01 December 2021, The Tablet

The Tablet Synod Watch

The Tablet Synod Watch

The Tablet Synod Watch is sponsored by Jesuits in Britain.

As a young Catholic and a person of colour, William Gomes reflects on what it is like to be an openly professing Catholic in contemporary post-Christian secular Britain, and the challenges that arise from this for the Church that the synod on synodality needs to address.


Pope Francis has launched the most ambitious Catholic renewal project for 60 years with a listening exercise that aims to give every member of the 1.3 billion Church a stake in its future. Through a “synodal” process, the Pope is asking Catholics to help re-imagine the future of the Church, and grapple with questions such as the role of women, evangelisation, priesthood, serving the marginalised and global governance. It has the potential to reshape the Church forever. This is the first in a new podcast series on synodality and will tell the story of the reform process. The series is presented by Christopher Lamb. Christopher is the Rome Correspondent for The Tablet and is a doctoral researcher in synodality at the Centre for Catholic Studies, Durham University. The series is sponsored by the Centre for Catholic Studies at Durham University in partnership with The Tablet.

Producers: Silvia Sacco and Jamie Weston.

Episode 1

What is a Synod?

This episode focuses on why a global synodal process is needed, what it might achieve and the opposition it is already facing. Among those interviewed for this episode are Sister Nathalie Becquart, from the synod office in Rome, Fr Hans Zollner, the Church's leading expert child protection, and Fr Jan Nowotnik, Director of Mission for the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.


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If the synodal process is done properly, women will be central to the journey and it will change the way parishes work, theologian Dr Claire Watkins has said. She was speaking at The Tablet’s inaugural Synod Watch webinar titled, A Synodal Church: The Journey Begins. Sarah Mac Donald was there. Keep an eye out for the next webinar in the series on our events page

James Roberts reports on the week-long ecclesial assembly of more than 1,000 people in Mexico City and online, a response to the synodal path.

Diana Russell (Tablet letters, 13 November) asks: “How can we prevent bishops from sabotaging the whole synodal process?” “The answer in the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh is that we can’t,”  writes Group Captain Keith Parkes from Edinburgh. Lord Hylton of Hemington, Leicestershire, writes: “The three letters you published on 13 November on the subject of the synod process sound an important warning. Our calling is to rediscover the understanding of the pilgrim “People of God”, as expressed by the Second Vatican Council. This means that the baptised faithful all have contributions to make. The bishops have a duty to discern the sensus fidei, but not, as temporary office holders, to edit or manipulate it. The Holy Spirit should be allowed to breathe freely.”

It’s difficult to think of a time when it would be more problematic to hold the sort of synod the Pope seems to be hoping for, short of wartime. As this is a global synod for a catholic Church, in some places people will indeed be trying to do it in the midst of war, and we should remember them in our prayers. But even here, in affluent western Europe, the situation is not conducive to the careful, prayerful mutual listening that is supposed to be at the heart of the process. Kate Keefe believes the process feels too small and secret, and wants to change this.




The Archdiocese of Liverpool launched its pastoral plan on the first Sunday in Advent. Watch Archbishop Malcolm McMahon at the cathedral. The plan is the long-awaited result of the Liverpool synod. Read all about it here.

To understand Pope Francis – and the synodal process – we must see him through the lens of his Jesuit formation.  This means, first of all, viewing Francis’s leadership in relation to the society’s use of consultative obedience. We also must know something about the Jesuit approach to community as unity amid polarity and diversity. By Matt Kappadakunnel.

What the dioceses are doing

England and Wales


ACTA, A Call to Action, exists to support respectful dialogue between the constituent parts of the Church. As an association it supports the call to synodality and is encourage all people to avail themselves of the opportunity to take part in the discernment process that runs from now to the end of Lent 2022. To support this process, ACTA has compiled  a grid containing the most up-to-date information  from each of the dioceses of England and Wales. ACTA has diocesan coordinators who are available to help anyone who wishes to contribute to the ongoing process. The link to the diocesan grid is available here.

Synod stories in The Tablet

Involve other churches in synodal process, says Vatican. The Vatican is calling on bishops across the world to involve Christian leaders from other churches in the synod process in a move that could turn it into the most significant ecumenical event of recent times. By Christopher Lamb. 9 November 2021.

The diocesan phase of the 2021-2023 synodal process has launched across the British Isles, reports Madoc Cairns. 9 November 2021.

The Vatican’s decision to extend the duration of the first phase of the synodal process has been welcomed, reports Sarah Mac Donald. 8 November 2021.



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