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While the origin of synods goes back to the beginning of the Church, the practice of synodal assemblies developed especially after Vatican II. The Council reaffirmed the nature of the Church as the pilgrim people of God, discerning in the signs of the times how to live and witness to the Gospel in the world. “The Church as the pilgrim people of God, and not just a hierarchy, is really fundamental,” says Sister Laurence Loubières, XMCJ, director of the Service for Discernment in Common. “Synodality, in the end, is simply coming back to the fact that the Church is synodal in nature, a pilgrim people who discern together.”
The spirit of the synod is to create the broadest possible conversation with members of the Church, but especially with people we don’t usually listen to, she explains. The Pope Francis stresses that “everyone is a protagonist, no one can be considered a mere extra. ‘But, Holy Father, what are you saying? Are the poor, the beggars, the young drug addicts, all those people whom society discards, part of the Synod?’ Yes, dear friends, it is not I who am saying this, it is the Lord. They, too, are part of the Church, and you will not properly celebrate the Synod unless you somehow make them part of it, or spend time with them, not only listening to what they have to say, but also feeling what they feel, listening to them even if they may insult you. The Synod is for everyone, and it is meant to include everyone.” Why this openness? According to Sister Laurence, it’s to learn from those we don’t usually associate with, to broaden our horizons by recognizing that we need these people and what they have to say.
The pope has said that this Synod is a call from God, an invitation to come back to our identity as the pilgrim people of God and to leave our comfort zone. The Synod is an opportunity for a profound conversion to a humility that allows us to follow Christ. According to the pope, there are three key words: Participation, Communion, and Mission.