Formation course in Synodality: being part of a single people

The Evangelii Gaudium Center (CEG) opens enrollments in the Synodality Training Course, a concrete contribution to responding to the Church’s call to walk together.

The Evangelii Gaudium Center (CEG), a training center within the Sophia University Institute, is preparing, in 2023, to launch a Training Course for Synodality, a training course developed in synergy with the General Secretariat of the Synod, with the sponsorship of the Dicasteries of the Clergy and institutes of consecrated life and in collaboration with other training centers and academic institutes in Italy and beyond. But why speak of synodality? Prof. Vincenzo di Pilato, professor of Fundamental Theology at the Pugliese Theological Faculty in Italy and coordinator of the CEG, explains it to us.

Prof. Vincent of Pilate

“On October 16, Pope Francis communicated the decision to hold the next XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in two sessions. ‘This decision – reads the press release – stems from the desire that the theme of the synodal Church, due to its breadth and importance, may be the object of prolonged discernment not only by the members of the Synodal Assembly, but by the whole Church ‘. This is the challenge that the Course wants to take up: to combine walking ‘together’ with walking ‘all’ in the best possible way. We are experiencing it at the level of dioceses, parishes, movements, congregations, everywhere: synodality without life in the Spirit is reduced to out of tune and inconclusive assemblyism. We need ‘houses and schools of communion’, but also ‘gyms of synodality’ in which to learn to listen to and follow the Holy Spirit. Easy to say! The Course would like to put itself at the service of this other challenge: to bring together spiritual experience with theological and human sciences. This is what the pontifical dicasteries hoped for, especially those involved in formation, which on various occasions have suggested courses of this kind open to all vocations. The General Secretariat of the Synod itself has shown itself to be particularly involved in the initiative. Indeed, we will have the honor of opening the course with Cardinal Secretary Mario Grech on 17 January 2023.

Professor, how will this course take place and who is it for?

The course is three years. It unfolds in 4 periods of the year (3 academic modules and a residential meeting), dealing with topics in harmony with the ongoing synodal process. You can enroll for the whole year or for a single module. The official language will be Italian, but with simultaneous translations into Spanish, Portuguese and English. It is a course intended for all members of God’s people, from bishops to pastoral workers, from priests to nuns, from seminarians to lay people. For this year, with caution, we keep the course online. Participation in groups of the same community, parish, diocese is recommended – where possible – to make the Course a true and proper “training ground for synodality”. Two or more participants who will be able to dialogue with each other in synodal style, will also become “multipliers” of the course, or of its main themes, in the community where they are inserted.

During a meeting with the various ecclesial realities linked to the Focolare Movement, the Co-President, Jesús Morán, spoke of the spirituality of communion (citing the Novo Millennium Ineunte of St. John Paul II) and of synodality as two linked but distinct moments. Can you elaborate on this concept?

We are preparing for the next Jubilee in 2025 with a prolonged synodal journey without precedent in the history of the Church. In the aftermath of the last Jubilee of 2000, St. John Paul II recognized that “much has been done since the Second Vatican Council also with regard to the reform of the Roman Curia, the organization of Synods, the functioning of Episcopal Conferences. But certainly much remains to be done” (NMI, 44). What did he mean by “much remains to be done”? I think it was not a rhetorical expression for him, but a prophetic one. In 2015, the fiftieth anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis expressed himself thus: “The path of synodality is the path that God expects from the Church of the third millennium”. Here is the mutual inspired convergence between these two Jubilees: on the one hand, the “spirituality” of communion to penetrate the highest contemplation of the mystery of God the Trinity guarded within and among all creatures; on the other, synodality as a “path” in which to remain, following the example of Jesus and Mary, mixed with everyone, participating “in this somewhat chaotic tide that can be transformed into a true experience of fraternity, in a caravan of solidarity, in a holy pilgrimage” (Evangelii Gaudium 87). It is therefore clear that there is no spirituality of communion without synodality and vice versa. Communion until unity is the mystery of God revealed to us by Jesus Crucified-Resurrected and forever present in the destiny of humanity; synodality is the path that allows us to make it visible “so that the world may believe” (John 17.21).

What does all this mean concretely for each of us and what are the stages to live this call?

Above all by feeling that we are part of a single people, not a group of individuals placed side by side like pins on a bowling alley or passengers in an elevator car. Addressing young people, Pope Francis explained it thus: “When we speak of ‘the people’ we must not mean the structures of society or of the Church, but rather the set of people who walk not as individuals, but as the fabric of a community of all and for allwhich cannot allow the poorest and weakest to fall behind: “The people want everyone to participate in the common good and for this reason they agree to adapt to the pace of the last to arrive all together” (Christus Vivit, 23). Behold: walking together without leaving anyone behind, recognizing the presence of Christ in everyone who passes by. This is the root of the equal dignity and freedom of each of us. Feeling like one people is the premise, but also the purpose of synodality, just as Jesus is, at the same time, the Way and our travel companion. The Holy Spirit dwells in each member of God’s people, as in a temple, and the only law among all must be the new commandment to love as Jesus himself loved us (cf. Jn 13:34). We hope that the Course will be a stretch of road taken together with an eye to the borders of the Kingdom of God that we meet whenever there is a neighbor to love.

Maria Grazia Berretta

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Formation course in Synodality: being part of a single people – Focolare Movement