Our Holy Father Pope Francis has invited the Catholic Church to embark on a journey together. Through listening and discernment rooted in the Holy Spirit, the entire people of God will be called to contribute to a process by which the Church deepens in understanding of Her mission and looks toward the future.
Pope Francis is calling us all to reflect on the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission.”
A Synod is a journey of discernment, in which the people of God are called to pray and reflect upon the Holy Spirit’s will for the Church. Through our listening and our sharing, we will seek to understand what the Holy Spirit’s will is for the topic being discussed – and thus, for the Church.
For the 2023 Ordinary Synod of Bishops, that topic is synodality. Simply put, synodality is discerning how the Spirit is moving through and with the Body of Christ, so that we may continue to fulfill our mission to evangelise in the world.
The Diocese of Portsmouth has undertaken a lengthy period of listening and discernment over the last two years, in order to develop a long-term plan of spiritual renewal.
During 2020 an extensive survey was undertaken ‘A Thousand Voices: The views, hopes and fears of the lay faithful in the Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth’ was published in June 2021. Pastoral area and Deanery reviews were completed in November 2021 and further engagement of the laity via meetings with the Bishop has been ongoing since January 2022. The Synod has provided further opportunity for development of the themes that have emerged from the earlier work.
In the 2020/21 Survey “1000 Voices” 1,775 respondents from across the Diocese shared more than 40,000 comments describing their personal experience of church life. The majority of participants were aged 61 and over and 88% identified as white British / European or of Indian origin.
These statistics gave us a clear mandate to hear from those who did not participate in the diocesan survey and so we actively and deliberately encouraged those groups not represented in the survey to participate in the consultation phase of the synodal journey. We received feedback from all Universities across the Diocese; from 19 Primary Schools and 13 Secondary Schools (which includes responses from staff, students, and their families).
To further encourage the younger members of the Diocese to participate, many parishes ran synod reflection sessions with their Confirmation groups too. Synodality, a journeying together, requires a companion. The emphasis on communion, mission and participation meant that lone, individual responses to the ten thematic nuclei was not encouraged.
Most participants were involved at the parish level, meeting in groups (ranging in size from 6 people to over 100 people) representing contributions from both the lay faithful and the parish clergy. A number of meetings also took place across the Diocese for those who, for whatever reason, were unable to be involved in parish meetings. Combining the feedback received from the diocesan survey with responses received for this initial phase of the synodal process we have just under 5,000 individuals represented in this report.
The report was presented to the Bishop during the recent Chrism Mass, with the priests of the diocese in attendance at the Cathedral. A copy of the final report was submitted to the Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales for inclusion to the Vatican. The report can be found below.
If you have questions about the diocesan phase of the Synod please contact our Synod Coordinator, Fr John Chandler at email@example.com. There are a range of supporting resources available online to help you explore and understand the Synod process, they include: