Is there an ‘ecological pathway’ in the synodal process?

October 11, 2021

Pope Francis took a brave decision when he re-introduced the synodal process as a way for the Church to address the many issues facing and besieging the Roman Catholic Church during these trying times.

The theme of this synodal activity is: “For a synodal church: communion, participation and mission.”

As Rome prepares for the October 2023 Synod of Bishops on this groundbreaking direction of Pope Francis; it is also the task of local bishops (even parish priests) to think synchronously in a synodal way.

Originally, ‘synodality’ is an integral process of discernment of church members, traditionally practiced in the early Church; later to be subsumed by centrality and the structural process of governance in the Church. It was clouded by theological and disciplinary measures in the Church.

Towards a productive synodal experience

The synodal path will truly be a moment of self-examination of the ‘structural’ Church, Pope Francis blatantly mentioned of a ‘museum church’  or  an approach to divest from existing ‘elitism’ in the Church. He defines the synodal process as: “a process of becoming, a process that involves the local Churches, in different phases and from the bottom up, in an exciting and engaging effort that can forge a style of communion and participation directed to mission.” (Address for the Opening of the Synod October 9, 2021) 

This synodal journey, following the directions and the risks outlined by Pope Francis himself; will seriously benefit the whole of the Church, and from among her members— Church open to the newness that God wants to suggest.

Expectedly, our local churches must take the path of the synodal journey, opening her doors to: communion, participation and mission. Not exclusivist, not elitist and not clericalist.

The Eco-Church

Pope Francis highlighted an ‘ecological dream’ for the Church in his apostolic exhortation “Querida Amazonia”, he said: the Lord, who is the first to care for us, teaches us to care for our brothers and sisters and the environment which he daily gives us. This is the first ecology that we need. (QA §41)

This ‘ecological dream,’ as embodied too, in the message of Laudato Si’, encourages our churches to embrace both the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth. We have already seen how our local churches made Laudato Si’ as the core of their pastoral direction. The Diocese of San Carlos in Negros island, embraced the eco-challenge of Pope Francis in a tripartite direction: formation (eco-education, symposium and parish eco-adaptation), liturgical (inculturation and liturgical practices) and advocacy (active eco-engagement on environmental issues).

Among the many positive expectations, not only structural reform/s to be introduced, but also a more progressive pastoral direction from the institutional structures down to the local communities. Expecting a more engaging church and pastoral leadership in the area of social and ecological advocacies. In his address for the opening of the Synod, Pope Francis said: “A Church that does not stand aloof from life, but immerses herself in today’s problems and needs, bandaging wounds and healing broken hearts with the balm of God.  Let us not forget God’s style, which must help us: closeness, compassion and tender love.” (Address for the Opening of the Synod October 9, 2021)

A Future Church

The hope of a changed Church is a necessity, from the many scandals and errors plaguing the Church. Not only to be blamed on church leaders but to the whole Christian community. 

The hope of a future Church bears the mark of our Church, a way of ‘being Church’—that we all belong.

The hope of a future Church must truly make us a community that cares for a sustainable future, a Church concerned for a damaged planet and wanting to protect the earth from destruction—creating a pathway even beyond the internal concerns of the Church, but as to where the Church breathes and exists.

Bro. Jaazeal Jakosalem, OAR is a Filipino Laudato Si’ reader. A member of Pusyon Kinaiyahan, an environmental group in the Visayas. Currently based in Germany as a member of PCPR-Europe, working for the Philippine campaigns related to the protection of human rights.

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