Synod news: Instrumentum laboris 2024

The General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops have published a document, Instrumentum laboris: How to be a missionary synodal Church, to guide the Second Session of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

…The drafting of this Instrumentum laboris for the Second Session has
been done in the light of the answers to the guiding question sent in by
most of the Episcopal Conferences (EC) and their continental grouping…In this way, it is rooted in the life of the People of God present throughout the world.

Instrumentum laboris P4

Those with an interest in the role of women within the Church may find paragraphs 13-18 of particular interest. These paragraphs are reproduced below with editorial emphasis added in the hope of making the text more accessible to the whole of our community. You can find the full document on the Synod’s website.

Sisters and brothers in Christ: a renewed reciprocity

  1. The first difference we encounter as human persons is between men and women. Our vocation as Christians is to honour this God-given difference by living within the Church a dynamic relational reciprocity as a sign for the world. In reflecting on this vision from a synodal perspective, the contributions received at all stages highlighted the need to give fuller recognition to the charisms, vocation and role of women, to better honour this reciprocity of relations in all spheres of the Church’s life. The synodal perspective highlights three theological reference points as a guide for discernment: a) participation is rooted in the ecclesiological implications of Baptism; b) we are a communion of baptized persons, called not to bury talents but to discern and call forth the gifts that the Spirit pours out on each for the good of the community and the world; c) while respecting and acknowledging the diverse vocations and gifts of each, the gifts that the Spirit bestows on the faithful are ordered to each other in a complementary manner and the collaboration of all the baptised is to be practised as an act of co-responsibility. Guiding us in our reflection is the testimony of the Holy Scriptures: God chose women as the first witnesses and heralds of the Resurrection. By virtue of Baptism, they enjoy full equality, receive the same outpouring of gifts from the Spirit, and are called to the service of Christ’s mission.
  2. In this sense, the first change to be made is one of mentality: a conversion to a vision of relationality, interdependence and reciprocity between women and men, who are sisters and brothers in Christ, oriented to a common mission. The communion, participation and mission of the Church suffer the consequences of a failure to transform relationships and structures. As a contribution of a Latin American Episcopal Conference notes: “a Church in which all members can feel co-responsible is also an attractive and credible place”.
  3. The contributions of the Episcopal Conferences recognise that women can participate in many areas of Church life. However, they also note that these possibilities for participation often remain untapped. That is why they suggest that the Second Session promote awareness of and encourage the full use and further development of these possibilities within Parishes, Dioceses and other ecclesial realities, including positions of responsibility. They also call for further exploration of ministerial and pastoral modalities that better express the charisms and gifts the Spirit pours out on women in response to the pastoral needs of our time. As a Latin American Episcopal Conference says: “In our culture the presence of machismo remains strong, while a more active participation of women in all ecclesial spheres is needed. As Pope Francis states, their perspective is indispensable in decision-making processes and in the assumption of roles in the different forms of pastoral care and mission”.
  4. Concrete requests emerge from the contributions of the Episcopal Conferences for consideration at the Second Session, including: (a) the promotion of domains for dialogue in the Church so that women can share their experiences, charisms, skills, and spiritual, theological and pastoral insights for the good of the whole Church; (b) a wider participation of women in the processes of ecclesial discernment and all stages of decision-making processes (drafting and decision-making); c) wider access to positions of responsibility in Dioceses and ecclesiastical institutions, in line with existing provisions; d) greater recognition and support for the life and charisms of consecrated women and their employment in positions of responsibility; e) access for women to positions of responsibility in seminaries, institutes and theological faculties; f) an increase in the number of women judges in all canonical processes. The reports received also continue to call for greater attention to be paid to the use of language that is more inclusive and to a range of images from Scripture and Tradition in preaching, teaching, catechesis and the drafting of official Church documents.
  5. While some local Churches call for women to be admitted to the diaconal ministry, others reiterate their opposition. On this issue, which will not be the subject of the work of the Second Session, it is good that theological reflection should continue, on an appropriate timescale and in the appropriate ways. The fruits of Study Group 5, which will take into consideration the results of the two Commissions that have dealt with the question in the past, will contribute to its maturation.
  6. Many of the demands expressed above also apply to laymen, whose lack of participation in the life of the Church is often lamented. In general, reflection on the role of women often highlights the desire to strengthen all the ministries exercised by the laity (men and women). There is also a call for adequately trained lay men and women to contribute to preaching the Word of God, including during the celebration of the Eucharist.