Synodality in the Universal Church: A Talk With Sr Nathalie Becquart

Friday 21st January 2022

On Wednesday evening we were joined by a very special speaker, Sr Nathalie Becquart. Sr Nathalie is an Undersecretary to the Synod of Bishops and was heavily involved in the 2018 Synod on Young People. Sr Natalie has written extensively about the role of the Holy Spirit in both our personal renewal and that of the Church.

At the beginning of Advent, the Diocese of Salford launched our own Synod Consultation as part of the universal process called for by Pope Francis. Creating a listening church is a process, one in which we are constantly learning from each other. We were inspired to hear Sr Nathalie’s thoughts and grateful for the information she shared with us. Read on for a summary of Sr Nathalie’s talk, which you can also watch in the YouTube video above.

A listening Church

Sr Nathalie began by outlining what constitutes a Synodal Church – “a listening church for all the people of God”. Sr Nathalie made it clear that this Universal Synod does not have a particular theme in the way previous synods have; instead, it is a synod on synodality, a way to explore the “deeper identity of the Church as communion, participation and mission”.

In the spirit of listening, we were then asked to share whatever word came to mind when thinking about our experience of synodality. People shared diverse thoughts and Sr Nathalie addressed any concerns, explaining that the Synod is a practice and a process, one that changes from community to community. It is inevitable for concerns to arise, but a synodal Church is one that hears these concerns and takes them forward in its participatory mission.

A synodal church is an “open path” where “all are protagonists”. Synodality is about walking together and discerning together. The Holy Spirit can speak through anyone, so all voices should be welcome. We have to “discern the signs of the times according to the gospel”; to hear the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor. It allows us to imagine a different future for the Church, as a renewed “prophetic witness to the human family, which needs to be united around one goal”.

Sr Nathalie then explained the Synod’s structure as fundamentally different to many of the hierarchical structures that have pervaded in the Church. A synodal Church is arranged more horizontally than vertically, with the traditional pyramid structure of the Church being inverted to place more emphasis on the discernment and collective leadership of all the baptized on every level. This has begun with the first stage of the Universal Synod through diocesan consultations, an opportunity for all those within the Diocese of Salford to share their thoughts and to be heard. You can find our consultation here.

Journeying Together

Sr Nathalie showed us how Jesus, walking on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24: 13-35), is our model of synodality. She went on to finally address how different areas across the word have adapted the synodal process to their own situations. Every diocese is different, and in the Synod on the Amazon and the Synod on Youth, many have found their own unique ways to align their own particular synodal path with the rest of the Church.

The talk ended with Sr Nathalie expressing her wish that the Synod will be “an event of grace and a path of renewal”, that we will “receive and share more and more of the joy of the Gospel”. A missionary church is “an experience of communion with the participation of all”.

Questions were then asked by those watching, particularly about the structure of listening within the synodal process. Sr Nathalie explained that listening has to act both ways – we should listen to the voices of the marginalized but remember that this is not a debate. All opinions should be listened to by all participants, as this is about making the church a more welcoming and inclusive place for all.

Bishop John then spoke about participatory nature of the Synodal process, emphasizing that it is not a political process but is a collective act of listening and hearing. He ended the session with a blessing.

Thanks again to Sr Nathalie for sharing with us her invaluable experience and perspective on the Synod.

How You Can Get involved

If you’d like your voice to be hard as part of the synodal process, you can find more information and fill out our Synod Consultation here.

You can do this either as an individual or as a parish group and a guide is available here.

You can answer as many or as few questions as you like all responses are valued.

Finally, we would like to ask everyone who does respond to ask a friend or family member to take part too. The more voices we hear the stronger the process.

Your input is crucial as we walk along the synodal path into the future of the Church.

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