Following the end of the 16th General Assembly of the Synod on Synodality, the Synthesis Report was released on October 28, 2023. Anticipating the second session in 2024, the report presented ideas and suggestions regarding issues like abuse, ecumenism, digital outreach, the relevance of the impoverished and migrants, the role of women and the laity, the ministry of bishops and the priesthood and diaconate.
Similar to the Letter to the People of God, the synod assembly reiterated its willingness to listen to and support everyone, including those who have been abused or hurt inside the Church. However, addressing the structural issues that enabled this abuse still needs to be done, and it calls for tangible acts of repentance.
Synodality, a term often unfamiliar to many members of the People of God, signifies a mode of being in the Church that integrates communion, mission and participation. It values differences and encourages the active involvement of all. The Church in Goa and India will do well if it considers these points.
The document emphasises synodality and mission, urging Christian communities to solidarity with other religions and cultures to avoid self-referentiality and identity loss. It suggests making liturgical language more accessible and embodied in cultural diversity something that the Goan Church needs in today’s day and time, given the disturbing trends.
It also emphasizes the need for love and respect from the Church for the poor, including migrants, indigenous peoples, victims of violence, minorities, abandoned elderly people and exploited workers. Undoubtedly the Church in Goa has been doing well in this regard but there is still more to be done.
It focused on the importance of welcoming migrants and refugees, who often bear the wounds of uprooting, war and violence. We are called to practice an open welcome, build intercultural communion and respect their liturgical traditions and language. Acknowledging mistakes made and learning a new sensitivity to these issues is crucial for effective evangelism in these contexts.
The report also highlights the vulnerability of the unborn and their mothers, who are the most vulnerable. The Assembly condemns corrupt political and economic systems that cause wars and terrorism and calls for constant advocacy for the ‘new poor’ caused by wars and terrorism.
The following may come as a shock to many people. The Church is called upon to be dedicated to actively participating in politics, associations, trade unions and popular movements, as well as to publicly denounce the injustices committed by people, governments and businesses. Simultaneously, it is imperative not to overlook the combined efforts of the Church in the areas of social aid, health care and education, without any kind of bias or exclusion.
The Church must actively engage in education, dialogue and combat racism and xenophobia through pastoral formation, and identify systems within the Church that perpetuate racial injustice.
The report emphasizes spiritual renewal through repentance and healing of memory, referencing Pope Francis’ ecumenism of the blood and proposes an ecumenical martyrology. It emphasizes collaboration among Christians to heal hatred, division and war, and addresses mixed marriages as opportunities for evangelization.
The Synthesis Report emphasizes the equal dignity of laymen, laywomen, consecrated life and ordained ministers in Christian communities. It emphasizes the importance of educators, theologians, formators, spiritual animators and catechists in safeguarding and administering the Church’s mission.
The report calls for a strong commitment from the Church to accompany and understand women in all aspects of their lives, including pastoral and sacramental ones. It emphasizes the need for justice in societies marked by sexual violence, economic inequality, and objectification, and emphasizes the need for pastoral accompaniment and advocacy for women.
The Synod of the Catholic Church has expressed gratitude for the work of priests and bishops but also criticized the Church for its clericalism, chauvinist mentality and inappropriate authority expressions. The General Assembly aims to promote a Church where men and women dialogue together without subordination, exclusion and competition.
Various opinions on opening the diaconate to women were acknowledged, with some seeing it as a discontinuity with tradition, others as a response to the times and others as a worrying anthropological confusion.
Fathers and mothers of the Synod request continued research on women’s access to the diaconate, using the results of commissions set up by the Pope and existing theological, historical and exegetical research.
They also emphasize the need to ensure women can participate in decision-making processes and assume roles of responsibility in pastoral care and ministry, adapt canon law, address employment discrimination and unfair remuneration and expand women’s access to theological education and training programs.
The Synod Assembly has addressed various aspects of the Church, including consecrated life, ordination and formation. It warns against authoritarian styles and acknowledges abuse in religious life and lay associations. It requests seminaries and formation courses to be linked to daily life to avoid formalism and ideology.
The Assembly also discussed celibacy, urging bishops to be synodal and explore the appropriateness of assigning judicial tasks to another body. The Synthesis Report emphasizes reaching today’s culture in all spaces where people seek meaning and love. May we all strive to walk together and make this world a better place to live in.