The Synodal Church

Antonio Spadaro, SJ

 Antonio Spadaro, SJ / Church Life / Published Date:26 October 2018/Last Updated Date:4 March 2021

Forty years ago, Jesuit Father Arij Roest Crollius wrote: “What is so new about inculturation?”[1] His reflection was a milestone in the understanding of that word and in welcoming a concept at the heart of the theological-pastoral language of the Second Vatican Council. Today, we pose a similar question in light of the impulse that the term “synodality” is receiving from the magisterium of Pope Francis and from the recent document of the International Theological Commission (ITC), Synodality in the life and mission of the Church (SYN).[2] We also refer to the new apostolic constitution Episcopalis Communio. Are we facing a new concept rich with permanent significance, or is this only a word that echoes a passing fashion? Our contribution wants to bring attention to the document and point out some novelties on the theme.

The question: constitutive newness or passing fashion?

“It is precisely the path of synodality that God expects of the Church of the third millennium.”[3] Pope Francis pronounced these words during a speech given to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the institution by Pope Paul VI of the Synod of Bishops, on October 17, 2015. It is a programmatic affirmation that calls for a reform of the Church through a pastoral conversion and missionary outreach.

La Civilta Cattolica

The pope stated in the same speech: “What the Lord is asking of us is already in some sense present in the very word ‘synod’!” Is everything that Christ wants from his Church contained in the concept of synod and synodality? If the will of God is expressed in biblical words such as “Gospel,” “Kingdom of God,” “love,” “life,” “holiness,” “communion,” and “mission,” what relation is there between these words and ours? Moreover, Francis affirmed that synodality is a “constitutive element of the Church.” What does this neologism mean? Does it denote the mystery of communion of the People of God? What is a synodal Church? How are synods connected with synodality? What implications are posed by the fact that we speak of a “synodal Church” for the assemblies of the synod of bishops, such as that on youth?[4]

The ITC document is the fruit of a study carried out from 2014 to 2018 by one of the sub-commissions, approved in plenary in 2017, and presented by its president, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who authorized its publication after receiving on March 2, 2018, the favorable opinion of Francis. This is a text of ecclesiology that counts on the support of biblical exegesis, Church history, systematic theology, pastoral theology, canon law, spiritual theology, liturgy, ecumenism and social doctrine.

 Aims and structure of the document

The document explores the theological meaning of synodality in the perspective of Catholic ecclesiology. It was published on the official website of the Holy See and is elaborated over 121 paragraphs and with 170 footnotes. Its content is structured in a broad introduction, four chapters and a short conclusion.

The introduction shows the kairos of synodality in the Church today and clarifies the meaning of some basic notions (SYN 1-10). The first chapter recalls the normative data found in the Sacred Scriptures, in Tradition and in the 2,000-year history of the Church, to cast full light on the roots of the synodal figure in the historical development of the Revelation of God received and transmitted by the Church in the East and in the West (SYN 11-41).

The second chapter outlines a theology of synodality beginning with its theological foundations and in continuity with the doctrine of the Second Vatican Council. It portrays the synodal life of the Church considering the mystery of communion of the pilgrim People of God, missionary in the world, with special reference to the distinctive properties of unity, holiness, Catholicity and apostolicity (SYN 42-70). Pastoral and spiritual orientations are proposed on this theological basis.

In the framework of the synodal vocation of the People of God, the third chapter develops the actual putting into practice of synodality, considering who is involved, the structures, the processes and the synodal events. It does so at various levels: it begins with the diocesan Church, follows with the communion among the particular Churches of a region, and culminates in the whole of the universal Church, gathering contributions from the traditions and structures of the Churches of the East and of the West (SYN 71-102).

The fourth chapter offers lines for pastoral and spiritual conversion toward a renewed synodality, analyzing the spirituality of communion and its exercise through listening, dialogue and synodal discernment, and highlighting some of its positive aspects in the ecumenical pathway and in social service (SYN 103-119).

The starting point is the renewal of theological language that has occurred in the last half century. In recent decades, theological, canonical and pastoral literature has seen a spread in the use of the new word “synodality,” together with the adjective “synodal,” both of which derive from the word “synod.” In this way, synodality is spoken of as a “constitutive dimension” of the Church and, tout court, of the “synodal Church.”

This newness of language, which requires a careful theological ordering, is proof of something that has matured in the ecclesial conscience starting with the magisterium of Vatican II and the lived experience in the local Churches and the universal Church following the last Council up until today. Even if the term and concept of “synodality” are not explicitly found in the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, it can be affirmed that the need of synodality is at the heart of the work of renewal promoted by the Council (cf. SYN 5-6).

 The Christological key and ecclesial experience

The document understands synodality in Christological and Trinitarian terms. We Christians “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus” (Heb 12:2), who is the pilgrim evangelizer who proclaims the Good News of the kingdom of God (cf. Luke 9:11). The Church is the community of those “belonging to the way of the Lord” (Acts 9:2). Jesus is “the Way” (John 14:6) of God toward humanity and the way of humanity toward the Father. Christ, the wayfarer, way, and destination, guides us through “the most sublime way” (1 Cor 12:31). St. John Chrysostom stated that “Synod is a name which means Church,” that is to say, a pathway undertaken in communion.

“Synod” is a Greek word composed of the preposition syn meaning “with” and the noun hodos meaning “path.” It is about a path taken together, under the guidance of the risen Lord, by all the People of God with the wide variety of its members and a responsible and converging exercise of the various charisms and ministries for the sake of the common good.[5]

The exemplary character of the Council of Jerusalem (cf. Acts 15:4-29) shows the synodal life from the beginning of the Christian community. Faced with a decisive pastoral and doctrinal challenge – the movement calling for conversion to Judaism – a community and apostolic method of discernment under the guidance of the Holy Spirit took place (cf. Acts 15:28). Participating in that decisive meeting, in different roles, were “the apostles and the elders with the whole Church” (Acts 15:4, 6, 22). This event is at the basis of the synodal and conciliar tradition.[6]

Synodality configures the Church as the People of God on a journey and as an assembly called by the Lord. The process of walking together to bring about the project of the Kingdom of God and to evangelize peoples includes the fact of being together in assembly to celebrate the risen Lord and to discern what the Spirit says to the Churches. The assemblies – especially the ecumenical councils and episcopal synods at the level of the entire Church – are privileged historical moments of a discernment guided by the Spirit at the service of evangelization. So the Church follows the rhythm of life, which is movement and pause, walking and meeting, synodality and synod.

In one of its concluding passages, the document quotes the words of Francis at the opening of the 70th General Assembly of the Italian Episcopal Conference on May 22, 2017.[7]

The Church is a mystery shaped by the Eucharist. The Eucharistic assembly is the source, center and culmination of every assembly. The People of God listens to the Word of God and celebrates communion with the Body of Christ, thanks to which he is made present fully in history. Ecclesial assemblies arose from the experience of lived out faith, and they seek to discern doctrinal, liturgical, canonical and pastoral questions placed on them over time. They have generated an uninterrupted synodal praxis at the diocesan, provincial, regional and universal levels.

The ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council

The dogmatic constitution Lumen Gentium (LG) offers the fundamental principles to understand synodality in communion with the ecclesial People reunited by the Most Holy Trinity (cf. LG 4). The order of the first three chapters is something new in the history of the magisterium and in theology. The sequence: mystery of the Church (chapter 1), People of God (chapter 2), hierarchical constitution (chapter 3), teaches that in the Trinitarian design of salvation, the hierarchy – the episcopal college, headed by the bishop of Rome – is at the service of the missionary People of God. Synodality should not be thought of only beginning with the third chapter, but already from the first pair.

Synodality expresses the condition of subject that belongs to the entire Church and everybody in the Church.[8] All the baptized are companions on the journey, and thus, active subjects of the call to holiness and mission, for all participate in the one priesthood of Christ and are enriched by the charisms of the Spirit. In this sense, Pope Francis always refers to the Church as the “holy faithful People of God,” completing a rich expression of the Council (cf. LG 12a).[9]

In this theological context the neologism “synodality” does not denote a mere operational procedure, but rather the specific way of living and working (modus vivendi et operandi) of the Church as the People of God, who make manifest and realize concretely the people’s being in communion in walking together, in reuniting in assembly, and in participating actively in the evangelizing mission. Synodality expresses and brings about the nature and mission of the Church in history oriented to the fullness of the Kingdom already present in Christ. So, “Church” is a name that means “Synod,” and “Synod” is a name that means “Church.”

In summarizing his first two chapters, the document distinguishes three meanings of synodality, considering different realities in the life and mission of the Church (cf. SYN 70). Above all, the peculiar style that qualifies its ordinary way of living and working. Second, the structures and processes that express the synodal communion at the institutional level. Finally, the timely realization of those events or acts – which stretch from a diocesan synod to an ecumenical council – where the Church is called to act synodally at the local, regional and universal levels.

The same teaching from Francis is supported by the processes of participation and consultation that he promoted during the triennium 2013-2016 for the two synodal assemblies dedicated to analyzing the vocation and mission of the family in the contemporary world. The exhortation Amoris Laetitia is a mature fruit of that synodal and collegial practice.

The upside-down pyramid of the synodal Church

Francis moves us away from the traditional pyramidal figure that still dominates the collective imagination of many. He proposes a synodal Church and uses the image of an upside-down pyramid. Upending this figure was an act of the Council and has now been confirmed by the Argentine pope.[10] The theology of synodality is an original, homogenous development of the conciliar event and its ecclesiological magisterium. Following the logic of Lumen Gentium, No. 18, it provides the interpretative framework to understand and live hierarchical ministry (the top of the pyramid is now its base) as a humble service given to the People of God (the base becomes the top).

Synodality leans on two pillars: the sensus fidei of the entire People of God – the theme of another document of the ITC[11] – and the sacramental collegiality of the episcopate in communion with the See of Rome. It invites us to unfold synodal communion between “all,” “some” and “one,” articulating the gifts of the Christian people, the mission of the bishops and the service of the Successor of Peter.

The exchange between the prophecy of the faithful, the discernment of the episcopal college and the presidency of the Petrine ministry enrich the Church. It helps to bring together the community dimension of the People of God, the collegial communion of the episcopate and the “diaconal primacy” of the bishop of Rome. An analogous process comes in the local Churches and in the groupings of Churches. The ITC analyses the action of the subjects, structures, processes and synodal events that articulate the authority of some and the participation of all: a synodal Church lives a participative and co-responsible style.[12]

The concept of synodality is distinct from and correlates with the notions of communion and collegiality, the heart of the doctrine of the Second Vatican Council. As far as communion is concerned, “synodality” makes clear the concrete way of living it, which unfolds in history the participation of the missionary disciples in a communion of love of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. It says something specific too in relation to collegiality, insofar as this concept expresses the meaning and exercise of ministry of bishops as members of the episcopal college in hierarchical communion with the bishop of Rome, to serve the local Churches and the universal Church.[13] The ITC insists on the fact that synodal dynamism implies that the participation and co-responsibility of “all” the baptized are articulated through the specific exercise of the collegial authority of “some” and with the presidency of “one,” in each diocesan Church as much as, in its own way, in the entire Church.

In the section dedicated to synodality in the particular Church, the document explains: “Being at the same time ‘an act of episcopal governance and an event of communion,’ a diocesan synod or an eparchial assembly renews and deepens the People of God’s awareness of co-responsibility. They are both called to give a real profile for the participation of all the members of the People of God in mission according to the logic of ‘all,’ ‘some’ and ‘one.’ The participation of ‘all’ is put in motion through consultation in the process of preparing the synod, with the aim of reaching all the voices that are an expression of the People of God in the local Church. Those who take part in assemblies or synods ex officio, and those who are elected or are appointed by the bishop are the ‘some’ whose task it is to celebrate the diocesan synod or eparchial assembly. It is essential that, taken as a whole, the participants give a meaningful and balanced image of the local Church, reflecting different vocations, ministries, charisms, competencies, social status and geographical origin. The bishop, the successor of the apostles and shepherd of his flock who convokes and presides over the local Church synod, is called to exercise there the ministry of unity and leadership with the authority which belongs to him” (SYN 79).

Laymen and laywomen are called to participate in all the synodal structures and processes.[14]

 A synodal path of conversion or missionary reform

In 1965, Karl Rahner stated that the Second Vatican Council showed the synodal and collegial principle of the Church.[15] With Francis, we have entered a new phase in the reception of the Council and ecclesial reform. For him, Vatican II carried out a rereading of the Gospel in the light of contemporary culture and started off a process of renewal that is completely irreversible. In the encyclical Laudato Si’ (LS) Pope Francis states that the exhortation Evangelii Gaudium was for “all the members of the Church with the aim of encouraging a process of missionary reform that is yet to be carried out” (LS 3). Reform is the synodal and missionary conversion of the entire People of God and of all members of the People of God.

Under this pontificate, the synodal dynamic of pastoral conversion promoted from the Latin American periphery has given its contribution to a missionary reform.[16] This regional Church received locally the Second Vatican Council beginning with the Episcopal Conference of Medellin, inaugurated by Paul VI in 1968, and continued it with the assemblies of Puebla (1979) and Santo Domingo (1992). Fifty years ago it showed the Latin American face of the Church, the prophetic dimension of the Gospel, the commitment to the poor, the joy of the Easter faith. In 2007, during the Fifth Conference of the episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean held at Aparecida, Cardinal Bergoglio presided over the commission that edited the final document, and he had an important role in its collegial elaboration. The first pope from the South shared his synodal experience with a Church that journeys in the entire world.[17] This confirms what Yves Congar stated in 1950: “Many reforms come from the periphery.”[18]

The reform of the Church requires we make a step forward in adopting a renewed synodal praxis that is able to engage everyone. This is not a mere operation of institutional engineering. The ITC asserts that it is a matter, above all, of entering into a process of conversion, availability to the gift of the Spirit of Christ, both at the personal level and at the pastoral level, to develop a style and a synodal praxis that respects more and more the demands of communicating the joy of the Gospel and responding to the signs of the times. Paul VI promoted the Church of dialogue and John Paul II called it to be the home and school of communion. Today, Francis invites her to “enter processes” of “discernment, purification and reform” (EG 30). All communities and ecclesial institutions are called on to advance along this road of synodal reform.[19]

The heart of theology, mysticism and practice of synodal life lies in the stance and processes of listening, dialogue and shared discernment. The central section of the fourth chapter is called “Listening and Dialogue for Communal Discernment.” It states: “Exercising discernment is at the heart of synodal processes and events. That is the way it has always been in the synodal life of the Church. The ecclesiology of communion and the specific spirituality and praxis that follow from it involve the mission of the entire People of God, so that it becomes ‘necessary today more than ever … to be formed in the principles and methods of a way of discernment that is not only personal but also communitarian.’ It is a matter of the Church, by means of the theological interpretation of the signs of the times under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, traveling the path that is to be followed in service of God’s plan brought to eschatological fulfillment in Christ, which also has to be fulfilled in every kairos throughout history. Communal discernment allows us to discover God’s call in a particular historical situation” (SYN 113).

 Ecumenical and social aspects of synodality

Synodality illuminates the ecumenical path of the Churches and the ecclesial communities to reach full and visible unity in Jesus Christ. The ITC refers to the Documento di Chieti (2016), which is the fruit of the workings of the International Mixed Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, in line with the affirmation by the Successor of Peter who underlines how the Catholic Church can take teaching from the synodal experience of the orthodox Churches (cf. EG 246). It also quotes the document of the World Council of Churches, The Church: Towards a Common Vision (2013).[20]

Moreover, synodality illuminates ecclesial testimony in the context of globalized society of our time. The crucial challenges that the human family has to face require a culture of encounter and, therefore, that stances of dialogue, service and cooperation be cultivated. Before the disinterest and lack of trust with which is met much work for the national and international common good today, it is necessary to increase the spaces and the processes to recreate a co-responsible and shared participation. Walking on the path of evangelizing reform, the Church can lead the “social diaconia” of synodality, to help cultivate justice, peace and care of our common home.

 Toward a more synodal theology

Conversion has to start with the self, and the Church must follow the logic of being an example by its witness. The document refers to synodality among the members of the theological community. The synodal life encloses a challenge to think of faith at the service of the Word of God, of theological discourse and the new evangelization. This is witnessed by the 50-year history of the ITC, instituted by Paul VI in 1969, taking up a proposal put forward by the synod of bishops in 1967.

The document quotes an earlier text of the same commission: “As is the case with all Christian vocations, the ministry of theologians, as well as being personal, is also both communal and collegial.”[21] And it adds: “Ecclesial synodality therefore needs theologians to do theology in a synodal way, developing their capacity to listen to each other, to dialogue, to discern and to harmonize their many and varied approaches and contributions” (SYN 75). The Spirit moves us to think through a theology of synodality, and to imagine new ways of doing theology in a synodal manner.

When reference is made to a synodal dialogue, the document notes a stance we should all adopt. It says “synodal dialogue depends on courage both in speaking and in listening. It is not about engaging in a debate where one speaker tries to get the better of the others or counters their positions with brusque arguments, but about expressing whatever seems to have been suggested by the Holy Spirit as useful for communal discernment, at the same time being open to accepting whatever has been suggested by the same Spirit in other people’s positions, ‘for the general good’ (1 Cor 12:7)” (SYN 111).

The document insists on this aspect, stating that the criteria according to which “unity prevails over conflict” is valuable specifically for the exercise of dialogue and management of different opinions and experiences. Dialogue, in fact, always offers the opportunity to acquire new perspectives and new points of view. And truth – as Benedict XVI emphasized – “is lógos which creates diá-logos and hence communication and communion” (SYN 111).

The apostolic constitution Episcopalis Communio

The shape of a synodal Church brings the renewal of stances of listening, consultation, dialogue, discernment, welcoming, exchange and, above all, the participation of all the members of the People of God. Synodality is the root of a new way of articulating harmoniously the gifts of all the faithful, the bishops and the bishop of Rome. This requires, among other things, an updating of synodal structures, processes and procedures. It implies, in particular, a renewal of doctrine, the norms and the praxis of the synod of bishops, so that this collegial institution can express and animate a Church that is more synodal and missionary.[22]

In this perspective, Pope Francis published on September 18, 2018, the apostolic constitution Episcopalis Communio on the synod of bishops. This turns into norms all the steps of the path of a “constitutively synodal Church” that “begins listening to the People of God,” “continues listening to the Pastors” and culminates in listening to the Bishop of Rome, who is called to speak as “Pastor and Doctor of all Christians.”

The experiences of the synods of 2014 and 2015 on the family were decisive. In them a synodal praxis was developed that has now become stable. Above all the principle is established which regulates the stages of the process: People of God, Episcopal College, Bishop of Rome, one listening to the other “and all listening to the Holy Spirit.” Each then following the three phases of development: listening, decision, action. The synods have to be the true result of an extended consultation of the faithful in the dioceses and put into place an accompaniment in the phase of action.

In the constitution, the pope writes: “The Synod of Bishops must increasingly become a privileged instrument for listening to the People of God.” While “structurally it is essentially configured as an episcopal body,” it does not exist “separately from the rest of the faithful. On the contrary, it is a suitable instrument to give voice to the entire People of God.” Hence it is of great importance that in preparing the synods “consultation of all the particular Churches be given special attention.”

In the phase of consultation, the bishops must submit the questions to be treated in the synodal assembly to the priests, deacons and lay faithful of their Churches. Of prime importance is “the contribution of the local Church’s participatory bodies, especially the presbyteral council and the pastoral council. They can prove fundamental, and from here a synodal Church can begin to emerge.”

Following this consultation of the faithful – during the celebration of the synod – there is the “discernment by the pastors” who are united “in the search for a consensus that springs not from worldly logic, but from common obedience to the Spirit of Christ,” “attentive to the sensus fidei of the People of God – which they need to distinguish carefully from the changing currents of public opinion.”

In this way it will be clearer that there is a “profound communion that exists in Christ’s Church both between the pastors and the faithful (every ordained minister being a baptized person among other baptized persons, established by God to feed his flock), and also between the bishops and the Roman pontiff, the pope being a bishop among bishops, called at the same time – as Successor of Peter – to lead the Church of Rome which presides in charity over all the Churches. This prevents any one subject from existing independently of the other.”

The Constitution represents progress with respect to the Council: if the Second Vatican Council, in fact, had recovered the subjects and their specific functions in the Church, the Constitution applies and translates those indications into ecclesial practice.

Another important novelty lies in the fact that, after the assembly approves the final document, the pope can decide whether to approve it (in the ordinary way of a consultative assembly) or ratify it and promulgate it (in the extraordinary case of a deliberative assembly). In both cases, the final document participates in the ordinary magisterium of the successor of Peter, thus taking on a specific magisterial authority. It is significant that, when a synod has deliberative power, the document ratified by the pope will be published with the signature of the synodal fathers, in analogy to the ecumenical council.

Presenting the constitution, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri stated: “Back in 2013, a few months after being elected to the throne of Peter, Pope Francis confessed during an interview with La Civiltà Cattolica, ‘Maybe the time has come to change the working method of the synod, for the current one seems static to me.’[23] We could say that one of the objectives of the new Apostolic Constitution is that of making the synod more ‘dynamic,’ and so more incisive in the life of the Church.” The institutional reform promoted by the pontiff places the synod of bishops within a more synodal Church.

The authors are Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ editor-in-chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, and Fr. Carlos Galli, a member of the International Theological Commission.

[1] Cf. A. Roest Crollius, “What is so new about inculturation? A concept and its implications,” in Gregorianum 59 (1978) 721-738.

[2] International Theological Commission, Synodality in the life and mission of the Church,

[3] Pope Francis, Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Institution of the Synod of Bishops, October 17, 2015, No. 9: cf.

[4] Cf. L. Baldisseri (ed.), Il Sinodo dei Vescovi al servizio di una Chiesa sinodale. A cinquant’anni dall’Apostolica Sollicitudo, Vatican City, Libr. Ed. Vaticana, 2016.

[5] “Jesus is the pilgrim who proclaims the good news of the Kingdom of God (cf. Luke 4:14-15; 8:1; 9:57; 13:22; 19:11), teaches ‘the way of God’ (cf. Luke 20:21) and points the way to it (Luke 9:51-19:28). In fact, He Himself is ’the way’ (cf. John 14:6) that leads to the Father; in the Holy Spirit (cf. John 16:13) He shares with everyone the truth and love of communion with God and our sisters and brothers. Living communion according to the standard of Jesus’ new commandment means walking together in history as the People of God of the new covenant, in a way that fits the gift received (cf. John 15:12-15). In his account of the disciples at Emmaus, Luke gives us a living icon of the Church as People of God, guided on its way by the risen Lord, who lights it up by His Word and feeds it with the Bread of Life (cf. Luke 24:13-35)” (SYN 16).

[6] “This question is dealt with in what tradition has called ‘the apostolic Council of Jerusalem’ (cf. Acts 15, and also Galatians 2:1-10). There we can see a synodal event coming into being, in which the apostolic Church, in a decisive moment of its development, lives out its vocation in view of its mission, enlightened by the presence of the risen Lord. Across the centuries, this event has been interpreted as the paradigm for Synods celebrated by the Church” (SYN 20).

[7] Pope Francis teaches that “to walk together is the constitutive way of the Church; the figure that enables us to interpret reality with the eyes and heart of God; the condition for following the Lord Jesus and being servants of life in this wounded time. The breath and pace of the Synod show what we are, and the dynamism of communion that animates our decisions; only in this way can we truly renew our pastoral ministry and adapt it to the mission of the Church in today’s world; only in this way can we address the complexity of this time, thankful for the journey accomplished thus far, and determined to continue it with parrhesia” (SYN 120).

[8] Cf. A. Borras, Trois expressions de la synodalité depuis Vatican II, in Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses 90 (2014) 643-666.

[9] “Synodality means that the whole Church is a subject and that everyone in the Church is a subject. The faithful are σύνοδοι, companions on the journey. They are called to play an active role inasmuch as they share in the one priesthood of Christ, and are meant to receive the various charisms given by the Holy Spirit in view of the common good. Synodal life reveals a Church consisting of free and different subjects, united in communion, which is dynamically shown to be a single communitarian subject built on Christ, the cornerstone, and on the apostles, who are like pillars, built like so many living stones into “a spiritual house” (cf. 1 Peter 2:5), ‘a dwelling-place of God in the Spirit’ (Ephesians 2:22)” (SYN 55).

[10] Cf. G. Lafont, Petit essai sur le temps du pape François, Paris, Cerf, 2017, 26; cf. 131-197; 218-233; 251-260.

[11] Cf. International Theological Commission, The sensus fidei in the life of the Church, 2014: cf.

[12] “The synodal dimension of the Church must be brought out by enacting and directing discernment processes which bear witness to the dynamism of communion that inspires all ecclesial decisions. Synodal life is expressed in structures and processes which lead, through various phases (preparation, celebration, reception), to synodal events in which the Church is called together in accordance with the various levels of implementing her essential synodality” (SYN 76).

[13] Cf. D. Vitali, Verso la sinodalità, Magnago (Bi), Qiqajon, 2014; Un Popolo in cammino verso Dio, Cinisello Balsamo (Mi), San Paolo, 2018.

[14] “In this perspective, the participation of the lay faithful becomes essential. They are the immense majority of the People of God and there is much to be learnt from their participation in the various forms of the life and mission of ecclesial communities, from popular piety and generic pastoral care, as well as their specific competency in various sectors of cultural and social life” (SYN 73).

[15] Cf. K. Rahner, Das Konzil. Ein neuer Beginn, Freiburg i. Br., Herder, 1965, 13; cf. 6; 15; 20f.

[16] Cf. C. M. Galli, “Synodalität in der Kirche Lateinamerikas,” in Theologische Quartalschrift 196 (2016) 75-99.

[17] Cf. D. Fares, “A 10 anni da Aparecida. Alle fonti del pontificato di Francesco,” in Civ. Catt. 2017 II 338-352.

[18] Cf. Y. Congar, Vraie et fausse réforme dans l’Église, Paris, Cerf, 1950, 277.

[19] “‘Every renewal of the Church is essentially grounded in increase of fidelity to her own calling’ (Unitatis Redintegratio, No. 6) So, in carrying out her mission, the Church is called to constant conversion, which is a ‘pastoral and missionary conversion,’ too; this involves renewing mentalities, attitudes, practices and structures, in order to be ever more faithful to her vocation. An ecclesial mentality shaped by synodal thinking joyfully welcomes and promotes the grace in virtue of which all the baptized are qualified and called to be missionary disciples. The great challenge for pastoral conversion that follows from this for the life of the Church is to intensify the mutual collaboration of all in evangelizing witness based on everyone’s gifts and roles, without clericalizing lay people and without turning the clergy into lay people, and in any case avoiding the temptation of “an excessive clericalism which keeps them [lay people] away from decision-making” (SYN 104). Cf. C. M. Galli, “La reforma de la Iglesia según el Papa Francisco,” in A. Spadaro – C. M. Galli (eds), La reforma y las reformas en la Iglesia, Santander, Sal Terrae, 2016, 51-77; C. M. Galli, “Una Facultad más sinodal y una teología más profética. La Teología y la Facultad en una ‘Ecclesia semper reformanda’,” in Teología 123 (2017) 9-43; Id., La mariología del Papa Francisco. Cristo, María, la Iglesia y los pueblos, Buenos Aires, Agape, 2018, 93-111.

[20] “It is important to acknowledge with joy that, in our time, ecumenical dialogue has come to recognise synodality as something that reveals the nature of the Church, something essential to its unity in the variety of its manifestations. There is convergence on the notion of the Church as koinonía, which is realised in each local Church and in its relation with the other Churches, by means of specific synodal structures and processes” (SYN 116).

[21] International Theological Commission, Theology Today: Perspectives, Principles and Criteria, March 8, 2012; cf.

[22] Cf. L. Baldisseri (ed.), Il Sinodo dei Vescovi al servizio di una Chiesa sinodale. A cinquant’anni dall’Apostolica Sollicitudo, Vatican City, Libr. Ed. Vaticana, 2016.

[23] A. Spadaro, “Intervista a papa Francesco,” in Civ. Catt. 2013 III 449-477