Listening in Simplicity: Synod Report for October 27, 2023

As delegates work toward finalizing the Synod’s synthesis report, “spiritual assistants” Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, OP, of Oxford Monastery in Great Britain, and Mother Maria Ignazia Angelini, OSB, of the Abbey of Viboldone in Italy, shared their insights into the synodal process at a press briefing this morning. They were joined by Br. Alois (Löser), prior of the Taizé Community in France.

Fr. Radcliffe, Mother Angelini, and Br. Alois are not voting members of the Synod, but their participation as assistants and special guests has given them a unique perspective on the proceedings. Fr. Radcliffe and Mother Angelini have offered reflections to the Synodal Assembly throughout the month.

Mother Angelini emphasized the connections between synodality and the monastic disciplines of studying Scripture, praying, and developing fraternal relationships. She characterized her presence at the Synod as “marginal” yet “very good for me.”

“I could participate by listening, by praying,” she said.

She described the Synod as “significant” and “revolutionary” for the way it has introduced a “change of pace” and fostered a new ability to listen in participants. She said that our present historical moment feels “more obscured, more tormented,” and that we need “a vision that starts form the perspective of God.”

Fr. Radcliffe said that as a Dominican, “synodality is part of my being,” He explained that since the founding of the order over 800 years ago, Dominicans have used “a synodal form of governance.”

Though he has participated in other Synods, “there was not so much real dialogue” in his previous experience. The current Synod is “profoundly transformative in people’s experience of the church,” he said.

Fr. Radcliffe observed that the current Synod, with its free and open communication between laypeople and clergy, “reveals what it means to be a bishop” in a more profound way. This is because the bishop is perceived “not as a solitary individual” but “immersed in the conversation of his people.”

Br. Alois pointed to the Synod as “a moment when we can reach out and grow in spiritual ecumenism.” He said that “we have taken a huge step forward in the Synod” by virtue of “listening in simplicity.”

Referencing Pope John Paul II’s ecumenical legacy, particularly his concepts of the “ministry of unity” and the “exchange of gifts” between churches, Br. Alois said that “we can express this unity [between the churches] more than we do.”

“We can discover in other Christians what the Holy Spirit has given them for us,” he said.

Asked about the skepticism of the Synod shown by some observers, Fr. Radcliffe responded that it comes from a misunderstanding of the nature of synodality.

“When people look at the Synod and see it in terms of a political debate, they misunderstand it and they fear it,” he said. Rather, the Synod should be understood as “an event of prayer and faith.”

Instead of offering a “mechanical view of the world” that sees politics as a process of “fixing problems,” the Synod is “concerned with a communion which is not mechanical,” he said.

“The church is an organism, a body, the Body of Christ,” he continued. “And that means change is organic and ecological rather than demanding a quick fix.”

Dr. Paolo Ruffini, prefect for the Dicastery for Communication, confirmed that the drafting committee is collecting amendments from small groups and individuals for the synthesis report. The report will be prepared between tonight and tomorrow morning. Delegates will vote on the final document tomorrow afternoon. Delegates will have to vote yes or no on each paragraph of the document, with a two-thirds majority required for approval.

As a final reminder, Dr. Ruffini related that Pope Francis has proclaimed today a day of fasting, prayer, and penance to implore peace in the world. Francis has invited “sisters and brothers of the various Christian denominations, those belonging to other religions, and all those who have at heart the cause of peace in the world, to join in as they see fit.” ♦

Michael Centore
Editor, Today’s American Catholic

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