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Monday, June 24, 2024

The Synod and the Philippine church

“Through our Baptism, we are all summoned to actively engage in the Church’s life”

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The leader of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has underscored the central priorities of a “synodal” church in anticipation of this week’s commencement of the general assembly of bishops at the Vatican.

Bishop Pablo Virgilio David has requested prayers for all participants in the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, emphasizing it will encompass representatives from seven continents and diverse sectors, including clergy, laity, and women, engaged in plenary and small-group sessions.

In a video message, he recollected the synod’s objective of establishing a more “synodal Church” that embodies the principles of “communion, participation, and mission” – three core themes identified by Pope Francis during the launch of the synodal process in October 2021.

During his sermon at the International Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage in Antipolo on May 31, Bishop David urged the congregation to offer prayers for the bishops gathering as a synod, hoping it would usher in “a fresh Pentecost for the Universal Church.”

Bishop David, who also serves as the bishop of the Kalookan diocese, stressed that communion implies uniting one’s heart and mind in a single spirit, while participation and mission necessitate active engagement in the Church’s endeavors, particularly in the dissemination of the Gospel message.

The Philippines is represented at the “Synod on Synodality” by three prelates: Bishop David, Cardinal Jose Advincula of Manila, and Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara of Pasig, who also holds the position of CBCP vice president.

Additionally, Estela Padilla, a lay Filipino theologian, is participating as one of the 70 non-bishop members appointed by the Pope, with voting rights.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, formerly the Archbishop of Manila and currently the pro-prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Evangelization, will also partake in the synod as a member of the Roman Curia.

The synod, which has been ongoing since 2021, serves as an advisory body to the Pope.

Consultations have occurred at various levels, including parish, diocesan, national, and continental, culminating in general assemblies in Rome in October 2023 and October 2024.

It is anticipated that a final document will be produced after the 2024 meeting, potentially serving as the foundation for an apostolic exhortation, which, in turn, would become part of papal teaching or the magisterium.

The Synod on Synodality represents a profound journey of discernment firmly grounded in the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Synodality defines the unique approach that characterizes the Church’s essence and purpose.

It encapsulates her identity as the People of God, journeying together and coming together in assemblies, summoned by the Lord Jesus through the empowering direction of the Holy Spirit, all with the mission of proclaiming the Gospel.

The Holy Spirit serves as both the director and guide of the Church’s mission and the synodal undertaking.

It is clear the Holy Spirit is actively at work, serving as the wellspring of inspiration not just for Pope Francis in his call for a synod of bishops on synodality, but also for all individuals of faith who are actively engaged in the synodal sessions, participating in the process of listening, learning, and prayer.

The Philippines, along with East Timor, stands as one of the two Asian countries with a significant portion of its population adhering to the Catholic faith.

It boasts the world’s third-largest Catholic population, following only Brazil and Mexico.

As such, the Catholic Church in the Philippines wields substantial influence in the country, boasting a membership of more than 92.65 million individuals as of 2021.

It manages a plethora of educational institutions across the nation, including prestigious universities like Ateneo de Manila University and the Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas. Additionally, the church exerts noteworthy political clout within the country.

The Catholic Church in the Philippines, much like the Catholic church worldwide, faces several challenges, including declining church attendance, clergy shortages, addressing moral and ethical issues, dealing with scandals, managing interfaith relations, maintaining socio-political relevance, coping with economic constraints, facing competition from other religions, adapting to cultural and regional diversity, and advocating for social justice.

Through our Baptism, we are all summoned to actively engage in the Church’s life. Synodality, in this regard, empowers the entire People of God to move forward, progress collectively, attentively heeding the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, within the communion established by Christ among us.

Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the on-going synodal process must therefore be a source of hope, inspiration, and unity amidst the myriad challenges encountered by the universal church as established by Jesus Christ.

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