· Vatican City ·


The experience and expectations of a “synod mother”

Synod, act two

 Sinodo, atto secondo  DCM-002
03 February 2024

If I were to encapsulate the Synod in one word, it would undoubtedly be “hope.” It epitomizes the prospect of a rejuvenated Church, guided by the Holy Spirit and propelled toward its mission in the modern world. While this sentiment may not appear revolutionary—indeed, a similar transformation unfolded over two millennia ago during the tumult of Pentecost—it remains a timeless truth within the Church until the eventual return of Jesus. What sets this moment apart is its kairos—an opportune juncture—where individuals from diverse backgrounds and nations convene around round tables, immersed in prayer and tranquility, navigating a myriad of topics to discover unity. This unity signifies a newfound harmony, the very essence of communion, knitting together disparate elements into a coherent whole.

While seemingly modest, it holds immense significance in a world and institution often lacking in attentive ears. It's undeniable that opinions have occasionally clashed, and numerous topics necessitate deeper exploration, decisions on which rest with the Pope. However, the crux of the matter lies in the essence of synodality. At its core, the Synod is dedicated to reviving synodality—a concept originating from Pope Paul VI—which underscores the collaborative governance within the Church.

The Synod's objective is to chart a path toward a deeper communion within the People of God (in harmony with the Spirit), while also nurturing greater participation of all members in the Church's mission in the contemporary world. Recognizing that direct experience is the most potent means to achieve this goal, we wholeheartedly embraced engaging in dialogue guided by the Spirit as the most suitable approach.

This was our collective experience last October. People from varied backgrounds, professions, and viewpoints came together in dialogue within an atmosphere saturated with prayer, all united in the pursuit of discernment. I can affirm that the prevailing ambiance was one of prayerful camaraderie, even amid our diverse perspectives. In a world frequently overshadowed by the tumult and hostility of politics, it's difficult to imagine such harmony unless witnessed firsthand. Personally, this encounter profoundly shifted my understanding of the Church, illuminating the transformative potential of synodality in mending a fractured world.

1. Courageous Advocacy for Peace and Human Rights:   In a world besieged by conflict and grappling with numerous challenges, the urgent need to courageously champion peace and human rights cannot be overstated. Peace and human rights transcend mere abstract concepts; they represent individual responsibilities that demand action and bravery. This responsibility extends beyond merely the absence of conflict; it requires proactive efforts to cultivate justice and freedom.  Similarly, the defense and protection of human rights require the strength to confront injustice and passionately advocate for the dignity of every individual, regardless of their background, gender, or beliefs. Pope Francis has urged us to recognize our inherent duty to contribute to the construction of peace.  Synodality, at its core, facilitates the inclusive listening to every voice, enabling us to confront the shadows within ourselves and fostering a deeper mutual understanding and support. It empowers us to collectively address the challenges of conflict and injustice with courage and compassion, guiding us towards a world grounded in peace and respect for human rights.

2.  Dedication to social justice and empowering the marginalized.  In our pursuit of a fairer and more compassionate world, it is imperative for the Church to wholeheartedly embrace social justice and prioritize the uplifting of the most marginalized. Social justice isn't merely a theoretical notion; it demands tangible actions to confront the pervasive inequalities experienced by countless individuals globally. The Church bears a solemn duty to challenge unjust systems, advocate for equal opportunities, and dismantle barriers that perpetuate the marginalization of the most vulnerable members of society. This commitment necessitates that we amplify our voices, actively engage in initiatives aimed at creating environments conducive to the flourishing of all individuals with dignity, regardless of their social, economic, or cultural status.

Pope Francis said that we cannot resign ourselves to thinking that charity and solidarity are the duty of others. Christian charity obliges us to promote the poorest. It is not something we can delegate to others; it is an individual call to recognize and address the injustices our brothers and sisters suffer. It is impossible for us to be synodal if we are not poor, if we do not shed our authoritarianism, if we do not trust in Providence, if we do not become humble and simple, and if we do not fight for the promotion of those brothers and sisters.

3. Acknowledgment of the Baptismal Dignity of Women:   It is crucial to visibly recognize the baptismal dignity of every woman and her essential role within the Church. Respect and appreciation for women must extend beyond mere rhetoric and translate into tangible actions, eradicating even the subtlest forms of discrimination.   As individuals endowed with gifts and talents, women deserve the opportunity to fully engage in the life of the Church, occupying significant roles and enriching it with their unique perspectives. It is imperative that concrete steps be taken to ensure the inclusion of women, empowering them to contribute meaningfully to the strengthening of the Church.
Pope Francis astutely acknowledges that a Church devoid of the presence and participation of women is incomplete, akin to a sterile entity lacking its nurturing mother. True synodality within the Church necessitates the genuine involvement of all its members. The inclusion of women's voices is particularly vital, as they offer unique perspectives that can bring solace, healing, and peace to the countless individuals within the People of God who are enduring hardship and suffering.

4. Advocacy for the Care of Our Common Home.  The pressing need to actively engage in concrete actions to care for our shared planet is an imperative mandate for the Church today. In an era where environmental crisis and social inequality are intricately intertwined, the urgency of this struggle cannot be overstated. Every act that harms our natural environment carries direct repercussions for the lives of those who are economically marginalized and lack the means to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change and environmental degradation.

Pope Francis aptly asserts that the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor echo as one. Despite denial from some quarters, the undeniable truth is that the devastating impacts of climate change are increasingly apparent. Hence, true synodality manifests in our collective commitment to care for our Common Home. This commitment extends beyond the preservation of natural resources; it encompasses the defense of the rights and dignity of the most vulnerable among us.

To address this urgent issue effectively, we must engage in dialogue and collaboration with individuals of diverse religious, cultural, and ideological backgrounds. By coming together, we can seek solutions that transcend boundaries and promote the well-being of both humanity and the planet we call home.

5. Embracing Dialogue and Seeking Reparation for Abuse Victims:  An essential aspect of our witness to Jesus before the world lies in fostering unity within our Church community. However, such unity becomes elusive when we allow division and polarization to prevail, particularly amidst the painful reality of abuse cases that have been concealed. This secrecy has severely tarnished the credibility and integrity of the Church.  It is imperative that we listen attentively to the voices of victims and those with differing perspectives. True communion serves as a powerful antidote to the destructive forces of polarization. At its core, synodality beckons us to embrace dialogue, discern together the will of God, and cultivate a mutual understanding that fosters deep and respectful exchanges.  By committing ourselves to open dialogue and seeking reparation for abuse victims, we can begin the process of healing and restoration within our Church community, ultimately strengthening our witness to the transformative power of Jesus in the world.
The Synod on synodality instills in me a profound sense of hope, fostering the belief that we are undergoing an ecclesial transformation that will lead us to become more authentic, humble, and receptive to love, mirroring the example of Jesus. As we anticipate the second phase in the coming months, it feels akin to an active period of waiting, akin to a pregnancy, during which I eagerly await the fruits of the Holy Spirit's labor within His Church.

By XISKYA Valladares
Sister of the Purity of Mary Most Holy, pontifically appointed member of the Synod of Bishops on Synodality, Palma de Mallorca, Spain.