The concept of synodality is reflected in both who is participating in the Synod Meeting and how the meeting itself is structured:
The Synod includes not only Bishops but also men and women religious, as well as male and female lay representatives. For the first time, about 21% of the voting delegates will not be Bishops.
In large part, the meeting itself will be conducted at breakout tables of ten people in one of six language groups. Each table will then report back to the Synod during full sessions.
The eight continental reports (see part 3) were used by a 22-person committee formed by Pope Francis to develop an Instrumentum Laboris (IL, translated as "Working Document") for the Synod Meeting, which was issued on June 20, 2023. All sections of the IL include questions for discussion and worksheets to be used by the table groups.
The IL begins with a presentation on synodality itself and the importance of integrating it throughout the Church. It emphasizes what the concept of synodality means in practical terms and what it will take to implement it across all levels of the Church, from a local parish to the Papacy itself. The IL then presents the idea of “Conversation in the Spirit,” which it describes as “a dynamic of discernment in the synodal Church.” This dynamic sets the tone for the table discussions at the Synod Meeting, as well as the ongoing work of worldwide inclusive consultation which will continue until the next General Meeting of the Synod in October 2024. The “Conversation in the Spirit” process includes space for prayer, careful listening and making space for the contributions of others, and finally, discerning and growing the fruit of the discussion together. It is a process of personal prayer, listening, sharing, making space for others and the Holy Spirit, and group discernment, all within an atmosphere of prayer. The IL presents these ideas to both us as a Church and the Synod participants themselves in the graphic attached to this article. (Click here to see the graphic in Spanish.)
In the spirit of the "Conversion in the Spirit," the worksheets at the Synod then present questions to be discussed and discerned by the table groups. The questions all follow the three Synod themes: Communion, Participation, and Mission.
Next time: Some examples of the questions being discussed at the Synod, and what we can expect once this year's meeting concludes.