Dear Bishop [name]/ Dear Bishops’ Conference,
Greetings to you as we continue forward in this synodal process begun by Pope Francis. It is my understanding that the Document for the Continental Stage (DCS) is being sent out to every bishop throughout the world and that you have been asked by Cardinal Grech and the Synod office to convene your Church to read this document to determine if we approve it and/or if we discern that there are things to add. And on October 11, Pope Francis reminded us that Vatican II calls for a church that is “madly in love with its Lord and with all the men and women whom He loves . . . a church that is free and freeing.”
As a member of a global group promoting these kingdom values, and as someone who has participated in the synodal journey so far with prayer and dedication, I am most interested in being a part of your consulting team and I wish to strongly recommend that:
- A balanced group of lay persons be chosen for your Continental Assembly in order to represent the full participation of the People of God. That the mechanism to do this in our dioceses be transparently disclosed including the selection criteria.
- That the Continental Assemblies are required to reflect Pope Francis’ instruction regarding the Consultation phase and include people of all genders, survivors of clerical sexual and other violence/abuse, lay theologians, lay contributors in parish ministries, those estranged from the church, and those excluded through Canon law from the Sacraments. [If you would like to recommend someone in particular, include “I would like to recommend INSERT FULL NAME and add how they can be contacted.”]
- That you publish the names and contact information of all the members who have been selected for your Continental Assembly well ahead of your first meeting in January 2023.
The first phase of the synod has spotlighted some important issues, among many others:
- The urgency of remedying the unacceptable absence of women at every level
- The urgency of facing up to a global loss of trust and belief in the bishops and the Vatican due to the clerical sexual abuse and other forms of violence/abuse which have been and continue to be covered-up.
- The urgency of implementing transparency to a new listening Church.
I would be grateful therefore if you would reply to confirm that you will be making public the following documents for our comments:
- First draft Document for the Continental Stage (DCS)
- Your revisions to the DCS
- The revised DCS coming out in January 2023
- All documents coming out of your Continental Assembly in March 2023
We look forward to your acceptance of our recommendations and assure you of our full support.
With prayers and in the spirit of synodality,
[You may wish to including the following in your letter:]
The People of God, all around the world, with great dedication and prayer, have been responding to the calls of Pope Francis and Vatican II to share responsibility for the safe running of our church. And in country after country, with some exceptions, diocesan and national syntheses have faithfully reflected the straight-forward speaking of the laity.
[Ideally insert a comment here that relates specifically to your experience of synodality –
If possible, it would be good to comment in your own words on your own National Synthesis.
To say briefly whether you are pleased with it or disappointed.
Here are some suggestions for those living in US, Canada, Pakistan, Australia, England & Wales offered by strategy team members]
Australia: Since the Plenary Council, for all practical purposes, replaced our having many synodal gatherings, it is critical that we be invited to participate as we prepare for the continental phase.
England & Wales: The majority of dioceses do not have the diocesan pastoral council structures that Cardinal Grech expects to comment on the DCS. How is the process of responding to the DCS to be properly and transparently managed? The National Synthesis does not reflect the strength of the diocesan voice for reform. This is damaging to the integrity of the synodal process.
Pakistan: Since we were not invited to participate in phase one of the synodal process, it is essential that we be included at this stage.
U.S. and Canada: I understand that in the first week of February 2023, 10 US Bishops and 10 Canadian Bishops will meet in Florida to discuss the North American Synodal Continental Report. Can you please tell me and my fellow parishioners who these bishops will be and reassure us that this meeting will not replace an ecclesial continental assembly with the full participation of laypeople as called for by the Synod office. I would also like to know how the lay delegates to the assembly will be chosen and ensure me that we will be given access to them.