01 April 2022, The Tablet

The Tablet Synod Watch

The Tablet Synod Watch

The Church's Radical Reform – Inclusion and Reconciliation: Voices from Africa

Much of the media focus on the synod has been on western churches with the underlining question centred on how the process can reverse declining congregations and respond to the abuse crisis. But what does it all mean for Africa, a part of the Catholic world where churches are overflowing and vocations booming? Is the synod having any impact?
In this latest Tablet podcast, Christopher Lamb put these questions to two leading Catholic figures: Fr Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, the President of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar, and Dominique Yon, a youth ministry co-ordinator in the Cape Town archdiocese and a Vatican adviser. Both of them make a strong case for why a synodal Church is needed in Africa, how it can help implement the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and include marginalised voices such as those from the LGBTQ community. He also hears how synodality gives the tools for the Church to become a peacemaker in a continent often scarred by civil war and conflict.



Professor Tina Beattie, founder of the international Catholic Women Speak network and executive member of the global Catholic Women's Council, has announced the launch of an international survey of Catholic women for Synod on Synodality. The online survey, released in six languages on International Women’s Day, is gathering feedback from Catholic women around the world. Visit Catholic Women Speak and the Catholic Women’s Council to find out more.


The Tablet Synod Watch is sponsored by

Jesuits in Britain


Reluctance of some priests to take part and fear and mistrust among lay people are among challenges facing the synodal process

Reluctance of some Catholic priests to take part and fear and mistrust among lay people that their voices will not be heard are among challenges facing the synodal process, according to initial findings of the listening process. The Covid-19 pandemic has also made the process more difficult.

A further challenge has been to keep meetings spiritual so they do not turn into parliament-style debates.

The synodal process must recognise the marginalised, say Religious

The director of a centre supporting women in prostitution, some of whom are homeless or have been trafficked and have addiction issues, has questioned how the synodal process will “filter” the voices of those perceived to be on the margins of the Church. At a Tablet webinar, Synod wisdom from the Religious, sponsored by Jesuits in Britain and the Conference of Religious, Sr Lynda Dearlove RSM, director of Women at the Well, a drop-in centre in Kings Cross, London said the synodal journey is about “how we encounter and enable each other to be heard and feel listened to”. 

Listen to the full webinar at The Tablet podcasts.

The Mercy Sister said parishes needed to ask themselves who are the voiceless in their community. “And how do we create a safe space that actually includes them?”  She said it was about “a change in heart and mind that would give them a real voice and enable them to feel included.”  Sr Lynda said the Synodal journey was about real encounter, being alongside people and engaging them “in meaningful ways so that they understand that we really do care and that their lives matter. That is what happened to the woman at the well, of no name, but whose story still touches all of us.” Answering a survey or a few questions is “not remotely” what the Synodal journey is about, warned theologian Dr Gemma Simmonds CJ. The senior research fellow and director of the Religious Life Institute at the Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology in Cambridge urged priests and people to come together, listen to each other and learn from each other.  She said the synodal journey should not be something that ended in a few months. “This has got to be the beginning. The process itself is the product.” The Congregation of Jesus Sister said there was “a certain level of anxiety” in some parishes and dioceses that the synod might end up as “a gathering of protest groups, or a gathering of influencers vying for power”. However, the Pope and those organising the synod had made it very clear that they want a diversity of voices to be heard.


Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga: “The Church must aim to create a symphony out of a cacophony of different voices.” This episode of Christopher Lamb’s podcast series, The Church's Radical Reform, is an interview with Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, the Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras and a member of Pope Francis’ council of cardinal advisers.

A webinar with ACTA

Towards the end of 2021, the Core team of Root and Branch, the Trustees of ACTA and executive members of the National Justice and Peace Network agreed to collaborate in support of the synodal process in England and Wales. They would encourage their members to participate and contribute to any parish/diocesan event. Parishes across the nations of England and Wales are arranging opportunities for discussion and listening. These are likely to appeal principally to those who are active members of parishes and are extremely valuable. There is a need, however, for creating opportunities for those whose voices are unlikely to be heard – those who are no longer active members of a parish. Their views and ideas are critically important if the Catholic Church is to develop in the ways that Pope Francis has suggested. Such an event is being held in the Archdiocese of Cardiff which covers South East Wales and Herefordshire, on Tuesday 8th February 2022 starting at 7.00pm on Zoom. If you live in the area and want YOUR voice to be heard please register: Details from fbcallus@aol.com


Women’s submissions to the synodal process must be made “as public as possible” in order to prevent any attempt to airbrush them out, theologian and broadcaster, Professor Tina Beattie has said. Speaking at “The Synodal Pathway: Good News for Catholic Women”, a webinar hosted by The Tablet, the retired Professor of Catholic Studies at the University of Roehampton said making submissions public would ensure that “if our voices are airbrushed out, or if the things we say that they don't like are airbrushed out, we can say this is not discernment. It is censorship.” Read the report by Sarah Mac Donald.


Listen to the webinar in full at The Tablet podcasts.


Sign up for more Tablet synod events here.


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.


Listen on Apple Podcasts

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Listen on iTunes

Listen on Spotify


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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