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Half a million people took part in Italy’s diocesan synod phase

Milan Cathedral. BjoernEisbaer via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Half a million people took part in the diocesan phase of the synod of synodality in Italy, according to the country’s national synthesis document.

The 13-page text, submitted by the Italian bishops’ conference to the Vatican on Aug. 15, said that around 50,000 synodal groups were formed in the country, “for a total participation of half a million people.”

The figure of 500,000 participants appears to be the highest reported so far by a national bishops’ conference.

The Church in Spain estimated that more than 215,000 people took part in the first stage of the two-year process, which will culminate in an assembly of the world’s bishops in Rome next October.

The Church in France said in its national synthesis document that local consultations involved more than 150,000 people.

There are approximately 40 million baptized Catholics in Italy. Half a million people represents just over 1% of the country’s total Catholic population.

Italy’s national synthesis document highlighted obstacles to participation in what has been described as the largest consultation ever conducted within the Catholic Church.

“There has been no shortage of uncertainties and perplexities, especially in the early stages, to slow down the journey,” it said, “especially in a season marked by anxiety and bewilderment, from the flare-up of the pandemic with its burden of mourning, suffering, and hardship, to the outbreak of war in Ukraine, which rekindled wounds, fears, and resentments. In the midst of these crises, the People of God sought to overcome individualism, skepticism and barriers, and set out on a journey.”

The text noted that the diocesan phase had created “a network of co-responsible persons,” which it described as “a first, unexpected fruit of the Path and a precious resource for its continuation.”

Alongside the worldwide synod on synodality, the Italian Church is organizing a national synod that is due to conclude in the Jubilee Year of 2025.

The Italian national synthesis summed up the results of local consultations under 10 headings: listening, welcoming, relationships, celebrating, communication, sharing, dialogue, home, life transitions, and method.

Under the heading “welcoming,” it said that Catholics communities needed to be more inclusive of young people, the elderly, the separated and divorced, “LGBT+ people with their parents,” migrants, disabled people, and the economically marginalized.

Under the heading “sharing,” the text said that Italian lay people wanted to share responsibility for the Church with clergy.

“The Church appears to be too ‘priest-centric’ and this removes responsibility,” it said, “becoming an alibi for delegation or refusals on the part of the laity, often relegated to a merely executive and functional role, rather than protagonists, builders of a ‘we.’ But they are not exempt from the risk of developing forms of clericalism in the management of the small spaces of power entrusted to them.”

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