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US bishops prepare for synod's next phase ahead of Vatican document

US bishops prepare for synod's next phase ahead of Vatican document

The bishops of the United States have been asked to prepare for the continental sessions of the synod on snodality, ahead of new Vatican guidance on the next phase in the multi-year synod process, to be released Thursday.

In a letter circulated to all U.S. bishops on Tuesday, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, head of the USCCB doctrine committee, asked each ordinary within the United States to appoint 3-5 delegates who will serve as representatives at the upcoming “virtual listening sessions” of the continental stage of the synod on synodality.

In the Oct. 25 letter, Flores offered his thanks to the bishops for the work already done by U.S. dioceses for the synodal process.

“With the conclusion of the Diocesan Phase of the 2021-2023 Synod, we are currently planning the Continental Stage of the Synod with our brothers in Canada,” he said.

“We will be receiving the Document for the Continental Stage (DCS) from the Holy See on Thursday, October 27, 2022. It will give us specific guidance concerning the focus of the Continental Stage.”

The document from the Vatican will be the basis of discussion for the next stage of the synod, Flores said.

He encouraged the bishops to reflect on the guiding document when they receive it. He also asked them to move forward with appointing delegates who will represent the dioceses at one of 10 upcoming virtual continental listening sessions, which will be held in December and January.

“The Secretariat for the Synod has asked that delegates to the Continental Stage ‘adequately represent the variety of the People of God: bishops, priests, deacons, men and women religious, laymen and laywomen’ with special attention to women and young people, people in various economic situations, as well as ecumenical and interreligious partners,” Flores said.

Each bishop is also welcome to attend an upcoming ten "virtual assemblies" of the continental phase, Flores added, but asked that dioceses consider spreading their delegates across the sessions, which will be held in English, Spanish, and French.

The continental phase of the synod follows the close of the diocesan phase and the release of the national synthesis document last month.

This next phase, the Vatican has said, “does not mean a replication of the consultation, listening and discernment that has already taken place, which was an invitation to all of the People of God. This is, rather, a deepening of that discernment process by the people identified to represent the local Churches in the pre-assembly processes prior to each Continental Assembly.”

Each continental gathering will draft a final document, which is to be submitted to the Vatican by March 31, 2023. These documents will then be used to draft the Instrumentum laboris for the universal phase of the synod, which will take place in two parts, occurring in October 2023 and October 2024.

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