PASTORAL LETTER BY THE BISHOP OF GIBRALTAR
A Church that journeys together
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The whole Catholic Church has been called by Pope Francis to participate in the forthcoming Synod, beginning this October in the Local Churches and eventually culminating in a General Synod in October 2023.
The title of the 2023 Synod of Bishops is “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission.” For the first time, the General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops in Rome has produced a comprehensive process which encompasses the stated aim of the Holy Father that the Church in today’s world should have a vision of missionary communion orientated to evangelisation.
In this way the whole Church is being encouraged to contribute towards the next Synod of Bishops. The beginning of this Synod takes place on the 9-10 October this year, when the Pope will pray and celebrate Mass from the Vatican. The following Sunday, the 17th October, we will celebrate the beginning of this Synod on Synodality in our Diocese by celebrating Mass at the Cathedral at 10.30, to which all are invited. Everyone is encouraged to take part in this process which is a call to Communion (getting together), Participation (taking part by expressing the discernment we reach after praying to the Holy Spirit to enlighten us and listening to what others have to say}, and Mission, (the universal call to evangelise).
The word Synodality means walking together on a particular journey. As the people of God, we are called to participate actively in our journey as living members of the Church. Pope Francis in his book Let us Dream says “we need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas”. This is at the heart of the process which we are invited to take part in during the next six months.
The Synodal Process is not about a democratic debate or about Church teaching or dogma. It is a place of respectful mutual listening and experiencing the call of the Holy Spirit to move forward in new ways. Listening to each other is very important. Mutual listening and reflection are vital, as what is proposed grows from the unity and conviction that comes from the lived practice of faith within the community.
We all share, in view of our Baptism, Christ’s Priestly, Prophetic and Kingly functions. Whatever the charisms or gifts that the Holy Spirit has given us, we are all called to contribute to the building of the Body of Christ, the Church. We are called to be witnesses of God’s love. The Church is being called to examine the complexities of the society in which we live and apply the light of the Gospel to such a reality.
The basic question to guide us in our discernment is:
A Synodal Church, in announcing the Gospel, “journeys together”. How is this “journeying together” happening today in our Diocese? What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our “journeying together”?
In order to journey together we need the help of the Holy Spirit. We need to have the courage and the freedom to help in the continual renewal of the Church, which, although a divine institution, also expresses a human dimension that needs constantly to be purified of what does not reflect the Gospel. In this journey we all have something to learn and to contribute.
I intend, with the collaboration of some helpers, to organise group encounters to facilitate this process in our diocese, culminating in a meeting of all who want to participate in this synodal process. I ask you to pray that this experience, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, will leave its fruits in our Diocese. Pray that this invitation to journey together which comes from the Pope will help us to move on together, realising that we are all called to collaborate in the mission of bringing the good news to others.
May Our Lady of Europe, our Patroness and Mother of the Church, help us during the journey we are undertaking for the good of our Diocese and of the whole Church.
Given on the 1st of October 2021, the memory of St Theresa of the Child Jesus.
Bishop of Gibraltar
From the prayer to be said before any assembly of the Synod:
We stand before You, Holy Spirit, as we gather together in Your name.
With You alone to guide us, make Yourself at home in our hearts;
teach us the way we must go and how we are to pursue it.
We are weak and sinful;
do not let us promote disorder.
Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path nor partiality influence our actions.
Let us find in You our unity so that we may journey together to eternal life and not stray from the way of truth and what is right.
All this we ask of You,
who are at work in every place and time, in the communion of the Father and the Son, forever and ever.