Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, offered the eighth installment of Georgetown’s Sacred Lectures series at Dahlgren Chapel, speaking on the importance of synodality and Pope Francis’s approach to the practice. Synodality is the process of church delegates assembling to discuss ecclesiastical affairs and make ecclesiastical decisions in accordance with church law.
Wuerl discussed in his Sept.18 talk how synodality serves as an experience of coming together. He noted that Pope Francis has expanded the practice while listing the benefits of a synodalitical experience when practiced following Pope Francis’s recommendations.
Cardinal Wuerl pointed to the Greek root of the term synodality in order to illustrate the practice’s role in the Church. ‘Synodos’ refers to ‘assembly,’ which Wuerl applied within the context of the Church to mean the experience of individuals, particularly bishops, “walking together.” Historically, the practice consisted of bishops playing an active role in discussing the problems of the day while exploring and applying church teachings to address them.
Wuerl was careful to note that synodality could not be reduced to a conversation on practical matters, while adding that Pope Francis emphasizes that the scope of responsibility for synodality extends to all clerical members of the Church.
Because the Catholic Church is comprised of numerous varying local congregations, Wuerl reiterated the importance of collegiality to synodality.
“[The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops] brings together the bishops not so that they can now give dogmatic directions from the church or formulate teachings, but that they express jointly what’s the best pastoral way to serve people here in this country.”
After listing several elements of an effective synodal experience, such as the reflection of practices engaged to connect with God to help others in their own refinement of practices, Wuerl reiterated the most crucial factor that initiates the practice. “When you’re coming together, we want you to speak with openness and clarity, listen with humility, and be open to the word of the Holy Spirit. The whole idea of synodality as the Pope understands it, as the church now begins to reflect it, is that we need to listen to one another,” Wuerl said.
Cardinal Wuerl concluded by saying that practicing synodality not only brings individuals closer in their faith to God and their growth in the art of discernment, but also to one another as fellow human beings.
Image Credit: Shadia Millon