the risks and opportunities of the synodal approach

“The Synodal Church”

Communio, international catholic magazine

Volume 47 (3-4), 2022, 186 p., €20

“We are driven by the desire for a spiritually renewed Church. We do not want a break, but a spiritual impulse. We want to be clairvoyant and attentive to the signs of the times, while knowing that they should not be confused with the spirit of the times”, explains Pope Francis in the foreword to this double issue of the journal Communio devoted to the various theological dimensions of ecclesial synodality, where we meet prestigious feathers: Péter Erdö, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and primate of Hungary, cardinals Walter Kasper and Kurt Koch, Rowan Williams, the former Anglican bishop of Canterbury.

Do not blend in with the times

In their editorial, Jean-Robert Armogathe and Florent Urfels justify this approach by noting that the use of the word “synodalism” or the qualification of the Church as “synodal” are relatively recent in theological, canonical and pastoral literature. Hence the need for a “careful theological focus”because “Synodalism is not without risks for the Church either: that of merging purely and simply with the Zeitgeist (l’air du temps), with the secret hope of being better received and listened to; that also of being so obsessed with the inner workings of our communities that we would end up forgetting the basic spiritual attitude of looking to Christ”.

Asked about the current German synodal path (conceived independently of the world synod), Cardinal Kurt Koch identifies another risk: that of seeing the synodal process turn into a “parliamentary discussion” and lose sight of who she is “a spiritual event which aims to find, on the path of discernment, a viable and convincing unanimity in the convictions of faith and in the ways of life which flow from them for each Christian and the ecclesial community”, recalls the president of the dicastery for the promotion of Christian unity.

The decisive role of ecumenical dialogue

“If synodality is nothing more than a vague idealized version of profane democracy, it has little chance of becoming a proclamation of the Good News”, esteems for his part Rowan Williams in his contribution on synodality in the Anglican tradition. A warning relayed by Cardinal Kasper, who adds however that the Church cannot ignore the democratic ethos in which Christians live: “The Church can and must arrange its own synodal system in such a way that it is understandable and acceptable to those who live in a democratic context. »

It is precisely to avoid these different shortcomings that the editors have chosen to explore, from a historical and ecumenical perspective, the diversity of synodal models used in the functioning and government of the Church. The approach also highlights the decisive role of ecumenical dialogue in the recent Catholic deepenings of the doctrine of synodality: “It allowed a better understanding of the sensus fideiof the distinction between synodality and collegiality, of the importance of reception and above all of the triple dimension of synodality, “community”, “collegial” and “personal””, judge the Dominican Hyacinthe Destivelle. In the end, this issue invites us to better articulate the different dimensions of the Church: to be authentically synodal, she must be missionary and evangelizing.

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