NEW YORK – Cardinal Mario Grech encouraged more than 200 U.S. Catholic leaders to continue the process of listening called for by the Synod on Synodality, even as it moves out of the local phase, and to consider the contributions of all people of goodwill, in a recent presentation.
“When we say that we are listening to the others, we are also saying that we are listening to the Holy Spirit, and for me, this is something sacred and it was about time that we came around to recognize this wealth, this richness in the church,” said Grech, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops.
“We believe in the people of God and in their power because the Holy Spirit lives in them, so it would be a great miss if we do not take into consideration, into account, the contribution of not only all of the baptized, but all of the people of goodwill,” Grech continued. “All people of goodwill can really contribute and help also the pastors to find what is the will of God for his church today.”
Grech made the comments on Sept. 22, to open this year’s Catholic Partnership Summit hosted by Leadership Roundtable, a U.S.-based Catholic nonprofit that seeks to promote best practices in leadership and management within the church.
The cardinal made the comments live from Frascati, Italy, where the Vatican’s synod team is gathered to review synod syntheses from across the globe as the continental phase begins. Grech called the results they’ve received so far “astonishing,” and noted that they will receive a reply from all of the bishops’ conferences of the world, “something unprecedented in history.”
Outside of episcopal conferences, Grech acknowledged that there were more than 1,000 individual synod submissions made directly to the Vatican, which he guaranteed will be taken into account.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops publicized its national synod synthesis on Sept. 19. Grech commented that he has read the report twice, and found it “very, very interesting.” He noted what he described as “very, very high participation” – an estimated 700,000 people.
With both the U.S. bishops and Canadian bishops having completed their national synod syntheses’ reports, both sides will now work together on the continental phase of the synod that Pope Francis launched this month. The USCCB expects the Document for the Continental Stage (DCS) from the Synod Secretariat in the coming months. Grech said that the document is being worked on.
The national synod synthesis in the U.S. keyed in on several “enduring wounds” that plague the nation’s church, including the still-unfolding effects of the sexual abuse crisis, divisions over the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass, and a perceived lack of unity among the nation’s bishops.
The most common desire named in synodal consultations, according to the document, is for a “more welcoming church where all members of the people of God can find accompaniment on the journey.” In particular, the synthesis identifies the LGBTQ+ community, divorced Catholics, and women as those that the U.S. church needs to be more welcoming toward.
Grech touched on the “complicated issues” such as divorced and remarried people receiving Holy Communion and the blessing of same-sex couples, echoing the overarching message of his presentation that the church should listen to all people of goodwill.
“These are not to be understood simply in terms of doctrine, but in terms of God’s ongoing encounter with human beings,” Grech said. “What has the church to fear if these two groups within the faithful are given the opportunity to express their intimate sense of spiritual realities, which they experience.”
“Might this be an opportunity for the church to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking through them also?”
Present at the fourth Catholic Partnership Summit were a mix of U.S. cardinals, bishops, diocesan lay leaders, corporate professionals, canon lawyers, theologians, philanthropists, religious brothers and sisters, Catholic nonprofit leaders, priests, and young adults.
Among the clergy present at the summit were Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, and Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington.
The summit’s theme was “Living Synodal Leadership: Our Call to a Unified Church.” Kim Smolik, a Leadership Roundtable executive partner, explained to Crux that the bringing together of Catholic leaders to focus on synodality “deepens our understanding of what synodal leadership is.”
“Synodal leadership is pointed towards co-responsible leadership, lay, clergy, and religious working together, it’s about listening to each other and leading collectively, and so now our understanding of that because of this process is being deepened,” Smolik said.
Throughout his presentation, Grech emphasized making the synodal direction and leadership a mainstay.
“My dear brothers and sisters, I really wish to encourage you to go forth in this synodal direction,” the cardinal said, adding that doing so is not only a gift for the church, but “all of society will benefit.”
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