Synod update

Press releases, Synod

The Pastoral Centre at St Mary’s Forebank , Dundee, was the setting for a Lenten Retreat Day led by Canon Kevin Golden. The theme was taken from St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, “The temple of God is holy… and you are that temple.”

During the opening session, an update on the Synod on Synodality was presented by Maureen Ruddy on behalf of the Diocesan Core Group on the Synod.

Photos courtesy of Eddie Mahoney

Synod Update

Presentation by Maureen Ruddy

Some people say the Church is in crisis. Well there’s no doubt that there are problems. We all know most of our children and grandchildren no longer practise but still have spiritual needs. There is poor attendance at our Sunday Masses. The young people and families are missing. It seems that the Church has no relevance for them and their 21st century lives. Certainly clerical and religious abuse has horrified all of us and together with financial scandals, the reputation of the Church had been somewhat tarnished. We have fewer and fewer priests. And we’ve had the pandemic.

But is the Church in crisis? 

Well I tend to agree with those who say a crisis is something that we have no warning about something we are unprepared for and something that we can do nothing about, and if that is the case, then the Church is not in crisis. 

 The warnings were there and although we’ve been feeling a bit despondent we’re not entirely surprised. 

AND we CAN certainly  step up and do something about it.

60 yrs ago St Pope John 23rd opened the Second Vatican Council wanting to let fresh air into the Church and that council laid foundations for a renewal process that is continuing. They say it takes 100 yrs to fulfill the outcomes of a Vatican Council so we have 40 yrs to go. 

The problem is society has moved on at a pace but the Church is still in catch up.  Culture and society are no longer in tune with the Gospel

What can be done? 

 Pope Francis tells us it’s not time to become a new Church, but to become a better way of being Church and the model he champions is one of all of us walking together – synodality.

Everyone, the Pope cardinals. bishops, priests, deacons, religious and lay people who by virtue of their baptismal vocation must be given and equal voice in matters concerning the Church. 

Sometimes concerning the global church, other times the diocese and other times the local parish; where every voice is listened to with respect and without judgement; where they are heard and where people are  given opportunities to be still and discern, listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, the main protagonist in this process, and so help influence decisions.

Synodality was the model of governance advocated by Vatican II 1962-65. It’s time to get on with it.

It’s really nothing new in that the apostles in the early Church at The Council of Jerusalem for example we’re told that the whole community met together before decisions were made ; the Church in South America adopted a synodal approach in 1968; there have number of Synods of Bishops only since Vatican 2 and recently the Pope has hosted high-profile synods on the family, young people and the Amazon in Rome.

Now synodality – this way of working – It’s not a panacea for all the ills of the Church, but it’s a tried and tested way of going forward. 


In light of this, in 2021 Pope Francis called for two synod assemblies but with a difference. He wanted to hear the voices of the People of God throughout the world and we contributed to that—Our concerns? What we’re really struggling with? What we’re seeking? …What we really need? What we thirst for? What we hunger for? What is broken in our relationships with the Church? Our joys? Our dreams?

He wanted to involved local churches from the bottom up to work in communion and participation in pursuit of our mission: 

to become a listening Church:  listening to the Spirit in adoration and prayer: listening to our brothers and sisters speaking of their hopes, of the apparent loss of faith in the world, of a renewed pastoral life and moving towards a synodal church –

Weaving greater friendship with society and the world keep us from becoming a museum Church.

And the People of God spoke up.

As you know, the first of the two Synods on Synodality took place last October. 

The purpose was not to make decisions about the hot button topics that were certainly universal themes of concern, but to allow the 370 or so participants a mix of lay men, women, religious, priests, deacon, bishops and cardinals and even the Pope on occasion an experience of the process of synodality. 

They began with 3 day retreat led by Fr Timothy Radcliffe who assured them that, by opening their hearts to the Spirit they would find the whole process profoundly spiritual and uplifting. Reports from participants  and particularly our own Bishop Brian McGee the Scottish representative at the synod. confirmed that it was indeed a spiritual experience.

 And so grounded in prayer and seated in groups at round tables as equal contributors – no rank pulled –  Cardinals, bishops, religious and lay men and women for the very first time engaged in ‘Conversations in the Spirit” – which we will experience today –  where they expressed their opinions, were listened to without interruption or judgement  and in a safe place.

It was not easy. There were tensions, there were disagreements, but there were also changes of heart and mind within the groups and through deep listening , dialogue and in prayer they were given time to discern the voice of the Spirit as they tried to come to a consensus regarding hot button topics identified by the People of God throughout the world: the abuse scandal, the role of women, clerical misuse of power, the importance of lay ministries, the liturgy,  the marginalised in society including LGBTQ+ issues, ecumenism and many others.

The second synod takes place in October this year

The outcomes of that synod will be submitted to Pope Francis who will have the final say with regard to changes.

Meanwhile where do we fit in to this process?

Well the bishops were sent back to their countries and dioceses to hand over the fruits of their work and continue journeying together.

 The rich experience of 4 weeks of the practise of dialogue prayer and discussion gave them a better understanding of the value of the synodal process.

In the months between to 2 synods bishops have been given guidance on how they might develop synodality in their diocese and each diocesan core group has been asked to write a report on progress and future plans.

As we waited for the appointment of a new bishop we wanted to communicate with the whole diocese. So we designed and published our prayer card invitation and delivered copies to all parishes and schools and today we have planned for you an experience of a  ‘A Conversation in the Spirit’

Meanwhile local churches are asked to begin to find ways to journey together and  Conversations in the Spirit is probably a good place to start  because any parish group can hold a conversation about matters that concern them or help transform them.

It’s a new way of being church and we will need support.

It means change which will leads us to conversion – a call to holiness. – a fundamental and total uprooting of the heart as we embrace the way of life and love of Jesus.

Pope Francis has planted the seed. We must water it and allow it to germinate We may never see the full bloom. Only God can make it grow.

The future of The Church is in God’s hands but as St Theresa of Avila says:  we are God’s hands and God’s feet…

The Future of the Church is in our hands.

So is the Church in Crisis?

Well,  if WE don’t step up that very well might be the case. 

Finally, Take a moment to reflect on the word cloud 

These words and the synodal prayer which follows tell us all we need to know about what synodality is. 

Let us say the prayer together keeping in mind that every statement can easily become a Conversation in the Spirit for any church group. Thank you. 

Maureen Ruddy

Dunkeld Diocese Synod Core Group Member

At the end of the morning session, Canon Kevin and Mgr Aldo Angelosanto celebrated Mass and the day concluded with a plenary session from the morning’s discussion groups and a Service of Anointing.