I had the feeling to be the only Roman Catholic in Estonia to believe that also non-Catholics have something important to say at this Synod. My definition of faithful is somewhat wider than the traditional definition of the Roman Catholic church.

Many of my friends believe in the Gospel. Among them are church-goers and refusers of institutionalized religion, EKRE voters and SDE voters, priests from Poland and Gay Christians, antivaxxers and anti-antivaxxers. I wanted to listen to these people as well. We can imagine that their responses to the Pope’s question vary considerably.

In December I wrote a first draft of “what all these people have to say” at the Synod. I started to ask my friends about their feedback. I also informed the Bishop and the members of the official sinoditiim about my work, and as expected they did not show much interest for it.

In January I went more systematic. I formed another team, the sinoditalgutiim. With this team we will work on my draft until end of March 2022.

In February I abandoned my approach of suggesting “my” draft as a base for our work (see 2022-02-07 for details). The project became more simple: Let’s meet in diversity, think, discuss and pray together, and then let’s write our report.

On March 31st I hope to submit “our report” to the official synodal process in Estonia. Between April and August, the sinoditiim will read our submission, together with all other submissions coming from Estonia, and write the official summary to be sent to the Vatican.

The report of the sinoditalgutiim is likely to cause some discussion within the sinoditiim. And I am optimistic that we will find a consensus even there.