In March 2020, Pope Francis announced that the theme of the next Synod of Bishops would be “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission.”

Since then, a synodal movement has been gathering momentum throughout the Catholic world. People are trying to understand what synodality is, how to live it, and what difference it makes to the life of the Church and to our own lives.

To understand the different phases of the universal synod launched by Pope Francis – which is still ongoing – you can consult the website dedicated to it:

The Archdiocese of Gatineau has been at the forefront of this movement. Indeed, Pope Francis’ announcement reached us while we were already engaged in a diocesan synodal process. It had been launched by Bishop Durocher in September 2018 under the title “Christ, Us, Our Communities, Our Neighborhoods.” We thought we’d complete the three planned phases within 15 months, but people’s positive response and the desire to give ourselves time invited us to push back the deadline.

Unfortunately, no one expected a pandemic to hit the world in 2020. We had planned to hold a major synodal assembly in May this year to conclude our process and set priorities for the years ahead. Everything had to be postponed. A few concluding virtual sessions were held thanks to the Internet. They enabled Bishop Durocher to draw up a final document and confirm the priorities discerned by the Diocesan Pastoral Council. This letter was published on May 25, 2021 under the title: Our project – Christ’s mission; our path – synodality.

In the meantime, the archdiocese had embarked on the consultative phase in preparation for the Synod of Bishops. During the spring of 2021, over 600 people took part in discussion groups based on the “spiritual conversation” model, a method of community discernment. A diocesan synod assembly was held on May 28 of that year to ratify the Diocesan Synthesis of the consultative phase.

A provincial team gathered together the syntheses from the various dioceses of Quebec to draw up a very interesting and hard-hitting regional synthesis. You can read it here: Provincial synthesis of the consultative phase.

This synthesis, in turn, contributed to the elaboration of a Canadian synthesis and, finally, a North American synthesis. The same process elsewhere in the world produced six continental documents from which was drafted the Instrumentum laboris, the working document that guided the meeting of delegates to the Synod of Bishops in October 2023. The discussions and exchanges in small groups that characterized this meeting were extremely fruitful. From them, a vast fresco has been drawn, presenting the state of synodality in the Catholic Church at the moment, the convictions shared, the tensions that remain and the paths to follow. This document is currently being studied around the world, in preparation for the second session of the Synod of Bishops, to be held in October 2024.

Synodality remains a neuralgic issue in our own diocese, as evidenced by Bishop Durocher’s pastoral letter announcing pastoral priorities for the years 2023 to 2025: “A synodal Church Is a A Listening Church.”

While we devote ourselves to these local priorities, we follow the Roman process in the hope that it will bear much fruit in enlightening us about the nature of synodality, its proper implementation at all levels of the Church, and its importance for the evangelical mission over the coming decades. Let us pray for the delegates who will represent Canada at this important meeting, and for all the men and women who will attend. May the Spirit enlighten them – and us, too – on the path we are called to walk together.