International News

Synod Discussions Include Addressing Pain Church Has Caused People

Redemptorist Father Vimal Tirimanna, a synod member and moral theologian from Sri Lanka, speaks during a briefing about the assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican Oct. 16, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The synodal way is not an invention of Pope Francis, but it is based on Jesus’ way of inclusivity and listening, and on divine revelation itself, said Redemptorist Father Vimal Tirimanna, a leading moral theologian from Sri Lanka.

As participants in the assembly of the synod on synodality begin their third week Oct. 16, continuing with their small group discussions, “the round tables themselves are a symbol of the ecclesiology of ‘Lumen Gentium,'” he said, referring to the Second Vatican Council document on the nature of the church and the role of its members.

“This synodal process is not a private agenda of Pope Francis. It is a continuation of Vatican II,” said Father Tirimanna, who teaches theology at a number of pontifical universities in Rome and is a voting member of the synod. He and others spoke to reporters Oct. 16 about their synod experience.

Father Tirimanna spoke about sitting at different round tables, made up of 10 to 12 cardinals, bishops, religious and lay people, and how lay people are “rubbing their shoulders with the hierarchy in a concentric church, not a pyramidal church.”

“Not that the pyramidal church is bad, we need that, but the ecclesiology of ‘Lumen Gentium’ is lived. The synodal way, the culture of synodality is lived here. The challenge is to take it outside the synodal hall,” he said.

A reporter asked the panel of synod participants whether discussions had included recognizing the hurt or pain the church may have caused people in the LGBTQ+ community and others as well.

Loreto Sister Patricia Murray, a member of the synod and executive secretary of the International Union of Superiors General, speaks during a briefing about the assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican Oct. 16, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Loreto Sister Patricia Murray, executive secretary of the International Union of Superiors General, responded saying, “there is a deep awareness of the pain and suffering that has been caused,” and “the question of hurt and the woundedness of people both individually and collectively” has been brought up “and listened to.”

There has also been discussion about “how to symbolically, in a sense, represent that hurt. Some people have said, ‘sorry’ is not enough,” she said.

The question becomes “how does the church, in her own pastoral and liturgical way, give sign and symbol of seeking forgiveness for hurts that have been caused,” she said. “And this is something under reflection.”

Father Tirimanna responded, “I can assure you that everybody is included. The effort is to include everybody,” and not just the LGBTQ+ community. “There are so many other groups” that are marginalized and wounded and need pastoral attention, such as the extreme poor.

“The synodal process is an effort not to exclude anyone, because Jesus’s vision was inclusion,” he added.

Auxiliary Bishop Zdenek Wasserbauer of Prague also responded, saying the damage caused by colonialism has been raised “a lot” by participants representing Asia and Africa. “We are trying as members of the synod to have an open heart to all the pain of all groups and individuals of the world today.”

Auxiliary Bishop Zdenek Wasserbauer of Prague speaks during a briefing about the assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican Oct. 16, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

When asked how big of a role divine revelation and apostolic tradition were playing in the synod process, given the many different issues being raised, such as blessing same-sex couples or the ordination of women deacons, Father Tirimanna said, “divine revelation is playing a leading role.”

“The discussions are fully enwrapped if not fully covered by both the elements of apostolic tradition” and revelation, he said, as “the Word of God, apostolic tradition, the magisterium, these are all part of revelation.”

“This is not something that suddenly fell down from heaven, or something that Pope Francis has invented. These are all based on divine revelation, the synodal way itself,” he said.

And while it is true “different people have their particular issues” they would like addressed, he said, “let’s not forget, we are here a communion of believers” and “once the firm foundation of the synodal way of life is laid, those things can be built up on that.”

“The most important thing is not to address whether a woman can be ordained, whether LGBTQ should be accepted, whether gay marriage should be blessed. Not that they are not important, but if we are serious about the church, a universal church, a church that is worldwide, we have to lay a firm foundation that includes everybody’s interest,” he said.

“So first we lay the foundation, the foundation of the synodal way, a synodal culture, a listening culture, a culture that includes (all people) automatically, (then) these issues are bound to come sooner if not later,” the priest said.

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago told Catholic News Service Oct. 16, “There is really a serenity in the group, where people especially appreciate the fact that they’re free to speak their mind.”

“There really is absolutely no attention to people’s positions or titles in the church,” but everyone can talk about issues and raise concerns, he said. “This freedom, the internal freedom of people, is really going to allow us to raise the critical issues of the day, the issues that people are talking about.”

The heart of the synod, Cardinal Cupich said, is the question, “How is the mission going to be the priority as we carry on the work today?”

The synod members began work Oct. 13 on the third section, or module, of the working document, “Co-responsibility in mission,” which included questions about the place and role of women in the church.