Pope Francis used a quartet of trios to launch the first phase of the synod on synodality, local meetings preparing for the regional, national, continental and hemispheric meetings that will lead up to the synod of bishops in October 2023.
On Saturday, in an address to the launch meeting for the elongated synod process, he spoke of three themes (communion, mission and participation), three risks (formalism, intellectualism, complacency) and three opportunities (structural change, listening, closeness).
In his Sunday homily, he added a fourth triplex formulation — encounter, listen and discern — to inaugurate what papal biographer Austen Ivereigh describes as the “biggest popular consultation in human history and a threshold moment for the global Catholic Church.”
It may well be. Or not.
The mother of all meetings “has so far registered as no more than a blip on the Catholic radar,” wrote Ivereigh himself last month. “So far the disengagement has been almost total.”
Over two years there is plenty of time to develop the 12 introductory papal ideas of the launch events, complementing the 10 thematic topics the Vatican issued last month. The planetary process begun in Rome is intended to unfold at the local level between now and next April. With every diocese asked to produce a 10-page report on the consultations, there ought to be, if everything goes according to plan, massive volumes running to tens of thousands of pages generated for the national, continental and hemispheric phases of the planetary process. All this will be kneaded into shape for the synod in 2023, when the bishops finally meet.
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