The Church of Austria participates with great pastoral inspiration in the synodal process with a view to the Bishops ‘Synod in October 2023. In Mariazell, the summer meeting of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference (Öbk) plenary assembly was characterized last week by i.a. great attention to the concept of synodality. In the introduction of the works, the Archbishop of Salzburg, Ms. Franz Lackner, President of Öbk, highlighted how the Assembly was the culmination of the local synodal study phase and the beginning of the synthesis process that the Austrian Church in Rome will bring to the World Assembly
The Church of Austria participates with great pastoral inspiration in the synodal process with a view to the Bishops ‘Synod in October 2023. In Mariazell, the summer meeting of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference (Öbk) plenary assembly was characterized last week by i.a. great attention to the concept of synodality. In the introduction of the works, the Archbishop of Salzburg, Ms. Franz Lackner, President of Öbk, highlighted how the assembly was the culmination of the local synodal phase of study and the beginning of the synthesis process that the Austrian Church in Rome will bring to the World Assembly. In the Austrian dioceses, since the fall of 2021, various pastoral initiatives have been merged to involve as many people as possible in the synod. The journey will continue until the mandate of the synodal fathers who are to represent the church that is in Austria. The individual dioceses have prepared their own synthesis presented on the occasion of the solemnity of the Palms last April 10; the diocesan summaries were compiled in a document that formed the basis of Mariazell’s confrontation, in which, in addition to the bishops, there were 60 other representatives of all the Austrian dioceses, Catholic organizations, Caritas, media, sciences and religious orders, with the ecumenical presence of high Protestant and Orthodox representatives. . The General Secretariat of the Vatican Synod will receive a national summary by August 15, 2022.
Archbishop Lackner told the Austrian Catholic agency Kathpress that everything can be discussed again, “nothing is out of the question”. For the bishops, it was above all a fruitful work of listening. The consultation began with the impulses of ecumenism: the Greek Orthodox city of Arsenios (Kardamakis) and the Protestant bishop Michael Chalupka spoke of synodality from the point of view of their churches. Chalupka explained that the synod is the constituent assembly of their church, it decides all the church laws that govern the life of the church, the planning of the budget, the election of the members of the older church council, including the chairman of the synod and the bishops, co-responsible for represent the whole Church externally. Chalupka went on to say that the theological basis of synodality in the evangelical church is the universal priesthood of all the baptized.
Martin Luther, of course, was already aware that the clergy required special knowledge and skills. But the responsibility of the Church is shared by all the baptized, and every baptized member of the Church has the same dignity. Among other things, Chalupka dealt with the tension between the decisions of the majority and the so-called “magnus consensus” – translated into great agreement. This agreement is ultimately an effect of the Holy Spirit.
Metropolitan Arsenios Kardamakis, on the other hand, explained that in Orthodoxy “especially the Apostolic Council is crucial until now”. Tradition has it that “the apostles and elders talked with the whole congregation. But what matters is how this conflict was resolved: listening to the Holy Spirit together, ”said the big city. The roots of the synodal system can already be found in the structure and life of the early Christian communities. Synodality is neither an external organizational form of administration nor a church structure once established, “but the presence of the Holy Ghost, which is expressed in so many ways in which people respond to God.”
In the final document of the work, the Austrian bishops reiterated that “synodality is an important principle for the church and must become a natural reality at all levels of ecclesiastical life in Austria”. Synodality, however, is not merely a purely intra-ecclesiastical process: “The growing polarization, fragmentation, and irritation of society can ultimately only be remedied and transformed through respectful encounters and discussions of appreciation.”
A “culture of camaraderie”: it is a different way of assessing synodality, and that is what one experienced in Mariazell, or rather “a gift and a mission” at the same time. The purpose of the consultation was to group, reflect and weigh the results of the synodal processes carried out in the Austrian dioceses, in three areas that have proved to be priorities in church life, reads the statement: “Questions about the position of women in the church and gender justice, the participation and responsibility of Christian lay people in ecclesiastical and executive offices, as well as the treatment and inclusion of marginalized and marginalized groups ”.
According to the theologian Petra Steinmair-Pösel, Rector of Edith Stein Ecclesiastical University of Education, “conscious listening” is an advantage of the synodal process. In an interview with Kathpress, Steinmair-Pössl pointed out that the big question is “What is the significance of the Church in our secularized Western society? Where can the church credibly raise its voice? “ and for the theologian “with great gratitude is mentioned, for example, the social and ecological field in which the church is involved in a credible way, sometimes even in matters of migration and integration”.
And then there are areas where most people want more restraint, “for example in the area of sexual morality,” says Steinmair-Pösel, as “if we can really start a process of listening to each other and going together, then it is a big step, because then the barriers that have been built between the fields over the years will be torn down ”.