Bishops from Australia, Canada, and the United States were among the many groups that welcomed the publication, on Tuesday, 20 June, of the Instrumentum laboris for the General Assembly of the Synod, which begins in October 2023.
As Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the Synod, noted in his presentation of the document, the Instrumentum laboris is the fruit of the first listening phase of the Synod, which began in 2021. At the same time, it marks “a point of departure” for the second, the universal phase of the Synod, which will be centred on the college of Bishops.
“There is no need to fear that listening to the People of God has compromised the pastoral function of the Bishops”, Cardinal Grech stated in his presentations. “On the contrary, the synodal process has restored a fruitful ministry to the Bishops, both as Pastors of their Churches and as members of the collegial bodies that have been called upon to carry out a careful discernment of the contributions of the consultation”.
The publication of the Working Document was welcomed in the United States by Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas, who has been shepherding the synodal process in the United States. “The Instrumentum laboris presents the People of God with a remarkable opportunity to reflect on what we have learned thus far about the nature of a synodal Church and how we might embrace that more fully”. He encouraged everyone to read, pray, and discuss this important document, in light of the insights gained from previous stages in the synodal process.
Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, sdb, President of the Australian Bishops Conference, noted that the publication is “an enormously significant milestone” in the synodal process. “It represents both an invitation and an opportunity”, he said, “to remain engaged in prayer, reflection, and ongoing discernment with all that has emerged so far in what has been an unprecedented worldwide consultation”.
In a statement welcoming the publication of the Instrumentum laboris, the Bishops of Canada noted that the document “is presented as a tool for discernment rather than as a position statement or a solution to particular questions”. They invited all Catholics “to pray for the success of the Synod, ... that by listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit the followers of Christ would be led to glorify the Father of us all”. ( c.w. )