My Synodal journey began with my participation at the Pre-Synodal meeting for Youth in Rome in March 2018, followed by my presence at the 15th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Youth Synod in 2018 as an auditor. Then came the Youth Forum in June 2019 and thereafter my appointment to the Commission on Methodology in June 2021 for the forthcoming Synod on Synodality which will culminate in 2023.
Ever since I began my journey with the Church on this Synodal path, to me Synodality means “a family” where everyone journeys together towards an encounter of experiences, relationships, accompanying one another, where the concerns from the eldest to the youngest are equally important. A family not only discusses matters important such as finances, property and the future of its members but also the concern of a small child who has lost his toy or has been wounded while playing; here everyone weeps at the wounds and miseries of any of its members, and rejoices at the achievement of any of its members.
Such is to be “a synodal church”, where everyone journeys together – the Bishop, priests, religious, laity (men, women, youth, children) and even those fallen away from faith -- in lauding and echoing the voices, concerns, challenges, pains, achievements and joys of one another; together they should address the most important concerns of the Church – its failures and goals.
Therefore, Synodality isn’t a new concept introduced by Pope Francis with this synod, but it is the very nature of the church since the very beginning. It is not just the responsibility of the Pope and the Bishops, but of each of its members, all the people of God, to envision and build a church that together listens to the voice of the Holy Spirit, discerns its mission here on earth, accompanies each of its people on the road and journeys towards the kingdom He promised us.
The role of youth
The Synod on Youth (2018) stated that “Young people are not just the future, but the present of the church, who are to be protagonists, that bring newness and freshness to the life and mission of the church, with a certain dynamism and audacity”. The forthcoming Synod in the Vademecum (Guidebook) invites young people to play a prominent role in the planning and execution of particularly the e-synodal meetings, thus exploring creative ways of making it accessible and user-friendly for all participants, keeping in mind the various needs of different age groups. Young people can play a key role in contributing creatively and effectively to these efforts such as use of social media, online and digital tools etc.
With this it is clear, as Pope Francis wrote in Christus Vivit, that the church is like a Canoe where young people row the boat from ahead with all their energy, enthusiasm and new techniques while the elderly stand behind and guide them with all their wisdom and knowledge. Thus, young people are called to play a vital role in participating in the mission of the church and the communion of the people of God to introduce what new the Spirit has to offer.
Young people must take up this task of utilizing their enthusiasm and ideas to help the church on this journey by introducing new ways and means of living this synodal experience with energy, joy and new age tools.
The Church in India
The Church in India is called to be a truly Synodal church. The vast diversity, cultures and traditions across the country are an experience as well as an opportunity to build a Synodal church of co-responsibility, shared experiences and combined efforts to enhance her mission. We are called to share our rich diversities, not as dividing forces, but unifying paths that will bring all people to encounter her beauty and be united in Christ, irrespective of the many castes, languages, traditions, cultures and ethnicities.
This diversity is to be celebrated as different members coming together to form one family rather than being the cause of dividing the one family of Christ into sects and groups that want their own space for various personal interests. Christ came and instituted the Church that all may be one. We need to stop bidding one against the other and embark on journeying together to a shared encounter of the beauty of the Church and enriching her mission.
India is both a concern and an opportunity that needs our prime attention in accompanying all people to the destination of love, brotherhood and unity. Only then, will we outgrow our differences to find the love and joy this land has to offer to its people in living in harmony, peace and a shared responsibility towards raising generations. This will place the country before their personal motives, building governance and politics that will see their role as a mission to unite rather than divide people and have goals that will place on record the sensitivities and development of Indians as one nation, united by one spirit and one mission.
Therefore, just as Christ journeyed with the People of God, from the first to the last of all, irrespective of where they came from or what they did, in finding answers and paths to their concerns and those of the others, we are all called to continue this journey together as one family.
(The writer is former ICYM National President; Advisor to CCBI National Youth Commission; Resident & In-charge of Bethania Centre, Faridabad, Delhi NCR; and member of Commission on Methodology for the Synod on Synodality)