Bishop Malloy Opens Synod Process for the Rockford Diocese
By Penny Wiegert, Editor
October 21, 2021
ROCKFORD—Bishop David Malloy celebrated his usual 7:30 a.m. Sunday Mass for a not-so-usual purpose.
“We are at the beginning of a project that Pope Francis has asked of the whole Church in our time. It has to do with the convening of a Synod of Bishops to be held in 2023 in Rome. And for the next two years, the Holy Father has asked for the implementation of a process to prepare for that Synod,” Bishop Malloy explained in his homily.
Bishops all around the world were asked to join in solidarity and open the local synod process in their respective dioceses with a Mass celebrated in their diocesan Cathedrals the weekend of Oct. 16-17. 
Bishop Malloy sent a letter to diocesan priests asking them, along with their respective congregations, to pray for the process that will culminate with the convening of bishops in Rome in 2023. 
Bishop Malloy explained what a Synod is, what this process is, and what it is not to those gathered at the early Mass. 
“Briefly, in 1965 at the conclusion of the most recent ecumenical council, Vatican II, a gathering of the Catholic bishops of the whole world, then Pope St. Paul VI announced the institution of a regular gathering of representative bishops whose task was to periodically advise the pope and seek to strengthen the unity of the Church.  Those synods, some regularly established and some convened in special circumstances, have taken place every three years since then.
“Here is an important point.  An ecumenical council when in union with the pope as the successor to Peter and when its decisions are approved by him, can make decisions for the whole Church.  That gathering of all the apostles has been understood by the Church throughout its history as a means that the Holy Spirit guides the Church to deepen its knowledge and faith,” Bishop 
Malloy said. 
“The Synod of Bishops is different.  It does not invite all the bishops.  Those present are representatives or they are chosen specifically by the Holy Father.  The task of a Synod of Bishops is not to make decisions. It is to offer information and counsel to the pope regarding the questions he places before those bishops,” Bishop Malloy explained. 
Beginning this fall, dioceses around the world will listen and gather feedback through consultation, which is summarized and given to the respective conferences of bishops, then on to Rome, and then again summarized to finally be shared and discussed at the Synod of Bishops in 2023.
He went on to explain that the synod process is not a form of politics, “a sort of democratic vote on whether we approve of the Word of God, of our Catholic faith.” Bishop Malloy added that “It is a foundational mistake to think we decide the faith. Rather, we receive it as a gift from Jesus.”
To assist  in the revitalization of the Church called for by Vatican II,  Pope Paul VI created a permanent structure for a Synod of Bishops, with a secretariat in Rome and a General Assembly gathered regularly by the pope. 
Since 1967, the popes have brought this assembly together 18 times: 15 “Ordinary Assemblies” and three “Extraordinary,” in addition to a number of “Special Assemblies” involving particular regions of the world.
When Pope Francis celebrated a Mass to open the World Synodal Process on Oct. 10, he asked Catholics to begin to reflect on the Church through his chosen topic for 2023 of “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.”  
“Let us not soundproof our hearts; let us not remain barricaded in our certainties,” he said. Instead, “Let us listen to one another.” When we follow Jesus in listening with the heart, “people feel they are being heard, not judged; they feel free to recount their own experiences and their spiritual journey.”
The process began in prayer not just at the Cathedral of St. Peter but also in diocesan parishes. 
Bishop Malloy, in a letter sent to all priests, asked them to “pray for our Holy Father Pope Francis and for all the bishops of the Church as they prepare for the Synod in 2023. And pray for our own diocesan family that we may participate positively through a spirit of common faith and shared purpose.”
He included the prayer for the process along with a special intention. 
More on the diocesan process and listening sessions will be communicated to all diocesan parishes and through their individual communication platforms, through The Observer and El Observador Catholic newspapers, the diocesan website and on the Diocese of Rockford Facebook page.
Bishop Malloy’s Mass to open the synod locally was livestreamed on the Diocese of Rockford Facebook page and is available to view there.


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