Spanish bishops lament low participation in Synod on Synodality, especially by young people

Spanish bishops lament low participation in Synod on Synodality, especially by young people

Materials from the Synodal Final Assembly in Spain. / Credit: Spanish Episcopal Conference

CNA Newsroom, Jan 31, 2023 / 11:30 am (CNA).

The Spanish bishops consider “synodality to be advancing in our Church” although they report low participation, especially among young people, to whom the Church must learn to listen and modulate the way of communicating the Gospel, they say.

The Spanish Bishops’ Conference has presented the Synthesis for the European Continental Stage of the Synod on Synodality, which will be used in preparing the final document to be taken to the Continental Assembly.

The text notes that the diocesan work at this stage “has been short and  participation less” than the previous phase. This is especially true of young people, both “in the synodal process” and “in the life of the Church.”

Despite this and the fact that attitudes of “skepticism, fear, and even rejection” are identified, the bishops’ conference affirms that “synodality is advancing in our Church that is on pilgrimage in Spain.”

The document is divided into three sections, compiling the so-called “intuitions,” the “tensions and divergences,” and the “priorities” for future analysis within the synod.

Regarding “intuitions,” the bishops identify “the positive evaluation of the experience of the journey undertaken up to now” although they admit that there are contrary or at least disinterested attitudes.

The bishops also stress that the synodal process is not “the solution to the problems that the Church has” but “a gift of the Holy Spirit” that requires “continuous personal conversion.”

According to the prelates, the ecclesial consultation “is helping to raise awareness of the common dignity of all the baptized” and to reinforce the idea of a “Church that reaches out in the context of secularization.”

In addition, there is a greater agreement “on the importance of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue,” the appreciation of popular religiosity, and “the fundamental role that family ministry should have.”

Tensions and divergences

The bishops note that “the same existing polarizations in society are found within the Church”: diversity-unity, tradition, and renewal or pyramidal or synodal organization.

Among the impediments to communion, participation, and co-responsibility, identified are “the resistance of the clergy and the passivity of the laity” as well as a strong “tension of clericalism that leads to confusing service with power.”

In addition, the “divergences” about the synod are expressed in the form of mistrust, skepticism, fear, disinterest, confusion, and obstruction.

The synthesis identifies “the difficulty and sometimes the rejection in encountering the diverse, the different.” Specifically mentioned are the poor, marginalized, and people with disabilities or with “various family or affective situations.” 

“The scandal of sexual abuse also produces tension,” and the prelates noted the repeated mention of “the scarce participation of young people in the synodal process and in the life of the Church.”

Faced with this issue, the bishops feel challenged “to learn to listen to them” and to change the way of communicating the Gospel, “which must be creative, understandable, inclusive, and generate intergenerational dialogue.”

The summary document also includes the call for greater liturgical formation and the call to “show the relationship between the liturgy and life” through “a renewal of forms and language.”

Synodal priorities

Finally, the synthesis prepared by the Spanish bishops raises several “specific priorities that must be the object of further discernment in the Synodal Assembly.”

The first is “promoting welcoming in our communities, particularly of those who feel excluded due to their origin, their affective situation, sexual orientation, or other reasons.”

Second is the call to “promote the real and effective co-responsibility of the people of God, overcoming clericalism, which impoverishes our being and mission.”

Recognizing definitively “the role of women in the Church and promoting their full participation and in conditions of equality, at all levels of ecclesial life” constitutes the third priority.

In addition, the bishops point to the integration and participation of young people, making formation more dynamic, promoting “dialogue with the world and culture, with other religious denominations and with nonbelievers.”

Finally, they point out the need to “attend to the liturgy through formation and a greater comprehensibility of its rites and contents.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.


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