A LONGER FUTURE

Last Sunday, 16 October, at the end of the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis announced in a normal tone, as if to say nothing special, that the Synod will have a first phase in October 2023, exactly from the 4th to the 29th, and will be extended for another year, that is to say, until October 2024.

So we are still on the synodal path, now extended. We have to reprogramme the rhythm, starting with the logo; the pre-set meetings, the agenda is being adapted to new stages, the presentations, the dates for the next steps, but all this is secondary, it is the consequence of an important decision: that the theme of the synodal church, because of its breadth and importance, should continue to be a process of discernment, not only for the members of the Synodal Assembly, but for the whole church.

This decision is consistent with the current synodal journey, which the Pope has never wanted to consider as a one-off event but as a process, in which all the People of God are invited to walk together in listening to the Spirit to discern God's will for his church.

And the processes of discernment cannot be pushed or rushed, they have their own rhythm, they need mature reflection over time, and this is necessary so that the points discerned are consolidated with the progressive assimilation by the whole church.

Therefore, we continue in this synodal way of listening. This journey began in 2021 by the local churches, that is, by the People of God; the Bishops' Conferences and the Synods of the Eastern Catholic Churches were convened. Of the 114 Bishops' Conferences, 112 carried out this discernment and their contributions were sent to the General Secretariat of the Synod.

The Document for the Continental Stage, which summarises all this, has just been made public. For almost two weeks, a commission of about 50 people from the five continents met in Frascati, near Rome, dedicated to the arduous task of collecting and synthesising the many proposals received.

The Document presents an Introduction, explaining the participation of millions of people from all over the world through associations, lay movements, organisations of religious life, contributions from individuals and groups, also through social networks thanks to the initiative of the Digital Synod.

The first chapter recounts the experience of the synodal process. The fruits, seeds and weeds of the synodal process. The common baptismal dignity.

Chapter 2 is based on the Scriptures and presents us with a very inspiring text: "Enlarge the space of your tent, stretch out the shelters of your dwelling place, do not limit them, lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes" (Is 54:2).

The third chapter moves on to speak of a missionary synodal church, through listening, participation, communion and co-responsibility.

And the fourth and final chapter opens us to the future by speaking of the next steps: a path of conversion and reform and methodology for the Continental Stage.

This will culminate with the celebration of 7 Continental Synodal Assemblies between January and March 2023, to review the road travelled, to continue with listening and discernment on the basis of the stage completed.

The invitation remains universal to widen the 'space of one's own tent': personal, community, diocesan, continental, ecclesial... to collaborate from the very place where we develop our baptismal vocation, so that synodality becomes in practice an identifying element of a welcoming and inclusive church that opens the doors of its heart so that no one is left out.

This is a great challenge and a commitment worth taking up!

María Luisa Berzosa FI - Rome

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