“…the purpose of this Synod, and therefore of this consultation, is not to produce documents, but to ‘plant dreams, draw forth prophesies and visions, allow hope to flourish, inspire trust, bind up wounds, weave together relationships, awaken a dawn of hope, learn from one another and create a bright resourcefulness that will enlighten minds, warm hearts, give strength to our hands’” (Preparatory Document, 32).
What is a Synod?
“In the first millennium, ‘journeying together’—that is, practicing synodality—was the ordinary way in which the Church, understood as ‘People united in the unity of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,’ acted” (Preparatory Document, 11). When there was disagreement and division in the early Church, bishops gathered to listen and discern the path forward. These were the first synods which developed at all levels of the Church—local, regional, and universal. St. John Chrysostom said that “Church and Synod are synonymous.” (Preparatory Document, 11).
Synodality has thus marked the Church from her very beginning and has been expressed in various ways, as the style of the Church’s life and mission, as particular structures and processes, or through decisive events.
In the West, “synod” and “council” became synonymous, and Ecumenical Councils are the most authoritative expressions of formal synodal gatherings, always in communion with and under the authority of the Pope.
In 1965, Pope St. Paul VI established the Synod of Bishops as a permanent institution of the Catholic Church, setting the stage for the renewed understanding of synodality being emphasized and explored today.
What is the 2021-2023 Synod?
For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission
Pope Francis has called upon the Church to rejuvenate her synodal roots. He has opened a two-year synodal process which he hopes will reframe and renew our common journey forward. First and foremost, the Synod is a call to pray, listen, and discern together what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church today—all for the sake of the Church’s evangelizing mission.
A key question to help focus this process is this: A synodal Church, in announcing the Gospel, “journeys together.” How is this “journeying together” happening today in your local Church? What steps does the Spirit invite us to take to grow in “journeying together”?
In the words of the Holy Father “…the purpose of this Synod, and therefore of this consultation, is not to produce documents, but to ‘plant dreams, draw forth prophesies and visions, allow hope to flourish, inspire trust, bind up wounds, weave together relationships, awaken a dawn of hope, learn from one another and create a bright resourcefulness that will enlighten minds, warm hearts, give strength to our hands’” (Preparatory Document, 32).
In the coming months, people from all walks of life will be invited to participate. In practical terms, this may mean attending a listening session, submitting answers to a survey, or taking time to listen to the whispers of the Holy Spirit. The Archdiocese of Atlanta will post both resources and calls to action on this page of the website throughout the synod process. We invite you to visit often and we look forward to this journey together. Most importantly, please pray for this process.
Homily of Archbishop Hartmayer for the Opening Mass of The Synod
What Can I Do Now?
- Is there a question about Synods or synodality we can answer for you?
- Prayer to the Holy Spirit – Pray this traditional prayer to the Holy Spirit, adapted for this Synod, as a family, individually, or with your parish.
- In this time of Eucharistic Renewal, please consider spending time before the Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist and praying for the Synod process.
- Read the Pastoral Letter from Archbishop Hartmayer
- Read the Preparatory Document. For more information, consider reading:
- The Handbook or Vademecum (go with me, guide) for the Synod
- Pope Francis’ 2015 address on synodality
- The International Theological Commission’s 2018 document on synodality
- Read the Pope’s address on the Synod delivered on Sept. 18, 2021
- Learn more about the timeline and intentions for the Synod in this presentation (PDF)
- Explanation of Synod Process courtesy of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales
- FAQs on Synods courtesy of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales