Being a parish Priest in a Synodal Church

What would it mean to be a Parish Priest in a synodal Church? Will it require us to rethink the role and ministry of the Parish Priest and other ordain ministers? Maybe we have travel together in the spirit of synodality into the theology of synodality and try to relate the Hierarchical gifts and the Charismatic gifts in the Church.

The principle of synodality has developed from the womb of the three important post-conciliar teachings that have their roots in the great ecumenical council Vatican II. They are: 1) Church as a pilgrim, 2) Church as the listener of God’s Word , 3) Co-essential relationship between Baptismal charism and Mission of the Church.

Pope Francis has explicitly linked the pilgrim-ness of the Church to the principle of synodality. The pilgrim nature (peregrinam) of the Church was introduced in the very first document promulgated at council Vatican II (SC 2). Church as a pilgrim is always in need of reform and renewal. This renewal is possible only when the Church becomes a listening Church. Synodality requires listening to become more than hearing. All Christ faithful have supernatural instinct for faith (sensus fidie) and, therefore, has a calling to participate to make the Church a listening Church.

A listening Church is line with the teachings of Vatican II which says the role of the teaching office ( Magisterium) of the Church is less determinatio fidie than testificatio fidie. This witness of faith requires our fidelity to the mission of Church and draw its basis from the sacrament of Baptism. Thus, synodality is a fuller actualization of the grace of baptism of all Christ faithful.

This reflection on the threefold basis of the principle of synodality raises the question of the relation of the Hierarchical gifts and the Charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit in the Church. It appears that the principle of synodality links the Hierarchical with the Charismatic gifts in the Church. Synodality is the modus vivendi and operandi of these gifts in the Church. Without synodality hierarchical gifts in the Church are in danger of becoming what theologian Yves Congar named as Hierarchology.

This is why the principle of synodality can assist the Church to move beyond the abuses of hierarachicalism that is closely associated with the overarching clerical culture. Synodality ,Therefore, can enable both hierarchy and the laity to travel together. As a Parish Priests, one has to understand that one does not cease to belong to the people of God. Pope Francis has rightly placed synodality to balance or even subvert the ascending order of Hierarchy.

Synodality does bring about an ecclesial repositioning at several levels. all Parish Priests, therefore, have to understand that sacramental as well as canonical gifts do not just reposition but follow from the already existing baptismal ecclesial relation. Hence, ministerial priesthood is marked by the service of the people of God and is not self-contained office marked by titles, powers and privileges.

Synodality does affect the way of being Parish Priest. It calls for new way of ordering our ministry and governance. It reinforces servant leadership of a shepherd. This is why there is no place for dominating leadership in a Parish. The Parish Priest has to journey with all the parishioners. Listen to everyone and discern appropriate pastoral action in the Parish. The Parish Pastoral Council, therefore, becomes the chief listening and discerning organ in the Parish. All parish associations and movements have to be led into collegial thinking and acting. The self-emptying Christ is, therefore, the model for the leadership of the Parish Priest to build the parish through collegiality and synodality.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao