In October 2021, Pope Francis opened the Synod on Synodality: a process of listening and discerning how the Church can better journey together. This Synod is unfolding in three phases: the Diocesan Phase, which is already complete; the Continental Phase, which is happening now; and the Universal Phase, which is starting soon.
Here in North America, the latest result of the Continental Phase is the "North American Final Document for the Continental Stage of the 2021-2024 Synod”. This document, co-written by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, was the result of twelve online sessions held from December 2022 to January 2023. Bishops and other delegates from each diocese/eparchy in Canada and the United States participated in Listening Circles to compare the “Document for the Continental Stage” (DCS) with the experiences that mark the Church in their area, to seek out resonances, tensions, and themes.
The DCS was created from reports written during the Diocesan Phase of the Synod by each Episcopal Conference in the world. In Canada, our National Synthesis was written by the CCCB, based on the Assembly of Western Catholic Bishops Synod Synthesis and similar reports from the other three Regional Assemblies in Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada.
The information in each of the Regional Assembly syntheses was gathered from dioceses in their region. Here in the Diocese of Victoria, after Bishop Gary invited all people to help chart a course for our journey together in February 2022, nearly 500 people participated the Synod through Listening Circles and written submissions. The Diocesan Synod Committee, which included representatives from religious communities, education and healthcare professions, and Indigenous communities, combined everyone's responses into the Diocese of Victoria Synod Report (a shorter Summary Report is also available).
The next step in the Synod journey will be the Universal Stage. The work of each of the Continental Assemblies will form the basis of the Instrumentum Laboris, to be released by the General Secretariat of the Synod in June 2023. The Universal Phase of the Synod will follow with two sessions held in Rome: the first in October 2023; and the second a year later in October 2024.
Looking to the future, we are discussing how to continue the spirit of synodality in the Diocese of Victoria through ongoing opportunities for sharing, listening, and discernment. By creating spaces of encounter and mutual listening that incorporate the gifts of all the baptized, we can face the many challenges of renewing the life of the Church for our time. Together, we will keep working to chart a course for our journey, now and in the future, as the People of God.
To learn more about the Synod, visit the Diocese of Victoria Synod website