One Synod, one tent, stretching across oceans and continents  – CIDSE

One Synod, one tent, stretching across oceans and continents 

Inclusivity, diversity, unity, synodality, and reconciliation. These are some of the key words that came out of the Synod European continental stage. Around the world, the process is continuing. 

From 5 to 9 February 2023, two hundred delegates from across Europe met in person in Prague (and more than 250 online) to discern the fruits of the synodal work already achieved at the local and national level in 2021. The bishops continued their reflection together until 12 February, after having heard testimonials from all parts of Europe about the concerns and dreams for the future of the Church. 

The objective of the current Continental Stage was to discern what emerged from the previous phase, deepening the insights coming from the local Churches, in a continental perspective, and allowing for deep listening, reflecting, sharing, and conversion, answering the call “Enlarge the space of your tent”. 

The meeting held in Prague was one of seven synodal continental assemblies scheduled between February and March:  

– Oceania: the meeting kicked off on 5 February in Suva (Fiji Islands), at the same time as the European assembly  
– Middle East: 12-18 February, Beirut (Lebanon)
– North America: 13-17 February, Orlando (Florida)
– Africa: 1-6 March, Addis Ababa (Ethiopia)
– Latin America: 17- 23 March, Bogota (Colombia)

The assembly in Prague consisted of 156 delegates of the 39 Bishops’ Conferences, members of the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE); each national delegation was composed of the President of the Bishops’ Conference and 3 other delegates, chosen to ensure an adequate presence of laymen and laywomen, religious men and women, deacons and priests.
In addition to these official delegates, 44 guests were invited directly by the CCEE Presidency, as representatives of the different ecclesial realities at the European level. Among those guests, CIDSE was represented by Josianne Gauthier, our Secretary General.  

“I have been very touched by the witness of the national reports. This is an important time for the Global Church and our future but this Church in Europe needs to courageously and humbly take a step forward and be a new kind of light in the world.” Josianne Gauthier

After having offered a contribution at the diocesan phase, and having supported the consultation process at national level through many of its member organisations, CIDSE has embraced the process and the synodal approach in its new organisational strategy (2023-2028); global solidarity, ecological conversion, and social justice are the key messages that CIDSE is putting forward in its contribution to the current phase of the consultation process. 

“We must not only listen to but also lift up the voices of the marginalised, speaking and acting with integrity and courage and propose another way of life in a world that is desperate for community, connection, justice, solidarity.” Josianne Gauthier

To allow the widest possible participation in the discussions, each Bishops’ Conference had the possibility to (remotely) invite 10 delegates in addition to those physically present in Prague. The online participants were able to follow the work of the plenary sessions through an online platform and give their contribution and discernment in online-working groups. Among them, Anja Appel, Director of KOO, CIDSE’s Austrian member organisation, had the opportunity to intervene:  

“It has become quite clear that the diversity in the online delegations has broadened the discourse immensely. In the online working groups, some of which were very diverse, the open listening and honest addressing of the challenges led to very explicit, honest results, which also had a significant impact on the outcome paper. And as much as we would have liked to share the feeling of communion in Prague, the commitment and compassion of the online delegates for the process, despite all the differences in content, was a great experience.” Anja Appel

In parallel to the European gathering, the Oceanian assembly was held in the Fiji Islands, where stories and reflections about the deep connection between the challenges faced by people and the planet were put at the centre. This is clearly present in the powerful statement on oceans released by the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania at the end of the session.  

“The synodal path to which Pope Francis has called the whole church means a church of hospitality, encounter and dialogue with the realities of peoples’ lives in Oceania today. We came together to learn, and this has been a time of grace and deep conversion. We see our purpose of working together to care for oceans through synodality and mission as an essential dimension of preaching the Gospel.” Bishop Anthony Randazzo, President of the Federation of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Oceania 

‘Discussions and talks about climate change cannot take place without involving those affected. Data collected on ecology must be shared with the communities and explained to them. Resilience can only be developed together”. Pirmin Spiegel, Director General of Misereor and member of the CIDSE Board of Directors at the Assembly of Bishops from across Oceania in Suva/Fiji

At the end of each continental assembly, a subsequent final document will be drafted to reflect the voice of God’s people from those specific regions of the world. The 7 continental reports will then be sent to the General Secretariat of the Synod and will form the basis for the Instrumentum Laboris for the general assembly (first phase) in October 2023, and the following year, as established by Pope Francis. 

CIDSE and its members and partners from around the world hope to be able to continue this synodal path. We are learning as we practice this approach of listening and healing together, for the pain of the past and in order to build together a future where the Church plays a greater and stronger role for justice. 

Cover photo: European Continental Synod assembly, Prague 2023, Credit CCEE.
Article photos: 1) Josianne Gauthier, 2) River Above Asia Oceania Ecclesial Network (RAOEN)

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