The expression “Synod on Synodality” seemed obscure to many Catholics but has taken on more concrete appearances since Tuesday, June 20. The Vatican released a document titled Instrumentum Laboris (IL). This working tool is intended to guide the 370 members of the synodal assembly by providing them with food for thought. The first session of the Synod on Synodality, a gathering of bishops and laity from around the world, will take place in October in Rome, before a second stage in October 2024. It is part of a broad consultation of the 1.3 billion Catholics on all continents, invited for two years to express themselves on their vision of the Church and social issues.
This initiative comes from Pope Francis who affirms his desire to make the functioning of the Catholic Church less pyramidal. Among the many avenues mentioned in this document of about fifty pages and which addresses 130 questions, the most salient subjects have not been left aside.
The place of women in the Church
This is one of the central themes of theHE. It questions how women can be “better represented in governance and decision-making processes, better protected against abuse and better compensated for their work”.
Particular attention is paid to the sensitive issue of women’s access to the ministry of deacon, a very controversial debate within the Church. An opening that would allow women, as deacons, to celebrate baptisms, marriages and funerals but not the sacraments of the Eucharist and reconciliation – as is the case for male deacons.
Through these lines, the Argentine pope recalls that the role of women is a subject that he takes to heart. Last April, he extended the right to vote to women and lay people during synodal assemblies. For the first time, several women will take part in the votes at the Synod next October. The pope has also multiplied the appointments of women to positions of responsibility within the Curia.
Integrating “wounded minorities”
The Church ensures that no one is left behind and questions the integration of wounded minorities. In this work tool, the question arises of “creating spaces in which people who feel hurt by the Church and unwelcome by the community can feel recognized, welcomed, not judged and free to ask questions”.
In order to foster an “open and welcoming Church” that “speaks to all”, the document draws up a broad list of these communities:
“There is also concern that the poor, to whom the Good News is addressed in the first place, are too often on the margins of Christian communities (for example, refugees, migrants and displaced persons, street children, homeless, victims of human trafficking, etc).
There is also the question of “people who feel excluded from the Church because of their affectivity and their sexuality”. These include, for example, remarried divorcees, people living in polygamous marriages, LGBTQ+ people, etc.
The ordination of married men
The document studies the possibility of married men becoming priests in certain regions of the world.
He questions: “Is it possible, as certain continents propose, to open a reflection on the possibility of reviewing, at least in certain areas, the discipline on access to the priesthood of married men?”
This subject had already been raised during the Synod on the Amazon, in 2019. Gathered in Rome, the bishops of nine countries had asked Pope Francis the question of opening the priesthood to certain married indigenous men.
On this topic, as on the many other topics covered in theinstruments, it is ultimately a beautiful process of renewal that is beginning. Between now and the final sentence in the fall of 2024, the meeting in October will, hopefully, allow the main lines of force to be identified.