08 February 2023, The Tablet

Synod assembly hears calls for renewal and healing

The first part of the European continental assembly met in Prague on 5 February, with 590 delegates present and online.

Synod assembly hears calls for renewal and healing

Cardinal Mario Grech (third from right) and Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich (third from left) among delegates to the continental assembly in Prague.

British and Irish delegations travelled to Prague this week to attend the European continental assembly of the synod on synodality, which the leader of the Irish Church called “a further important step” in the life of the Church.

The Archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin, spoke ahead of the first part of the assembly, 5-9 February, attended by 200 delegates in person and a further 390 online.

Speaking at the opening of the assembly, the Czech theologian Fr Tomáš Halik said that “the turn of the Church towards synodality, the transformation of the Church into a dynamic community of pilgrims, can have an impact on the destiny of the whole human family”.

In an interview with Intercom, published by the Irish bishops, the secretary of the Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Mario Grech, said he believed “we should create or make more space for the participation of women”.

“This would be an enrichment for the people of God,” he said, “not only for women, but for all people.”

However, he emphasised that the synod should not be a cause for alarm about doctrine.

“Those who are afraid that the synod will bring about drastic doctrinal changes are not correct,” he said. “First of all because the nature of the synod is not doctrinal. It is a pastoral experience.”

Archbishop Martin said that the Irish delegation was “conscious of our responsibility to bring the fruits of what has been shared in many gatherings across Ireland in the past fifteen months”.

“We are still only at the initial stages of our synodal journey but already important themes are emerging about the need for healing and renewal in the Church and the challenge of finding fresh ways of offering the hope that comes from our friendship with Christ and with the joy of the Gospel,” he said.

He was one of four Irish delegates in Prague, including Dr Nicola Brady, chair of the synodal steering committee in Ireland, while ten others attended online.

The delegation from England and Wales included Bishop Nicholas Hudson, the bishops’ conference’s lead on the synod, who spoke in the assembly on Monday on the “resonances” between the national synthesis of synod responses and the “Document for the Continental Stage”.

He observed that both documents “heard fewer calls for women’s ordination than for their inclusion in the Church’s governance” and that they shared a concern for the inclusion of LGBT+ people and remarried divorcees.

“As in most countries,” said Bishop Hudson, “many English and Welsh priests were unclear as to how they were supposed to engage with the Synodal process.”

He emphasised that the documents shared “a sense that diverse resonances and tensions call for diverse types of formation”.

An address from Julieann Moran and Father Éamonn Fitzgibbon of the Irish delegation said that hope for evangelisation lay in “a Church united around the synodal process and anchored in an ecclesiology that can build and maintain communion”.

Archbishop Martin also addressed the assembly on “the creative tension between synodality and hierarchy”.

However, reform groups have complained that only the heads of bishops’ conferences would attend the last two days of the assembly, 10 and 11 February.

“What affects all should be decided by all,” said Colm Holmes of We Are Church Ireland.

On Tuesday morning, Cardinal Marc Ouellet delivered a sermon on Genesis, which LGBT+ delegates said he used “to defend the sexual/gender anthropology of the Roman Catholic Church”.

Hendrick Johannemann, a German delegate, said that he was “very hurt by this”.

“For me, synodality failed live and in colour with this sermon,” he said.

  Loading ...
Get Instant Access
Subscribe to The Tablet for just £7.99

Subscribe today to take advantage of our introductory offers and enjoy 30 days' access for just £7.99