26 May 2021, The Tablet

Church reform - synodality takes flight

Church reform - synodality takes flight

Professor Myriam Wijlens with Pope Francis
Photo: University of Erfurt


In what is potentially the boldest move since the second Vatican Council, Pope Francis has announced a two-year-long, Church-wide process of consultation and discernment

The news came just before the celebration of Pentecost. In what seemed to some a similar unleashing of the Spirit, Pope Francis approved a dramatic shakeup to the next synod of bishops. For the first time, ordinary Catholics from across the world will be formally included at every stage of the process.

Rather than just a three-week, one-off gathering of bishops in Rome in October 2022, the synod will begin later this year at the local level, with every diocese in the universal Church embarking on a structured discernment as the People of God, and will conclude two years later. This marks a watershed in the Pope’s search for a more synodal Church, in which people, priests and bishops “walk together” in mission, echoing the disciples walking with Jesus on the road to Emmaus.

This is easier to talk about than to put into practice. The latest changes mark the boldest reform move in the post-pandemic phase of Francis’ papacy. If they come off, they will embed into the structures and habits of the Church a process of renewal that will outlive his pontificate.

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