News from around the Archdiocese of Liverpool



Cath Pic Jubilee Issue-1 February

by Mrs Maureen Knight and Father Philip Inch


On a dark Thursday evening recently ‘The Tablet’ organised an hour long discussion with Sister Nathalie Becquart, who was chosen by Pope Francis last year as one of the first women consultants to the Synod of Bishops’ office in Rome and Christopher Lamb, The Tablet’s Rome Correspondent.  We were both delighted to be part of this event.


Sister Nathalie offered insights into, journeying together, a pilgrim Church.  It made us proud to be part of the international church and very much affirmed the Synod journey we are embarked upon here in the Archdiocese of Liverpool.


Sister Nathalie spoke of synodality as the way to be Church in the third millennium, saying this is the Pope’s imperative if we are to be a missionary church.  The world needs the church to be synodal.  She told us that the new norms that the Pope has established for the Synod of Bishops (the next one is in 2022 on synodality) will ensure that Synods are not just events but processes.  Any Bishop wanting to come must have been involved in a local synod.


Synodality must begin in the parish, it must be part of everyday life, and structures are needed to allow this to happen (eg parish councils).  She said that you do not govern alone.  If we train people in discernment then we will catch the idea of synodality and we will become a more missionary church, gathering and listening and as a parish answering the needs of today.


There followed some questions to which Sister Nathalie responded:


Should every country have a national Synod?

It will be different in every country.  There are many different cultures.  No one way of Synod will suit all.  There are different ways to do Synod.  For example, in France for the first time recently the bishops invited lay people to their bi-annual meeting in Lourdes.  Australia has called a country wide Synod and in Germany they are interpreting synodality in their own way.


Is there a special role for women in a synodal Church?

The Holy Spirit is breathing everywhere and synodality gives reality to an understanding of co-responsibility.  We must walk together: on your own you might walk faster, but with the other you may not walk as quickly but you may get to a different place, you will go deeper.

Sister Nathalie reminded us that we are all called, that we need to be an inclusive church.  She went on to say that more leadership should be given to women and that leadership teams should be diverse.  

The goal of a Synod is to try to find consensus, especially where there are divisions.  Synodality is not about Parliament, about getting the most votes.  A Synod must be open and there could be many surprises.


How are decisions made after a synodal process?

There is no synodality without primacy.  Just because we have a Synod doesn’t mean we throw out the hierarchical understanding of the Church – but as Saint John Henry Newman said ‘decisions should evolve from common discernment.’  Sister Nathalie told us about a word he used – ‘conspiratio’ – a consensus evolving, emerging, everyone being heard.


In Liverpool we are having a Synod: what one idea should we try to help people grasp?

The experience of doing a Synod will help in the understanding of synodality.  You learn what synodality is by doing it, practice it as it is an art.  A key ingredient of any synodal journey is silence.  Our synodal prayer must be rooted in the model of the Trinity.  Without a spirit of real discernment you cannot have synodality – experiment, practice and learn.


Will synodality outlive Pope Francis?

It takes time to receive the fruits of major church events.  We are still receiving the fruits of Vatican II after over 50 years and so it will take time for the fruits of the Pope’s understanding to take hold.  The topic for the 2022 Synod of Bishops will help in this process.  Many countries need synodality.  The way political dialogue has evolved needs the church to model synodality.  The recent encyclical of Pope Francis (‘Fratelli Tutti’) speaks of the ways people meet and dialogue together.  He says people need to meet and to talk and to listen and in this encounter the common good will emerge.  Pope Francis sees this as a real gift that the church must offer to the world.

We came away from the session feeling that as a diocese, we are moving in the right direction.

What it means to be a synodal Church


Synodality must begin in the parish, it must be part of everyday life