A group of delegates representing 268 dioceses located in the United States and Canada gather in Orlando, Florida, from 13-17 February, to compose the response to the Working Document for the Continental Stage of the Synod for a Synodal Church.
By Sr Bernadette M. Reis, fsp – Vatican News Journalist & Special Envoy from Synod’s General Secretariat
A significant moment in the North American Continental Stage of the Synod on Synodality began on Monday in Orlando, in the US state of Florida.
From 13-17 February, a group of 10 delegates representing the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and 7 delegates representing the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops are taking part in a writing retreat. Together, they will compose the response from the People of God in North America to the Working Document for the Continental Stage which will be submitted to the General Secretariat for the Synod by 31 March.
As with the Oceania Continental Assembly that took place in Suva from 5-10 February, Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, sent a video message to the delegates gathered in Orlando.
The delegates will be drawing on the feedback obtained through a total of ten Virtual Continental Assemblies held between 14 December and 25 January in French, Spanish and English.
Synod organizers in North America hoped this format would enable people to participate who would otherwise not have been able to due to the cost of travel and time constraints. People who participated in these virtual assemblies were able to give their feedback regarding the questions raised in the Working Document for the Continental Stage of the Synod.
These virtual assemblies were attended by 3-5 delegates by the bishops and represented 268 dioceses located in the United States and Canada. Each bishop was invited to participate in one of the virtual assemblies of their choice. Each virtual assembly included prayer, spiritual reflection, small group listening circles, and large group sharing.
Continental stage of the synodal process
As the DCS states, the Continental stage is meant to continue the synodal “process of listening, dialogue and discernment, the reflection will focus on three questions”.
The Bishops’ Conferences, in union with their local Church and the universal Church, were asked to carry out a consultation using the DCS as the basis for reflecting on these three questions.
They were asked to identify the intuitions contained in the DCS, that resonate the most with the experience of their territory, the questions or issues that need further attention in the next steps of the synodal process, and the priorities or recurring themes they would like to be discussed in the First Session of the Synod to be held in October 2023.
Back story to the Continental stage of the Synod
As with the rest of the universal Church, the Synod on Synodality kicked off in October 2020 with the Local or National Stage of the Synod.
Each diocese was invited to organize consultations of not only members of the Catholic faith of whatever walk of life, but also of those who do not participate actively in the life of the Church, or who are members of other Christian confessions, of other religions or who profess no religion.
Pope Francis himself requested that these these consultations take place so as to better understand how the Church is walking together and how it can better walk together with each person.
Each Bishops’ Conference then submitted a Synthesis of these consultations (United States, Canada). These syntheses contributed to the composition of the Working Document for the Continental Stage (DCS), which launched the Continental Stage of the Synod for a Synodal Church on 27 October 2022.