Summary of Synod proceedings in the dioceses

Archdiocese of Katowice

Diocesan synthesis (PDF version below)

1.1 Introduction

Together we set out to mutually, “meet, listen and discern.” The Church of God was called to Synod. The Church in the Katowice Archdiocese has also accepted the invitation to answer questions about his life and mission. The overarching goal of the Synod was to experience a meeting that gives space for exchanging experiences and reflecting on the Church. Walking together along the synodal path reveals the nature of the Church as a pilgrim community.

In the Katowice Archdiocese, 351 meetings were held at different levels and with different profiles. The diocesan stage of the Synod consisted of two parts. Part one included:

  • meetings in decanal groups with representatives of each parish of the decanate – 35 meetings;
  • meetings of priests serving in the various deaneries – 31 meetings;
  • Meetings in profiled groups (within movements, communities and associations, religious congregations, as well as purposefully selected pastoral impact environments, e.g., students, youth, prisoners, socially excluded, poor and disabled people) – 135 meetings.

The second part was implemented at the parish level, where those interested in participating in the Synod could apply to their parish priests. These, along with parish coordinators – who had previously attended decanal meetings – held meetings for those interested. The number of such meetings at the parish level depended on the number of people willing and the needs of the participants. 150 meetings were held in 135 parishes.

1.2 Organizers

The organizers of the synodal meetings were:

  • At the level of the Katowice archdiocese:
  • The team for the development of the company’s business. Coordination of synodal work: the Rev. Roman Chromy, Ph. Alexander Banka, ed. Dominika Szczawinska-Ziemba;
  • Synod Secretariat: Barbara Cichorska, Kinga Ludwiczak;
  • At the level of deaneries:
  • Decanal coordinators – priests appointed by decree of the Metropolitan of Katowice;
  • Deputy coordinators – lay people appointed by decanal coordinators;
  • At the parish level:
  • Pastoralists;
  • Members of parish pastoral councils, animators of parish communities and catechists.

1.3 Methodology

The meetings were based on the Ignatian method of magis circles – a well-known and proven method of community discernment developed by the Jesuits. Each meeting began with a joint prayer, an introduction of the rules and the proceedings of the meeting. The participants then prepared to answer the following three questions during prayerful silence:

  • How do I see the Catholic Church (parish, diocesan, local, community) today?
  • What I consider a special value in this Church. and what is a particular weakness?
  • How – to the best of our ability – can we overcome these identified weaknesses?

During the first round of responses, each participant expressed his or her opinion on. the above issues, referring to their experiences, experiences and feelings. A prayerful silence followed. In the next round, participants could refer to what they heard from other people and share what moved them the most. The subsequent prayerful silence was a time for individual preparation to answer the question of what touched the participants in a special way at that moment, what else they would like to share with others (thoughts, associations, images, emerging feelings). In the third round, only willing participants spoke. The meeting ended with a summary by the coordinator and a short prayer.

The proposed synodal questions were subsidiary, and the coordinator could give the group other questions more suited to its nature and needs, taking care, however, that they refer to the synodal documents: Vademecum of the Synod on Synodality (hereinafter: Vademecum) and the Preparatory Document of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops “Toward a Synodal Church: communion, participation and mission”(hereinafter: Preparatory Document).

Participants in the meetings were reminded that the essence of the meetings is not to work out material to summarize, but to share the experience of the Church in a climate of kindness, respect and openness. The executive summary was a supplementary item, drafted by the coordinator for the use of the Team for the Development of the Company. coordination of synodal work.

1.4 Synthesis

The synodal synthesis is based on the Preparatory Document. It takes into account the nine issues identified in that document (IV, p. 30); indeed, participants in the synodal meetings did not refer to the issue of ecumenism.

1.4.1 Travel Companions

, “The intimacy of the Church with Jesus is intimacy “on the road,” and the communion “in its very essence takes the shape of missionary communion. It is vital that the Church, adopting faithfully the example of the Master, go out today to preach the Gospel to all people, in every place, on every occasion, without delay, without reluctance and without fear.” (Evangelii gaudium 23).

Participants in the synod meetings shared a picture of a Church wounded, afflicted by scandals and human misery, whose sinful side associated with human weakness often causes scorn and suffering. It is a Church that is often helpless, affected by the shock of change, which often frustrates the faithful, resembling a mismanaged institution more than communities led by incisive shepherds. The synodal meetings raised the problem of the melting number of the faithful, the abandonment of the faith by young people, declining attendance at Sunday Mass or the conservative attitude of those who, although they still identify with the Church, are afraid to publicly admit it. They also spoke of the superficial experience of the Church by many believers, of fading family ties and crumbling relationships within parish communities, and of the often very complicated life situation of some of those who still remain in them. However, the picture of the Church emerging from these meetings was not exclusively negative. On the contrary. It was emphasized that the Church – though seemingly dormant, in need of a new impetus and awakening – still remains a home, a haven for many. A place to meet Jesus and a way to Him, a safe environment that gives support and a sense of closeness to God and the strength to overcome life’s difficulties. They pointed not only to the human dimension of the ecclesial community, but also to its divine dimension, constantly generating a sense of holiness, unchanging in its sacramental structure, giving meaning and spiritual salvation to many who seek help.

Among the strengths of the Church lived in this way, synodal participants cited the fact that the Church maintains a tradition of passing on the faith, the great importance of the testimony of families who share their experience of God with the Church community, the involvement of a sizable group of laity in pastoral activity and the zeal of many pastors in the exercise of sacramental ministry and the word, as well as the growth of Christian maturity in those who identify more consciously with the Church. They also emphasized the value of such initiatives as pilgrimages, evangelization retreats, modern forms of pastoral care through which a living relationship with Jesus and a more personal relationship between presbyters and the faithful are built, as well as the great potential of grassroots religious initiatives and the involvement of the laity in parish groups, especially where, in place of top-down control, a model of partnership and shared responsibility for the parish of the pastor, vicars and laity is developing. Attention was paid to the positive fruits of listening, direct contact and individual forms of pastoral care, as well as the good that comes from the activity of those parish groups that are accompanied by presbyters and are actively present in them, supporting the involvement of the laity through their service, care, witness to life, kindness, attitude of respect and openness. In turn, the tendency to marginalize some people (e.g., those living in non-sacramental unions) was considered a particular weakness of the common way in the Church. those living in non-sacramental unions), the isolation of some priests from the faithful, the failure to respond adequately to the evils of sexual abuse, the objectification of women and the undervaluing of their role, the decline in vocations, the divisions that prevail among the faithful, the overworking of presbyters, the deepening anonymity among parishioners, the lack of mutual cooperation, the hermetic nature of some communities, often being left to their own devices, and the very weak transmission of the faith in families.

What ways of overcoming the weaknesses identified in the Church have been advocated? Participants in the synod meetings spoke of the need to build a parish along the lines of a community of communities, where the basis for the involvement of the laity in the life of the parish will be dialogue, encounter, relationships based on listening, trust and mutual respect, as well as the support provided by the presbyters to the communities operating at the parish, especially those that undertake various evangelization and apostolic activities. It was stressed that the activation of the laity in the parish can only be accomplished through unprejudiced personal contact between presbyters and the faithful, and requires a search for new forms of outreach to children, adolescents and adults, adapted to the current times, in which the emphasis is not on judging, disciplining and moralizing, but on proximity, kindness, support and accompaniment.

1.4.2 Listening

“Only he who is willing to listen has the freedom to renounce his incomplete and insufficient point of view, his habits, his schemes. In this way, he is truly ready to accept such a call that breaks through his insecurities, but leads him to a better life […]” (Gaudete et exultate 172).

According to synod participants, listening in the Church is a complex and multidimensional reality. On the one hand, efforts are evident to make the local church more listening, more attentive to the different perspectives of its experience and ready to accept also the truth that is difficult for it. On the other hand, however, listening deficits, an attitude of mutual distrust and even hostility between people involved in the Church in various fields of its apostolic activity are still revealed.

The synod meetings confirmed that for many, the Church (especially the parish church) is a place where they can come for more than just a religious service . but also to share their difficulties, seek help in life’s adversities and find support and spiritual care . Examples were given of pastors who serve sacrificially both through the ministry of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation or standard availability at the parish chancellery, and additionally, give their time for the need of conversation, spiritual accompaniment or other forms of assistance. Communities operating at parishes are also becoming a place of listening, where those in need can find understanding, support, compassion and concrete help. At the same time, it’s hard not to see negative examples as well, revealing the listening deficit still present in the Church. They also mentioned the insincerity, suspicion, and resentment that has been growing for many years between laymen and presbyters, within the clergy itself, and among the faithful. It was also pointed out that many members of the ecclesial community lock themselves into narrow, hermetic circles, multiplying divisions according to the key of political preferences, preferences in terms of understanding tradition, style of religious practice, and, more recently, attitudes toward pandemonium. A not insignificant part of such educated circles inside the Church is closed to dialogue and unwilling to listen to those with differing views.

Can this kind of divisiveness and lack of willingness to listen be overcome somehow? In the course of the synodal meetings, the emphasis was on the need to reach out to the other person not to convince him of one’s reasons, but to first show him respect, kindness and Christian love, regardless of his beliefs. It was said that the acquisition of another human being is done first on a typically human level. Not by coercion, threats or exclusion, but by treating your neighbor as an intrinsic value, even if he does not see that value in himself. Educating for this kind of attitude should be an integral part of the formation process of the faithful in their journey toward Christian maturity.

1.4.3 Taking the floor

“Christians, too, can become part of the network of verbal violence created through the Internet and in various forums or spaces for the virtual exchange of opinions. Even in the Catholic media, boundaries can be overstepped, detraction and slander tolerated, and it seems that respect for the reputation of others is not included in any ethical standards. {…} the tongue, stripped of all control, becomes ‘a space of evil’ and ‘itself consumed by the fires of hell ignites the circle of life’ (cf. James 3:6).” (Gaudete et exultate 115).

The topic of speaking out in the Church aroused two kinds of associations among participants in the synod meetings. Firstly, it was noted that the Church is attacked in the media and there is an ongoing … “campaign” that … projects its image and ruins authority. Secondly, the Church often uses a stigmatizing and aggressive voice, that it is not open to discussion . Participants in the meetings criticized the lack of a coherent message, contradictory messages and the anachronistic and incomprehensible language of pastoral letters. Attention was also drawn to the need for good (,.on the level”) homilies, in search of which people are now increasingly opting for so-called churching. The Church’s greater use of new means of communication (such as social media, online broadcasts, YouTube videos) than before was appreciated. The existence of Catholic media and Catholic broadcasts and programs was viewed positively. The fact that Catholic media promote culture and the arts was also recognized. At the same time, participants in the synodal meetings believed that the Church’s weakness is too modest a presence in social media. Attention was drawn . on the need to focus not only on the message, but also on communication with the world. There were voices of disappointment with regard to too little use of traditional media (radio, press, television), in terms of information and promotion of initiatives organized by church communities. As a response to the Church’s shortcomings in the area of speaking in the public space, it was proposed to increase the use of the media in general (traditional and new) for evangelical and catechetical messages, as well as to further develop social media, without neglecting traditional media, which , “are an invaluable treasure for the middle and older generation, the sick. The need for greater use of diocesan media was emphasized. Participants in the synodal meetings also emphasized the role of parish media (newspapers, websites), which, according to them, should be focused primarily on current local issues, and at the same time free of , “graphomania and extremely subjective opinions. Desirable support for parish media would be a dedicated person in the diocese (e.g., a spokesperson), providing official and authorized materials (documents, announcements, appeals and decrees) for media use.

1.4.4 Celebration

“Sharing the word and celebrating the Eucharist together makes us more brothers and transforms us into a holy and missionary community” (Gaudete et exultate 141).

Participants in the meetings repeatedly pointed out in their statements the value of the Holy Sacraments and living the word of God. In their view, a strong spiritual foundation determines authentic Christian witness and proper involvement in the Church. Exceptional importance was given to participation and personal involvement in the liturgy of the Mass. Greater attention to the beauty of the Eucharist was called for, expressed, among other things, as follows. proper preparation of homilies and the involvement of lay people in the liturgy (including through the ministry of cantors and lectors). It has been suggested repeatedly that preaching should be dominated by the language of kerygma, fact and testimony. The involvement of priests and bishops should be carried out in unity with the Magisterium of the Church, in the spirit of Christian tradition, taking into account both new evangelization methods and proven prayer and pastoral forms (votive services, rosary prayer, etc.).

The need to celebrate Mass on Sundays was pointed out. With the participation of children and families. They should be preceded by an appropriate introduction and preparation. In the voices of participants, there were also demands to create permanent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in churches and to adapt the hours of services to the capacity and rhythm of the faithful. In many statements, a strong emphasis was placed on the importance of a permanent confessional and the openness of pastors to this ministry, their availability and their dedicated time. Considering the future of the Church in the context of vocation ministry, participants in the meetings quite often reported the need for renewed work with families and constant prayer for new vocations to priestly life. Attention was also paid to constant prayer for priests.

1.4.5 Shared responsibility in our shared mission

“You, too, should comprehend your entire life as a mission. Try it by listening to God in prayer and recognizing the signs He gives you.” (Gaudete et exultate 23).

The statement that the key to authentic Christian life and the Church’s credible action is to undertake personal conversion and to be honest with oneself, understood as the ability to acknowledge one’s own sins before God, resonated repeatedly among meeting participants. Guiding the faithful from superficial ritualism to a personal relationship with Christ through an emphasis on the word of God, the sacraments headed by the Eucharist, and formation in community becomes crucial in this context. This task becomes possible, it has been claimed repeatedly, on the path of prayer and commitment. Interestingly, in their analyses of the Church’s current situation and its historical crises, meeting participants referred to the Church’s proven means of conversion: fasting, prayer and almsgiving.

Some of those involved in the synod meetings linked the development of spiritual life to the need for involvement in the church community. They recognized the maxim “ora et labora”‘ as a way of ministering in the parish. Pastoral care should be characterized by empathy and courage to go out with the Christian message to the world and the other person. Among the necessary forms of training the faithful were homilies and catechism conferences, adult catechesis and biblical formation. Pastoral action emphasized the need for the formation of small evangelization teams and the still insufficient cooperation of priests and lay people in this regard. Participants in the meetings reported needs for organizing missions and evangelization retreats in parishes. There were also voices of developing with the young the work of volunteerism (serving the needy, the elderly and the sick).

1.4.6 Conducting dialogue in the Church and society

“The human person, with his inalienable rights, is naturally open to relationships. At its very root is the vocation to go beyond oneself in an encounter with others” (Fratelli tutti 111).

Speaking about dialogue, participants in synodal meetings most often focused on the way in which clergy and laity exchange views and ideas, and, although to a lesser extent, on dialogue conducted within church structures (e.g., between church hierarchs). Very often the lack of dialogue at all or its one-sidedness or lack of need for feedback from the interviewee was pointed out. The statements of some lay people resounded with regret that they were not being listened to, as well as the belief, based on observation, that they themselves were not engaging in dialogue due to discouragement from previous failed attempts.

The statements echoed the conviction that “my voice does not count in the Church.” The obstacles to dialogue were pointed out as too great a distance between the faithful and the clergy (as well as between bishops and presbyters), the closing of the clergy in their own comfort zone (often understood as ignorance of the reality of “ordinary people”), as well as distrust of the clergy towards the laity, especially those who show initiative in the parish. Conducting dialogue is also hindered by deficiencies at the level of the language itself, which is not adapted to the needs of the listeners. An obstacle to dialogue is also – observed not only in the Church community – . “taking offense at people with a different worldview” and “emotional and negative reactions to such people. In order to strengthen (enable) dialogue, participants in the synodal meetings stressed the need to “cleanse” the Church of sexual abuse of minors by some clergy and to develop transparent procedures for resolving these crimes. Sometimes there was a demand that Church representatives not get involved in politics . Many respondents pointed to the need for clergy to be more open to the daily lives of parishioners.

1.4.7 Authority and participation

“The Church “going on the road” constitutes a missionary community of disciples who take the initiative, join in, accompany, bear fruit and celebrate. […] The evangelization community experiences that it was the Lord who took the initiative, that He Himself loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:10) and therefore knows how to walk forward and reach the crossroads to invite the excluded. He lives an unquenchable desire to offer mercy as the fruit of experiencing the Father’s infinite mercy and its dynamic, all-encompassing power. Let’s dare to take the initiative a little more!” (Evangeli gaudium 24).

The synodal Church is a participatory and co-responsible Church. Meanwhile, those speaking on the exercise of authority in the local Church almost unanimously identified authority in the local Church exclusively with the functioning of the episcopal curia. Above all, in the statements of participants in the meetings, both clergy and laity, there was an image of an aloof bishop – an official, uninterested in parish affairs, “detached from reality” and the problems that “the faithful and parish communities live by.” Despite the recognition and appreciation of the value of the hierarchical Church, the importance of apostolic succession and the certainty of the Church’s traditions and teachings, most of the contributions pointed to the difficulty of realizing the Church as a community of participatory and co-responsible persons. The most frequently cited problem was poor contact between the curia and priests in parishes, low levels of mutual trust, little flow of information between the curia and parishes, and a lack of dialogue between the bishop and presbyters and laity. A relatively common complaint was that the clergy arrogated to the laity and treated the parish pastoral council as a kind of sham. Proposals to deepen awareness of participation and shared responsibility for the communities of the Church are included in two areas:

  • Increasing the curia’s communication with priests; taking into account competence and aptitude in assigning priests to duties, increasing interest and building relationships between presbyters and bishops;
  • Increasing the involvement of the laity in the Church and transferring to them some of the responsibility in pastoral activities and greater courage on the part of the laity in communicating their comments to the clergy.

1.4.8 Discernment and decision-making

“Always ask the Holy Spirit what Jesus expects of you in every moment of your life and in every decision you have to make in order to discern the place an issue has in your own mission. And let Him shape in you these personal mysteries that reflect Jesus Christ in the modern world.” (Gaudete et exultate 23)

According to participants in the synod meetings, the practice of decision-making in the Church is far from ideal. The most common theme in the statements was the image of the Church as an “ossified, cold institution” or “corporation” shackled by “bureaucratic procedures,” “opaque” and far from the image of a living Church making decisions in obedience to the Holy Spirit. In such a Church, there is no de facto place for discernment and working out decisions, as everything goes on according to the “ordinances of the institution.” Despite the negative perception of the decision-making process, the changes observed in the Church (including openness to others and the ability to work out compromises) were appreciated. It was stressed that a sore point or obstacle in the co-determination process is the bureaucratization of pastoral activities and the primacy of material and official matters over spiritual ones. There has been repeated criticism of decisions made by church superiors during the pandemic (closing churches, introducing the reception of Holy Communion on the hand). As well as the lack of adequate explanation for such decisions. Another problem pointed out in the statements was the lack of transparency and “tardiness in explaining church scandals,” the weak role of lay people in parishes/dioceses based on the belief that lay people are not decision makers in church affairs. Simplification of the bureaucracy, opening up to the involvement of the laity in the management of the Church by giving them responsibility for financial or construction matters, for example, have been identified as prescriptions for the above problems. The need to define the Church’s problems was also pointed out. This form of self-diagnosis would be the beginning of the decision-making process.

1.4.9 Formation for synodality

The sense of faith of God’s people does not allow a rigid separation between the teaching Church and the learning Church, for the sheepfold also “has a nose,” allowing it to discern the new paths the Lord is opening up for the Church (cf. Pope Francis, Synodality a Constitutive Dimension of the Church, address at the ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Synod of Bishops, October 17, 2015).

Some of the participants in the meetings, both priests, people of consecrated life and lay people, approached the idea of a “synod on synodality” with a certain dose of skepticism: some were convinced that the measures taken would not change anything in the Church, others suspected that they were participating in the process of its democratic reconstruction. Meanwhile, the surprise for many participants in the sharing groups was the mutual openness, sincerity of expression and willingness to listen to each other’s individual experiences. The attitudes were devoid of tension. confrontation or mutual criticism. The presence of God’s Spirit was sensed. Many participants stressed after the meetings that they had experienced a strengthening in their faith. At the same time, it was pointed out that the lack of dialogue, listening to each other and openness to God’s Spirit in the community makes the Church become a soulless institution, solving its own problems only “humanly.”

Some participants in the meetings questioned the adequate preparation of catechists and priests to take on the tasks of teaching religion in school and parish catechization. Given these insights, it was argued that the formation of a synodal spirit among all the baptized should be expressed in concrete actions: the formation and involvement of lay people in the evangelization-catechetical and charitable dimensions. It also called for strengthening ongoing Christian formation for both priests and laity.

1.5 Summary

Meeting facilitators noted that many of their participants had prepared in advance for the questions asked. A common concern for the fate of the Church was evident in the statements. Despite the demonstrated weaknesses of the Church, pride in belonging to the community of Christ and the opportunity to engage with others was also expressed. The discovery of imperfections in the functioning of the Church was accompanied by a search for their causes and the drawing of lessons for the future.

Participants stressed that the meetings were held in a spirit of openness, kindness and sincerity. The statements of others were addressed respectfully and without polemics, despite the presentation of often differing views. Participants also showed engagement, were eager to speak, and often had too little for longer speeches. This deficiency may bear fruit in the future in the development by the faithful of a synodal process based on conversation and mutual listening.

For compliance

Director of the Department of Pastoral Care of the Metropolitan Curia in Katowice Fr. Dr. Roman Chromy

Katowice, 27.06.2022.

Diocesan synthesis (PDF version)



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