US Bishops issue Synthesis finalizing diocesan phase of Synod

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) releases the “National Synthesis of the People of God in the United States of America” outlining common themes raised in synod listening sessions.

By Vatican News staff reporter

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has released  its final report synthesizing the 10-month Synodal process in the dioceses of the Latin Church of the United States. The  “National Synthesis”, available in English and Spanish, was issued on September 19, marking the finalization of the diocesan phase of the 2021-2023 Synod on Synodality convened by Pope Francis. 

290 documents 

The report, which was sent to the Holy See on August 29,  summarizes  290 documents received by the USCCB from various contributors, including the 178 Latin rite Dioceses and Archdioceses of the United States, as well as Catholic associations, organizations, and national ministries involved in the consultation. Due to their long history of synodal practice, the US Eastern Catholic Churches sent their reports directly to the Vatican. 

700,000 participants

Overall some 700,000 Catholics across the country, just over 1% of the U.S. Catholic population, joined the thousands of listening sessions and other events during this diocesan phase.

Issues emerged from listening sessions

According to the Synthesis, among the many issues of concern emerged from the discussions, there were the unfolding effects of the sexual abuse crisis, the ongoing  impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on local Church life, ecclesial unity amid growing polarization and divisiveness also concerning the liturgy,  and a desire for a more welcoming and inclusive Church able to prioritize “lived reality” of the faithful over rules and regulations.

The report said a common hope that emerged nationwide was the “desire for lifelong spiritual, pastoral and catechetical formation as disciples” and for an enhanced lay involvement in Church life.

Participants in the listening sessions also expressed a “desire for stronger leadership, discernment and decision-making roles for women — both lay and religious — in their parishes and communities”.

Four theme sections

The observations are summarized in four sections  of the Synthesis titled  “Enduring Wounds,” “Enhancing Communion and Participation,” “Ongoing Formation for Mission” and “Engaging Discernment”.

In his introductiory remarks to the report, Bishop Daniel E. Flores, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine, describes the document as “an attempt to synthesize and contextualize the common joys, hopes and wounds called forth with the help of the Holy Spirit in the unfolding of the Synod.”

A significant,  but not concluding moment for the Church in the US

Its publication, the prelate wrote,  “is a significant moment for the Church in the United States, responding to what our Holy Father Pope Francis has asked of us as the People of God in the world today”.

However, he  pointed out that it is not a concluding moment,  but, rather “an invitation to listen, to discuss together and to discern together as the Church, about how best to understand and act” upon those matters that weigh heavily on the hearts and minds of Catholics in the U.S.

“Pope Francis frequently reminds us, synodality is not a one-time event, but an invitation to an ongoing style of Church life.”

The next phase of the synodal process leading to the 2023 Synod of Bishops in Rome will the continental phase, which will see teams gathering by continent to synthesize the reports submitted to the Vatican so far. Synod officials will prepare the  working document (“Instrumentum Laboris”) to guide continental or regional ecclesial assemblies that will take place by March 2023.

The North American report will be submitted by the United States and Canada.

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