Summary of Synod proceedings in the dioceses

Archdiocese of Warmia

Diocesan synthesis (PDF version below)

1.1 Introduction

In the Archdiocese of Warmia, the synodal work was based on the already functioning institutions of the local Church. The body responsible for coordinating the synod, in addition to the coordinator appointed by the Archbishop Metropolitan of Warmia, was the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, which established the directions for consultation activities during the meeting at the beginning of the Synod. Their foundation was to be laid by parish pastoral councils, which were tasked with conducting consultations at the parish level. The Archbishop addressed a pastoral letter to diocesans at the beginning of Advent, in which he encouraged them to take part in the consultation phase. Special booklets were also prepared, which included a catechism explanation of what the Church is and its essence, encouragement to undertake their own synodal deliberations, as well as four supporting questions to help the faithful participate in the consultation phase. They sounded as follows:

  1. What is the Church for you?
  2. Is the Church an important community for you?
  3. How do you find yourself in the Church and your parish?
  4. What opportunities and dangers do you see for the Church community?

These brochures were distributed to the faithful before the start of the pastoral visit, along with the encouragement that the traditional post-Christmas time of visiting priests in the homes of their parishioners should also be an opportunity to share their own reflections about the Church based on the above questions, on which this document will also be based.

Catholic movements and associations, high school students, for whom a special catechesis on synodality was prepared, were also invited to participate in the Synod, and a special email box was set up where anyone could send their reflections related to the Church and thus take part in the consultation phase.

The diocesan consultation phase of the 16th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in the Archdiocese of Warmia was attended by about half of the parishes, many catechists, Catholic movements and associations, specialized ministries, as well as a great number of the faithful individually, mainly through e-mail or letter contact. These were very often non-practicing people who had drifted away from the Church community at some stage in their lives, and the Synod became an opportunity for them to reflect on and share their relationship to the faith and the Church.

The launch of the synodal work and the various stages of the diocesan consultation phase attracted the interest of the local media, both Catholic and secular, which made it possible to reach more people, especially those who are not practicing Catholics.

This document will present a synthesis of the gathered synodal material by grouping them according to the four questions listed above.

1.2 What is the Church for you?

The Archbishop Metropolitan of Warmia, as well as the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, jointly recognized that this question is fundamental to synodal deliberations, because in order to dialogue about the Church, one must first find common ground and determine what is meant when one talks about the Church. The gathered synodal reflection on the subject can be collected in six main points. For the faithful of the Archdiocese of Warmia, the Church is:

  1. a community, a family, a place to which one belongs thanks to the faith of parents and grandparents;
  2. home, a place of prayer and recollection;
  3. Assistance in living a life in accordance with the commandments;
  4. institution;
  5. a place where you can meet people with similar values;
  6. A place where one can unite with God.

The Pastoral Council, in analyzing the response of the faithful to this question, noted that many of them reduce the Church to an institution with secular characteristics to the exclusion of the supernatural, often forgetting that it is holy, that it is the way to salvation. However, it was gratifying to note that in many of the voices there was a proper, holistic view of the Church, seeing it as a salvific institution, called to lead the faithful to salvation. It was also evident in the voices of those who have drifted away from practicing their faith in the Church that for them it has become a purely human institution, detached, as it were, from God, with whom they can reconcile or make contact without the Church’s help.

1.3 Is the Church an important community for you?

Through this question they wanted to find out what place the Church has in the lives of the faithful, whether it is important to them, whether they feel they are members of the community. Many voices pointed out that the Church is an important community for people, a home, a place that allows them to be closer to God, a space where they can meet and pray with other people, receive the Holy Sacraments that strengthen faith. It was gratifying that most of the synodal votes were testimony to the relevance of the Church’s community in the daily lives of the faithful. It was noticeable that many of them could not live without the Church, that it is for them a place where they can move towards salvation together with their brothers and sisters.

However, there were also voices of people who stressed that the Church is not an important community in their lives, as it is just an institution they have left. Many of them gave reasons for leaving, which ranged from a personal crisis of faith, to being scandalized by various scandals in the Church, the indecent lives of priests, involvement in politics or disagreement with certain teachings preached by the Church.

Particular voices that require deeper pastoral reflection are those from believers who practice, but the Church is not an important community for them. There were voices in which synod participants said they felt no connection in their parish community to the priests serving there, but also to other people coming to Mass. Very often those sharing this insight saw fault in themselves, saying that they were not doing much to build community in their parish. Many, however, blamed this state of affairs on priests who, in their view, are not working to make their parish a true community. There were also testimonies from people involved in Catholic movements and associations, who said that the Church is an important community for them, but only because of the community to which they belong. They pointed out that during services for all parishioners they feel alienated, not like at meetings of their movement, where they experience true brotherhood in faith. The Pastoral Council, reflecting on these voices, drew attention to the need to create space in parishes for the activities of the laity, to increase their involvement in parish life, in the liturgy, as well as the importance of further developing Catholic movements and associations while integrating them into the parish and involving them in responsibility for its daily life.

1.4 How do you find yourself in the Church and your parish?

This question, strongly related to the previous one, was intended to stimulate the faithful to reflect on what place they see for themselves in the Church or their parish and whether they feel responsible for their communities. In the responses to this question, the Pastoral Council recognized the clericalism in the view of the Church that affects both priests and laity. Many of the faithful make their presence in the Church and involvement in its life dependent on the activities of priests in the parish, shifting all responsibility for the functioning of the communities to them. There was a clear connection between the quality of the priests’ pastoral work, the quality of their sermons, their approach to people, and how the faithful find their parishes. The Pastoral Council saw this as a symptom of a larger problem related to the fact that for many of the faithful, the sphere of the sacred is limited solely to the liturgy and the activities of priests, and they fail to see the sacredness of secular life, the fact that the salvific process is not limited to the liturgical sphere. Attention was paid to the need for the formation of the faithful leading them to discover the value of their baptism, the dignity they have received from it, but also their own tasks that flow from baptism. The disruption of the natural chain of transmission of the faith, which should take place primarily in the family, which is the foundation of the Church, is recognized. It is necessary to build in parents a sense that the faith formation of their children is their own task, in which they cannot be replaced by priests or catechists, but only to be supported by them. The need for priests and laity to work together in the work of evangelization, in bearing witness, in taking responsibility for the community of the Church was recognized. It called for increasing the role of the laity in ecclesiastical decision-making processes by including them in existing diocesan or parish structures and strengthening their advisory voice. The need to increase the responsibility of parish economic and pastoral councils in parish life was emphasized. The lay faithful want to be active collaborators with priests in the work of building parish communities. This includes the financial sphere of the parish. Many of the faithful called for greater transparency in this regard, pointing out that by not knowing where and for what their offerings are used, it is hard for them to identify with the parish and feel responsible for it. Many have also called for greater influence of the lay faithful in making decisions about parish investments.

They also noted the lack of formation continuity in the Church, the lack of permanent, lifelong formation, not limited solely to various pastoral actions. The need to strengthen the role of ministries given to the laity in the Church was recognized. Faced with a crisis in priestly vocations, and the need to merge parishes, the Pastoral Council found it necessary to form lay lectors, acolytes or catechists toward taking responsibility for their communities, especially where the presence of a priest is not daily.

Attention was also drawn to the need for priests and laity to work together in the work of evangelization, in the proclamation of the kerygma, in reaching out to the non-practicing, but also in forming those who regularly go to church. They stressed the importance of strengthening and forming Catholic consciousness, awakening reflection on what it means to be Catholic and what this is expressed in daily life. It emphasized the need to build a Catholic identity based on a living faith in Jesus Christ, on obedience and commitment to the life of the Church and on witnessing in daily life, in workplaces, schools, family, social groups. They recognized the opportunity that the Internet represents for evangelization, and called for an increased presence of priests and lay people.

A great many voices of the faithful were concerned with the need to take care of the liturgy. They pointed out the need to prepare services well, teach singing, and take care of church music. At the same time, many people spoke of their lack of understanding of the liturgy, of not feeling well prepared to experience it. They requested liturgical catechesis, explaining gestures, symbols, signs, but above all the purpose and meaning of the liturgy. Many have advocated preaching homilies at every Mass, including on weekdays.

An important place in the synodal reflection of many people was given to the issue of Caritas – the Church’s charitable activities. The faithful see it as an essential and inseparable part of the life of the Church, as well as a place where God’s merciful face is shown and his goodness is experienced. Many call for greater involvement of the Church in helping those most in need, but at the same time appreciate the work of diocesan Caritas, parishes and other Church institutions, if only in helping refugees from Ukraine. Many believers stressed that Caritas’ activities are an important indicator of the Church’s credibility.

1.5 What opportunities and dangers do you see for the Church community?

The last question was about specific solutions and ideas for the Church that the faithful would like to implement in their lives, or that they think the Church should guard against. The responses to this question were most varied and revealed the wide range of views and attitudes held by the faithful of our Archdiocese. There were often demands that contradicted each other. According to some, at least, the Church is too involved in current politics; according to others, it speaks too little on current issues. Some believe that the Church lacks a place and special pastoral care for divorced people living in remarriages, or for LGBT people. Others believe that the Church indulges these groups of people too much. The Pastoral Council read this as a call for intra-church dialogue, but at the same time as a further impetus to strengthen cooperation between clergy and laity in the Church’s formation and evangelization activities.

In many voices of the faithful, there was resentment against the Church and priests for not wanting or being able to listen to the laity, for being present in the parish only at Mass and in the chancery, for rejecting their initiatives in advance, for being too harsh in their sermons, addressing more to people who are not present at the liturgy, instead of helping those who participate in it. They pointed out the need to reach out to young people, to listen to them. They pointed to the lack of pastoral offerings for particular groups of the faithful, such as men, intellectuals or even divorced people. Many have pointed out the lack of consistency in the application of church law among parishes. If only in the fact that in some it is allowed to be a godfather to anyone willing to be a godfather, while in others it follows the canonical requirements.

The desire for the parish to be a community of communities, where everyone could find their place, was evident in the statements of many. Many of the faithful wrote about developing Catholic movements and associations, but also viewed the parish more broadly, not only as a community that fulfills religious purposes, but also as a place where social and cultural life can be carried out.

Many voices were raised about the position of women in the Church. The faithful called for increasing their presence in the Church’s governing bodies, admittance to ministries, to be extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, but also to be actively present if only in seminary formation.

What was mentioned earlier was repeatedly emphasized, namely the necessity for each believer to read and fulfill his own tasks in the Church, which flow from the reception of Holy Baptism. The need for a fair and responsible presence of lay Catholics in public and political life has been recognized. They stressed the need to bear witness in daily life, including by zealously and helpfully fulfilling one’s professional duties. It also called for developing pastoral care for families and supporting them in passing on the faith to their children.

1.6 Summary

In conclusion, it should be emphasized that the vast majority of the faithful who participated in the consultation phase want a more evangelical, synodal Church, in which clergy and laity work together for its good, fulfilling the salvific mission that Christ entrusted to his Church. In the Archdiocese of Warmia, there have been only isolated voices calling for a return to the pre-Socratic model of the Church. An overwhelming number of votes, consciously or not, were affirmations of the vision of the Church set forth in the documents of Vatican II. The need to discover one’s own tasks flowing from the reception of Baptism was strongly emphasized. And from his state or vocation.

During the consultation phase, many issues were raised that touched on the essence of the Church, that is, how to better, more effectively lead people to salvation, what to do to make evangelization, catechesis and formation more effective. Attention was paid to the need for greater involvement of both clergy and laity in joint action for the Church. The need to create new spaces of responsibility for the Church for the laity was emphasized. The faithful want the Church as a community, not an institution that provides religious services. They want to feel at home in the Church and their parish, to have a concrete responsibility for it, to decide on important issues for it.

The consultation phase of the synod in the Archdiocese of Warmia was based on the already existing synodal structures of the Church, both at the diocesan and parish levels. This has helped raise awareness among the faithful, clergy and laity, of the importance of these institutions and of the need to ensure their greater role and importance in the functioning of the Church. The Archbishop and members of the Pastoral Council expressed their hope that the synodal consultation phase, which has been conducted, will help the local Church undertake self-reflection and implement solutions that will contribute to its more evangelical, missionary and synodal face.

Diocesan synthesis (PDF version




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