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June 29, 2023 — A vivid definition of the Catholic Church is attributed to the literary giant James Joyce: Catholic means “here comes everybody.” Never in recent history has that felt more accurate than during the current Synod on Synodality. Lots of AMDG listeners have been active in the synod, participating in this global process of spiritual conversation and consultation.

The synod comprises several stages, from the listening sessions in local churches all the way to the upcoming gatherings of the Synod of Bishops in Rome in October 2023 and 2024. For the first time ever, about 20% of the voting members of the synod will be made up of lay women and men.

And last week, the General Secretariat of the Synod in Rome published a 60-page document called the “Instrumentum Laboris,” which will be the basis of the work of the Synod fathers and mothers when they gather. Unlike previous Synods, this Instrumentum Laboris is not a document to be amended and approved, but a series of questions on key topics related to communion, mission and participation in the church. The document itself is an incarnation of synodality, which makes space for all participants to be heard.

One of the Synod team members who collaborated on this working document is Professor Anna Rowlands, today’s guest. Anna holds the St. Hilda Chair in Catholic Social Thought and Practice at Durham University in the United Kingdom. She is a political theologian who works at the intersection of political and social theory and Christian theology. Anna is the author of an acclaimed book on Catholic Social Teaching titled “Towards a Politics of Communion: Catholic Social Teaching in Dark Times,” which was published in 2021.

Anna is one of the few people on Earth who have read pretty much every word submitted to Rome from the church all over the world, so she brings an incredible wealth of experience and a truly global perspective to the conversation. Host Mike Jordan Laskey asked her how the working document was shaped and for her take on the key themes that animate it. It is fascinating to hear what most surprised her as she took in such a enormous volume of testimony from every continent. We hope Anna’s reflections will be a useful introduction for you and that you’ll have the chance to read and pray with the working document, maybe even in spiritual conversation with people in your own local community.

Read the working document and learn more about Professor Rowlands.

AMDG is a production of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States.

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