WASHINGTON – Earlier today, the Holy See’s General Secretariat of the Synod issued the Document for the Continental Stage (DCS) of the 2021-2024 Synod: For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission. The DCS is a working document that will be used for the next step, the Continental Stage, of the Synod process and is a result of the Holy See hearing from 112 episcopal conferences, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), as well as Eastern Catholic Churches, religious congregations, ecclesial associations and movements, the Vatican dicasteries, and individual contributions. In the first stage of the Synod, listening sessions were held at the local level across the world. Bishops in each country along with lay persons then reflected on these listening sessions and then shared what was heard with the Holy See in a national synthesis. The USCCB National Synthesis can be found here. Now, in this next stage of the Synod, the DCS serves as a tool for discussion and reflection between episcopal conferences based on a continental grouping.
Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine, who has been shepherding the synodal process in the United States, welcomed the DCS saying, “The Document for the Continental Stage is a profound reflection that brings together the hopes and concerns expressed by the geographically diverse communities within the universal Church in the first stage of the Synod. As we continue to the next stage, this document will be fundamental in our ongoing discernment.”
For the Continental Stage of the Synod, the USCCB will be joining with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in holding 10 virtual Continental Assemblies, including several in Spanish and French, in late 2022 and early 2023. Representatives from each diocese in the U.S. and Canada will be attending one of these assemblies to reflect on and discuss the Document for the Continental Stage. These discussions will then be brought together in the North American Continental Synthesis and submitted to the Holy See by March 31, 2023.
“The North American Continental Stage will create opportunities to engage the diversity of the People of God in the Church in North America in continued listening and meditation on the content and the reflection questions proposed by the Document for the Continental Stage,” said Richard Coll, executive director of the USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development, who was appointed in June 2021 to coordinate the effort of the U.S. bishops for the Synod. “The virtual format will allow for greater accessibility, and thus a wider and more diverse participation by the People of God and will also provide more opportunities for the bishops in the United States and Canada to engage in the listening sessions.”
Begun in October 2021, the “Synod on Synodality” was recently extended by Pope Francis through October 2024, to allow for more time for reflection and discernment from both the local and universal Church. The Universal Phase of the Synod will be held in two parts, the first in October 2023 and the second a year later in October 2024.
“The Holy Father has given the Church a great gift in extending the Synod through October 2024,” said Bishop Flores. “As we move forward, I encourage the People of God to utilize this Synodal time as an invitation to continue to cultivate the insights and fruits of their local Synodal consultations, and to work toward building an ecclesial culture of meditation on the Gospel, attentive listening, and prayerful pastoral decision-making.”