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Ecumenical Engagement with Synodality

AMONG the many innovations of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which took place in the Vatican during October 2023, was the Together 2023 ecumenical prayer vigil that preceded it. Announcing the invitation to fellow Christians around the world, Pope Francis stated that “... the path towards Christian unity and the path of the synodal conversion of the Church are linked” (Osservatore Romano, 20 January 2023).

The enthusiastic response to this invitation, both from those who travelled to Rome to participate in the vigil in person, and the many Christians around the world who joined in through ecumenical prayer services in their local context, has been a great encouragement to the global Christian community and beyond.

The ambitious vision for healing and renewal that underpins the synodal process in the Catholic Church cannot be fulfilled without wider engagement and outreach, particularly with Christians of other denominations; and participation in this process offers great potential for learning and encouragement for all. How then might we continue to build on these opportunities as the work moves into the next phase, both at the international level and in Ireland?

Two significant reports from the different strands of this work have been published in recent months. In November the Vatican published the synthesis report from the first session of the international synod, entitled ‘A Synodal Church in Mission’. In December the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference published the report of the Steering Committee established to lead a two-year period of listening and discernment, offering recommendations on what a national synodal process might offer the Catholic Church in Ireland, and how it could be structured and organised. With the second session of the international synodal process taking place in October 2024 and the first in a series of national synodal assemblies for the Catholic Church in Ireland scheduled to take place in 2025, the first six months of this year will bring further rounds of dialogue and discernment at the local, national and international levels. It is therefore timely to consider the steps that might be taken to deepen the ecumenical dimension of this process.

* Full article available in printed copies.

Nicola Brady

General Secretary of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) and was formerly Chair of the national steering committee of the Synodal Pathway in Ireland and secretary of the Irish Council of Churches.