Global group of priests to share reflections on synodality with pope

Hundreds of priests, bishops and cardinals gather for Pope Francis’ celebration of the chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican March 28, 2024, while the baldachin over the main altar is shrouded in scaffolding while undergoing restoration. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Hundreds of parish priests from around the world will spend three days praying and talking about experiences of synodality and discernment in parishes and dioceses before having a two-hour dialogue with Pope Francis May 2.

The priests, chosen by their national bishops’ conference or Eastern Catholic church synod, will meet outside of Rome April 29-May 1 to reflect on the theme “How to be a synodal local Church in mission.”

The results of their discussions will be used, along with contributions from bishops’ conferences, in preparing the working document for the second session of the Synod of Bishops on synodality in October.

Publishing a detailed schedule of the priests’ meeting April 16, the synod secretariat listed the questions the priests will be asked to pray about and discuss during their time at Sacrofano, outside of Rome.

The priests will be asked what “experiences of a synodal church” have they had in their parishes and “which ones have been happy and which ones less so?” They also will be asked how they have experienced the participation of “different charisms, vocations, ministries in the life of the parish and diocese/eparchy” and what questions those experiences raised.

Participants will be asked to share how their parishes have contributed to the mission of their diocese or eparchy, their experiences of “ecclesial discernment” and how they think participatory bodies like parish councils and finance councils work in their parishes and in their dioceses or eparchies.

The synthesis report of the first session of the synod specifically noted a need to include more parish priests in the synod process.

“There is a need to find ways to involve the clergy — deacons, priests, bishops — more actively in the synodal process during the course of the next year,” synod members said in the synthesis. “A synodal Church cannot do without their voices, experiences or contributions. We need to understand better the reasons why some have felt resistant to the synodal process.”

The Vatican dicasteries for clergy, for evangelization and for the Eastern Churches are promoting the meeting along with the synod secretariat.

In addition to group work, the priests will hear reflections on various aspects of synodality by: Bishop Pablo David of Kalookan, Philippines; Father Benedict Ndubueze Ejeh, a canon lawyer from Nigeria; Father Tomáš Halík, the noted Czech philosopher and theologian; the Canadian theologian Father Gilles Routhier; and María Lía Zervino, a sociologist and former president of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced in March that it had chosen five pastors to attend the meeting: Fathers Artur Bubnevych from the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Phoenix; Joseph Friend from the Diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas; Luis Navarro from the Diocese of Stockton, California; Donald J. Planty, Jr. from the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia; and William Swichtenberg from the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin.

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