25th Sunday A
St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh
23rd September 2023
“Without prayer there will be no Synod”
On October 4th Pope Francis will open the 1st session of the 16th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, “For a Synodal Church, Communion, Participation and Mission”.
A synod is a meeting, a gathering of Church representatives, to discuss, reflect and pray about issues that are central to its life and mission. The Synod that begins on October 4th was called for in October 2021. It is comprised of representatives from all parts of the world – bishops, priests, religious and lay members. In that sense it is a synod with a difference.
Since the invitation to prepare for this global gathering was first extended by Pope Francis people in dioceses, parishes and church groups of all kinds have been participating in meetings and responding to questionnaires through which they have shared their experiences of life, of church, their spiritual insights, their hopes for renewal and reconciliation.
“In Ireland there was a national
consultation in 2021-2, culminating in
the paper ‘Synthesis for the Consultation
in Ireland for the Diocesan Stage
of the Universal Synod 2021-2023’.
This was joined with 112 other such
syntheses globally to culminate in the
‘Document for the Continental Stage’
in 2022. This document was further
debated at seven continental assemblies
in February and March 2023.
This resulted in a ‘Working Document’
for the October 2023 (and 2024) Synod
in Rome, which, is a first in modern
times, will include a substantial number
of non-episcopal voting member,
women as well as men”
(Fr. Gerry O’Hanlon, SJ
September 2023 P.23)
The role and place of the Church in Ireland and indeed throughout the world has been changing due to many factors not least of which is the profound changes in society itself. The Church mission is to be a messenger of the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to the world.
The Church is a divinely inspired but human institution. As a human institution it is subject to the flaw and failure of the human condition. For that reason, we are ever in need of the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
“Without prayer there will be no Synod” – Pope Francis insists
“This prayer for this special gathering for the whole church has several dimensions – Listening, Adoration, Intercession and Thanksgiving. This invitation and request for prayer “involves not only members of the Synod Assembly but every baptised person and every particular Church. Indeed, all of us are called at this time to unite in a communion of prayer and insistent invocation of the Holy Spirit to guide us in discerning what the Lord is asking of his Church to-day” – Cardinal Grech, General Secretary of the Synod.
This gathering is but a beginning of which we will hear a great deal over these coming months and years.
Here in the diocese, we’ve participated in a limited way (due to Covid) in the early listening and reflection. While the global gathering meets in Rome, we have to continue our listening and reflection in our Parish Pastoral Councils.
Many Parish Pastoral Councils lapsed due to Covid Restrictions. I am now inviting all the parishes, through the Parish Priests to re-constitute the Parish Pastoral Council. These representative groups will enable us in our places engage in the same questions, reflections and prayer as at the Synod.
This is an urgent work if we are to ensure our faith communities are to not just survive but thrive in new social, family and personal circumstances. I hope to personally support this opportunity for parishes to engage constructively in re-energising our support in faith for one another under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
“Come Holy Spirit fill the hearts of your faithful with the fire of your love”