NEW YORK – With a focus on the different relationships in the Church, the recently published working document for the final gathering of the Synod of Bishops on Synodality presents the American faithful an opportunity to reflect, says U.S. Bishops’ Conference synod lead.

“The [document] presents the delegates and the People of God with the occasion to reflect deeply upon the grace of our relationship with God, the Most Holy Trinity, and to one another as incorporated into Trinitarian life in Christ by the spirit,” Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, chair of the USCCB Committee on Doctrine, said in a July 9 statement.

“These relations are practically lived out in our local communities and in the Universal Church and are at the service of the mission,” Flores added. “The quality of our relations, rooted in charity, their theological and practical shape at all levels, are at the heart of synodal discernment and renewal in the Church.”

The official working document, known as Instrumentum Laboris, for the second and final Rome-based session of the synod, which will take place this October, was published on July 9. Its primary purpose is to inform the discernment that will take place at the synod gathering.

The 60-page document is titled “How to be a missionary synodal Church.” It begins with an introduction and then a section on the foundations of understanding synodality. From there, the document is divided into three sections on relationships, pathways, and places.

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According to the document, the first section focuses on relationships with the Lord, between brothers and sisters, and between churches worldwide. The second section looks at the paths that support and nourish the dynamics of those relationships, touching on topics like the decision-making processes in the church and transparency and accountability.

The third section, meanwhile, focuses on the places in which these relationships are formed. It touches on different aspects of the local and global Church and highlights each’s uniqueness and interconnectedness.

The delegates of the second synod session will discern each of these sections when they arrive this October. The first session had 364 bishops, priests, religious, and lay delegates from around the world, including more than 20 from the United States.

While the document is specifically for the second synod session in Rome, Flores said Catholics and faith leaders in the states should also read it.

“I encourage everyone to read and discern this document within your community in conversation with the insights and fruits of earlier local, national, and continental Synod consultations,” Flores said.

What the document didn’t touch on, however, were the hot button issues that in some ways have defined the synod process since it began in 2021. The document makes no mention of the topic of welcoming LGBTQ Catholics. It also only briefly mentions the topic of the women’s diaconate, saying that it “will not be subject of the work of the second [synod] session.”
Even still, Francis DeBernardo, the executive director of the Catholic advocacy organization New Ways Ministry said in a July 9 statement that the document “opens the door for greater inclusion.”

“Instead of providing answers to the many immediate, practical questions raised by Catholics in the last three years, the working document (Instrumentum Laboris) focuses on methods and processes the Church must employ to better discern those answers through the participation of all,” DeBernardo said. “If this approach is sincerely enacted, especially by Church leaders, LGBTQ+ equality will be realized.”

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