National synthesis - Polish Bishops' Conference
nationwide (PDF version below)
HOPES, FEARS AND ANXIETIES
The task of the Universal Synod announced by Pope Francis XVI is to listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church. The process of broad consultation on the condition of the Church, to which everyone was invited, including non-Catholics, elicited various reactions, which can be boiled down to four attitudes: (1) enthusiasm and gratitude For creating space and giving opportunities to speak out in the Church, especially by the laity; (2) fear, distance and distrust Before embarking on the synodal path associated, for example, with the so-called. German way (among other proposals for doctrinal changes) and arousal of claimantism against the Church; (3) fears and disbeliefwhether we as ordinary Christians have anything to say to the Pope and whether the voice of the lay faithful will be heard at all; (4) a noticeable lack of interest among many priests, laymen and even among thriving communities whose members did not feel the need to become personally involved in the synod or only delegated representatives to attend.
These doubts and hopes are illustrated by the following sample statements: “Is it possible to reliably gather and elaborate all the voices of God’s people on this issue? And so the final eloquence of all the statements will be decided by the rapporteurs”; “What is this synod for!”; “What is its real meaning?”; “Talking about the Church is very necessary […] it responds to the deep desires of living the faith.”
Attitudes toward the synod projected a clear contestation of the synod, or at least a failure to recognize its significance. It should be noted that the synodal process failed to involve both the majority of the lay faithful and a large number of priests, who did not “participate in the synodal meetings of the decanal presbytery, ignored invitations to hold synodal meetings in their parishes, or unilaterally dominated the meetings, orienting them so that there was no opportunity to freely express their own views or comments.” Even the coercion – taking place in some dioceses – to organize a parish synodal team did not help. This conclusion should not be generalized to all priests in Poland, but nevertheless touches on an important problem of involvement in the synod. Syntheses show that enthusiasm was and is more on the side of the committed laity. The synod involved the laity more than the priests also because it was the former who gained through it the opportunity to speak out and be heard. As one participant expressed it: “The synod meeting was the first experience in my life where I was able to express myself and felt listened to.” On the other hand, “parish and community synodal teams expressed concern about disregarding the conclusions of the synodal work, for in many assessments and statements the synod still remains on the fringes of parishes and church communities.”
The very act of meeting is the first fruit of the synod. It transformed participants’ fears and anxieties into an uplifting experience. What surprised 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 and 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.” Meetings were organized in such a way as to allow for authenticity. In one diocese, where work was done primarily through the method of small team meetings (groups of 12), it was assumed that only lay people would be involved in synod meetings at the parish level. This was a deliberate move to make it easier for people who might feel uncomfortable with the presence of priests to open up. Priests, in turn, were included in their respective synodal teams working in parallel, so that in such a group – together with other priests – they could dialogue, using the same questions and thus preparing to enter into dialogue with parishioners after the cycle of four meetings. This conscious strategy shows not only that they were aware of the typical communication obstacles, but also that the synod was taken seriously and involved different expectations. In contrast, other places emphasized the value of the laity/parishioners meeting together with their pastors (primarily the pastor). They pointed out the uniqueness of such a form of building ties with and in the Church, and that the synod was a very valuable experience.
Despite sometimes opposing opinions, participants in the synodal groups appreciated the opportunity to meet, beginning and ending with prayer, and to talk freely. The meetings were permeated by a sensitivity to each other, without disputes or quarrels, and at the same time an awareness of the differences that divide the participants. “[Spotkanie] showed us what we know about each other and whether we can share and listen to it. It brought out our fears of trusting God and each other completely. This experience shows us the importance of community discernment”; “There was an atmosphere of true unity despite differences; all members were united by a desire to do good for the Church (sometimes understood differently, but always with respect for the views of others). After the meeting, many people were still talking about various topics. As the coordinator of the group, I can write that we felt the work of the Holy Spirit among us.” The synod argued that meeting without haste, when there is time to listen to each other, bears fruit.
All human life is a pilgrimage through the earth, a journey during which we meet many people. Some for a moment (a fellow passenger on a train, an expeditor in a store), others for many years (family, schoolmates, workmates). Man needs other people, he needs a community, although sometimes he fears that the community will absorb him, kill his individuality. The synod highlighted the conviction contained in the experience of faith that life is a “shared journey.” In turn, in hiking together, relationships are key. The community of faith is formed primarily by practicing it together. “The synod discussions showed that we need to grow in this walk together. How to do it? First of all, by rediscovering the relationship between the universal priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood of bishops and priests. The universal priesthood is the goal (i.e., the holiness of God’s people), and the ministerial priesthood is the tool to reach the goal.” Such reflections provided the background for expressing what “we” means in the Church.
Traveling together happens first in families. The family is the first, home Church, and is responsible for passing on the faith. We are faced with the dramatic question of whether our Church also includes our families (our domestic Church), and above all, whether there are still young people in it. What should we do so that we do not lose young people, especially those who, even if they have come out of believing families, do not want to continue on the path of the Church and do not identify with it? It is those who have disappeared who have left empty seats in the pews of parish churches. For many young people, “the Church is sad.” Young people “do not feel encouraged to participate in the life of the Church,” to receive the sacraments (especially Confirmation), the preparation for which, according to young people, is poorly conducted. “This way you don’t participate, you just ‘pass'”; “No one ever showed me that the Church is cool, I was still forced to do everything”; “It can’t be like that in the Church, that whoever is lucky, stays in it.” Young people make no secret of the fact that they give up religious practices due to lack of time, a proliferation of school and extracurricular activities, work or preoccupation with planning for the future. They also doubt the validity of the sacrament of penance. They ask: “Why should I confess to someone who also sins?”. They expect authenticity from priests, and need them not as “friends,” but as managers and spiritual fathers. “We (us adults and us priests) need to listen to what the young people we ask have answered our questions, because from the answers they give, it seems that zeal for the Church often consumes them much more than it does us.” Young people often openly cry out for greater interest in them in the design of community life, for consideration of their sensibilities and mentality.
Members of movements and communities who have formed synodal groups focus on walking together. Such a path, on the one hand, develops and enriches, but on the other, it closes to the experience of others in the Church. We declare that “our Church” is the parish and the communities to which we belong.
The synodal meetings made participants aware of the diversity of sensitivities, ways of being in the Church, and prompted them to ask what unites us. The space where everyone can come together is to pray together. It is much rarer to meet in joint action, evangelization actions. There is often doubt as to whether we are really creating a community in the parish. The lack of ties is due to the lack of involvement of priests, including the parish priest, parishioners, staying within the confines of their own formation (communities and movements are often seen as “silos of spirituality” – hermetic circles living for themselves). Unfortunately, nowadays we often lack involvement in the community, we do not notice other people, and we choose the Internet as a companion on the road or fall into another form of loneliness. So in the most general terms: there is no community and there will not be one without the involvement of each of us.
The presence of others allows us to look at our lives from a different perspective. In order for this to become possible, one must first see others, know their needs, views, talents, and be willing to help them in an effective way and with respect for human dignity. In such a context, special mention was made of those seeking an experience of faith, those hurt by the clergy and by their anti-testimony, people living in non-sacramental relationships, LGBT+ people, people caught up in addictions and refugees. A sense of remoteness on a common path is also expressed by people representing the traditionalist trend. People with disabilities, who have difficulties with mobility and are thus unable to participate fully in the life of the Church community, also sometimes feel excluded. Connectivity between generations is also lacking in the parish. Outside the community are people who are guided by a false and stereotypical image of the Church and Catholics, as well as non-practicing people for whom lingering on the periphery is convenient and their personal choice. These groups and environments are clearly of concern to us. At the same time, we ask ourselves whether pastors and committed lay faithful are too quick to give up on courting people with faith difficulties and crises.
Most of the synod participants agreed that we don’t know how to listen, that we find it difficult, preferring to speak and push our views. The synod showed that listening is also a problem in the Church. Often priests do not listen to the lay faithful because they are not interested in their needs, but only in carrying out the pastoral plan. The laity do not listen to priests or listen to them selectively. “There is no listening in the Church. Church leaders do not listen to the faithful. They only carry out their tasks and set goals […] “.
Listening is hampered by a belief in one’s own infallibility and established communication patterns. “In my parish I conducted an experiment. I organized a meeting with lay people. In small groups, the priests listened to the laity speak, but were not allowed to speak themselves. After the meeting, the vicars stressed how hard it was for them not to speak up. This shows that a priest, who is oriented towards his role as a shepherd and teacher, is often not ready to fully listen to the opinions of others.” It is also difficult to listen to each other when there is an extremely different view of the Church.
Failure to listen leads to misunderstanding, exclusion, marginalization. As a further consequence, this results in closure, simplification, mistrust and fear, which destroy the community. When priests refuse to listen, finding excuses such as a large number of classes, or when questions go unanswered, a sense of sadness and alienation arises in the heart of the lay faithful. Without listening, responses to the difficulties of the faithful are taken out of context and do not address the essence of the problems they are experiencing, becoming empty moralizing. The laity feel that the flight from sincere listening stems from the fear of having to be pastorally involved. A similar feeling grows when bishops do not have time to talk to and listen to the faithful.
In this context, the synod convinced us that in the Church – even though we sometimes have different perspectives on the Church, the parish, evangelization – it is possible to meet to listen to each other, not to argue. And it was a good, unique experience. Therefore, it was emphasized that listening cannot be reduced to parish community meetings, carols or the confessional, which – as spaces for existing meetings – were pointed out by priests. Nor is listening to data collection (a file on a carol, an interview at a law firm) seen by some people as interfering too deeply in their personal affairs or even surveillance. There is power in good listening, which must be learned. “Formation toward mission demands that we listen to each other in the Church. Until now, we have looked to the parish chancel, pastoral visitation, and possibly community meetings as opportunities to meet and talk in church. Through the synodal path, we saw that the experience of being heard has great value, and it doesn’t take extraordinary means to do so, but an inner transformation. This transformation begins with prayer, personal consideration of God’s word, and opening up to others. It also requires courage, both from the clergy whose task is to listen, and from the communities whose task is to listen to include others in the life of the Church, as well as from those who have not spoken in the Church so far, to begin to speak frankly and without fear.”
During the synod, we realized that there is a lack of space in the Church where the voice of the laity is listened to and heard. “The lack of openness to a frank exchange of opinions and discussion causes me, as a person who is a member of the Catholic Church, to lose enthusiasm and motivation to engage with its structures, because my voice is most simply disregarded or ignored.” Synod participants were often accompanied by uncertainty about whether their voices would be heard. For many, the synodal consultation was their first opportunity to speak. Especially people who do not belong to any communities or movements, but pray every day in the community of the parish church, approached them with great enthusiasm.
The faithful mainly focused on articulating what hurts them in the Church community at the general and local levels, that is, mainly in the parish. So we talked a lot about “wounds of the Church.” “Participants in the synod meetings shared a picture of a Church wounded, affected by scandals and human misery, whose sinful side related to human weakness often causes depravity and suffering. It is a Church that is often helpless, affected by the shock of change, which often frustrates the faithful, resembling more a mismanaged institution than a community led by articulate shepherds.” Images of the Church illustrating its institutional rather than communal nature were presented: “a vehicle in need of major repair,” “old, timid and tired,” “a concubine of the state,” “an institution without cordiality,” “an organization with a supposedly religious character,” “something for the older generations.” The belief was expressed that “the Church is detached from life, boring, too little is said about doubt and what faith means to us.” It was pointed out that it was dominated by “empty words, life and words do not go hand in hand,” and that “difficult issues in the Church (abuse of power, sex scandals) make it difficult to find oneself in the community.”
In the consultations and syntheses, the harsh criticism of the priests, based primarily on their own parish experiences, was heard very clearly. We perceive the pastor as an absent and uninvolved person, while on the other hand we are aware that we need him very much and are looking for guides on the paths of our faith. Our attitude toward priests clearly reveals the tension between expectations and desires on the one hand and unpleasant realities on the other.
The laity notice and highly value in their priests a consciousness of vocation, deep faith, true piety, living according to principles, attention to worship and teaching, concern for people, love for the Church, apolitical while engaging in social issues, selflessness and, above all, authenticity and witness. Examples were cited of zealous priests, especially parish priests, thanks to whom the pastoral ministry and parish community are developing. At the same time, the lay faithful perceive in priests a lack of faith and authentic piety, materialism, violation of moral principles, lack of sensitivity to people’s needs, poor quality of relations with the parish and local community, an erroneous anthropological vision, revealed in an extremely negative understanding of man, and, finally, a lack of building relationships among themselves and neglect of their own formation. This view of priests reveals a profound contrast between the “truly committed priest” and the “delegated priest.” He raves about the “phenomenon of the unbelief of priests” who have “lost God” or sometimes show that the Church is “a giant business, a financial syndicate,” which translates into a sense of “not yet physical, but already spiritual shortage of priests.” The synodal consultations emphasized the deep-rooted and widespread clericalism, for which not only presbyters are responsible, but also laymen who reinforce such attitudes among priests.
“While expressing often harsh criticism of priests and demanding changes, we clearly emphasize that they flow from a concern for the Church and a desire for charismatic priests who, through the word they preach and the example of their own lives, would draw the faithful to God and attract them to the Church.”
The criticism was accompanied by a reflection on the need to pray for and support presbyters in their work and for the laity to develop a not at all universal willingness to take joint responsibility for the parish. The voice of criticism translated into the formulation of specific pastoral demands. Among them, the need to preach catechesis to adults, to develop pastoral care that responds to the authentic needs of the faithful, to strengthen (or build from scratch) pastoral care for children, youth, families and the elderly as untapped potential in parish life, to extend pastoral care to people who remain to varying degrees on the periphery of the Church (especially those living in non-sacramental relationships, people with disabilities and, less frequently, LGBT+) were commonly mentioned. These demands largely boil down to the ability to read the spiritual needs of parishioners.
At this point, it must be emphasized that the expectations for pastoral care that emerged from the synod have nothing to do with a “service” vision of the Church. On the contrary. The demands formulated revealed a longing for community, ties and good shepherds who can accompany the faithful on the path of their faith.
An important space for believers to speak out is Catholic media and new forms of communication. We see the need for a nationwide, thriving, professional portal, radio, television program on Christian issues, with the possibility of interaction of interlocutors from different religious and cultural backgrounds. We emphasize the role of new media in communicating with the faithful and the need to use them in the new evangelization (e.g., creating online applications, broadcasting worship services). Also important is the smoothness of the transition from online ministry, which has become a necessity in the era of the pandemic, to a ministry based essentially on face-to-face encounter.
The synod also revealed the tension between the Church’s vocation to create spaces for dialogue and the practice of living in such spaces. The Church should be a community in which there is always a place for everyone, living according to the spirit of the Gospel, standing up for the weak, the wronged, the discriminated and ready to come to their aid. It is a Church that is open to people who, for various reasons, are not in full communion with it, but who wish to mature in faith. Such a “Church of dialogue is open to the intrinsic diversity of forms of living the faith, which do not “compete” with each other, but complement each other. He is open to conversations with the outside world and does not lock himself into elite groups. Accepts differences in social and political views. He is patient in social dialogue. Determined where someone’s dignity is taken away. He communicates in accessible language that relates to people’s experience. He avoids abstract justifications, hermetic concepts and pompous speeches.”
This vision clashes with our daily experience. Difficulties in engaging in dialogue relate to clergy-secular relations. Priests and laymen live in two different, separate worlds – environmental bubbles. Priests and bishops often fail to understand that in order to evangelize, they must confront the world outside the space of their own rectory (curia) and enter into dialogue with the laity/parishioners to include those who remain on the periphery of the Church. Divisions in the Church also run between priests themselves and among the laity. Examples include criticism of the synod, the teachings of Pope Francis, favoring a certain image of the Church, as represented by various bishops, or sometimes fierce disputes during pandemonium, such as over how to receive Holy Communion. Each group trenches on its own positions, considering other points of view as harmful to the Church.
Listening, speaking and dialogue require us not only to create the right space, but also the language of communication. The Church has not kept up with the changes taking place in the ways of interpersonal communication, and in this regard the clergy should also be supported by the laity. The problem is the language used in the Church. We see it as hermetic, self-centered and detached from reality. The language used to convey the content of the faith to young people in religious lessons and sermons is often characterized by anachronism, artificiality and, as a result, low communicativeness. Among many youngsters it is sometimes an object of ridicule. “The language of the pastoral letters of the bishops and episcopate is incomprehensible, there is too much instruction and theory in them, not enough sharing of the faith”; “Priests and bishops are not listening to the needs of their listeners.”
The content presented in this section is well reflected in a brief statement made by a young person during the synodal consultation: “The church is like an apartment with separate rooms that do not even connect with each other by walls. Different groups are gathered in each room: young people, non-believers, priests, parishioners, the bishop. Theoretically they are together, but in fact – separately. Between the two is a cold corridor that no one wants to go out into, for fear of losing the warmth of their room. There are also people in the cold corridor. Since they cannot enter any room, they start to leave the apartment. What makes the apartment look like this is the lack of willingness to understand others. The apartment is in need of renovation. Restoration is about building roads that lead to Christ. It can only be carried out by people who notice the current situation.”
The liturgy is the center of the faith experience. The beauty of the liturgy lived in community helps to experience God, is a source of communion with Him and helps to abide in it every day. The liturgy builds the parish community. Evangelization also depends on the beauty of the liturgy. During the liturgy, regardless of formation, commitment, priorities and daily choices, we can be together and build a sense of unity in our diversity. This results in high expectations for the liturgy.
We wish to experience it in a beautiful and careful way. We see the need for greater attention to liturgical celebrations, especially Sunday Mass – this is “one of the most important challenges for the entire local community.” Verbal (words) and non-verbal (gestures, postures, vestments, temple decor) messages are important in celebrations. During the synodal consultations, there was a call for greater concern for ars celebrandi on the part of sacramental ministers. Attention was drawn to the need to eliminate perceived haste, abbreviated Mass (e.g., chants limited to one stanza), routine, lack of commitment, and the temptation to “treat the celebration quantitatively rather than qualitatively.” It was demanded that singing during liturgies and services be well prepared. The importance of good lectors, organ playing, and schola was emphasized. It is also important to follow liturgical norms.
During the synod, the problem of the low level of homilies preached resounded. It was raised that Catholic social teaching is not presented properly, so that many people perceive taking up the subject as political preaching, sometimes even with personal references. Also discouraged is the moralistic tone of homilies, which have no place for the Good News and kerygma. Priests in many cases are unprepared to preach the word of God. Sermons often lack not only a deep explanation of the Word read and the truths of the faith, but also any reference to the Bible. It is not uncommon for celebrants to read other people’s texts, downloaded from the Internet, to preach sermons or homilies that are too short or too long and convoluted, thereby disrespecting or even insulting their listeners. The faithful greatly appreciate these places, where a short homily is preached every day during Mass, explaining the word of God that is read. They stressed the need to preach short homilies on weekdays, “daily, albeit three-minute meditations on the word of God.” The faithful also pointed out the misunderstanding of liturgical signs. Therefore, they call for the introduction of commentaries and liturgical catechesis.
Another issue being addressed is the opportunity to meet with God in silence before the Blessed Sacrament, which involves opening churches outside of liturgy time. Those who participated in the consultations and synod meetings recognize the deep need for a moment of adoration in silence after receiving Holy Communion. Extremely appreciated is the possibility of all-day adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and where this does not exist, it is advocated. Priests’ participation in services or adoration is seen as their testimony. “First Sunday of the month – exposition of the Blessed Sacrament from hrs. 1 pm to 1 am. 17.00. The faithful come, there are no crowds, but someone is always watching. We have never seen a priest appear even for a moment.”
Not only clergy should be involved in the liturgy. The importance of the involvement of lay people was emphasized: altar servers, acolytes, ceremonialists, lectors. The need for active inclusion in the liturgy also applies to people with disabilities.
The synod also revealed differences in approaches to the form of the liturgy. Some of the faithful called for the creation of more places to participate in the liturgy celebrated in the extraordinary rite (the so-called traditional form). In their view, in the face of frequent liturgical neglect, this form guarantees the quality and sanctity of the celebration, and at the same time helps more in the personal sanctification of those participating.
Evangelization is the primary goal of the Church. “In the spirit of evangelization, we see a desire to take a greater interest in those “standing on the sidelines”, less involved in the life of the Church, so that all would experience close relationships, break through anonymity, and consequently become more actively involved in the life of the Church community and discover Christ living in the Word and sacraments.” However, during consultations and in diocesan syntheses, the issue of the Church’s mission appears relatively rarely. Evangelization is very difficult for us, and often simply absent. The reason for this is not a lack of desire or motivation, but the very nature of evangelization, which is realized through ties and relationships, and this is lacking in our parish communities. “In order to be “more together” and evangelize effectively, we need to learn others again and again: how to listen to them to understand what they want to tell us, and how to speak to them so that they understand what we want to tell them.” Many people also feel unprepared for missions and evangelization. The laity lacks proper formation and basic religious knowledge.
The theme of missions emphasized the “rupture” between the world of clergy and laity. “It is not surprising, then, that many clergy lack good experiences of cooperation with the laity, and it can be quite easy for them to develop a tendency to treat us [the laity] ‘down’.” Many communities or movements do not prepare the laity to be preachers of the Good News, do not show what the kerygma is, and do not teach how to share the faith. The [naszym] Church rarely treats the laity as partners in evangelization. And yet it is we, the laity, who are the “soldiers on the front line” in the fight for this world. Meanwhile, we are not being taken seriously.”
It is also not uncommon to feel helpless in the face of the rapid changes taking place in the reality around us. Often we are simply afraid. “Nowadays, just openly admitting in a secular setting to regular religious practice can be a serious challenge for some,” or, as one youth group noted, “being a practicing Christian today is old-fashioned, [więc] I don’t lean with my religiosity.”
We are aware that ecumenism is a significant challenge for the Church. “Based on the assumption that if someone is not against us, he is with us – we should look for what unites us, not divides us, and take from others what is good, learn, and give good testimony with our behavior.” On the other hand, however, we are concerned about whether ecumenical activities are leading to a “dilution of Catholicism.” Ecumenical attitudes are discouraged by the belief that they can lead “sometimes to Protestantization and the reproduction of activities, religious practices and ways of praying that are foreign to the Catholic spirit.”
In our experience of the Church, ecumenism is essentially non-existent. Participants in the synod meetings had little to say on the matter. In some syntheses, this topic was not mentioned at all or marked marginally. If it appeared, it was more as a report on “top-down” initiatives, usually organized outside our parish. Ecumenism in Poland refers primarily to those who live next door or together with representatives of other faiths.
New ecumenical challenges, however, were brought about by the war in Ukraine. “The real synodal dialogue took place and is still being actualized at railroad stations, in state and local government structures, and above all in the open homes of Poles, who were able to take in needy Ukrainians and help them, without regard to hardship or cost. This allows us to think with hope about the various dimensions of dialogue, mixed marriages and other such challenges.” “With the current migration from Ukraine, ecumenism is no longer a theoretical topic for our parishes. Relationships with Orthodox Christians living next door to us should be deepened. Hence, the need for catechesis on other faiths and proposals for ecumenical meetings (prayers) at the parish level is indicated.”
POWER AND RESPONSIBILITY
The Synod confirmed that we respect and value hierarchical authority in the Church. We believe that decisions in the Church should be made by those who are called to do so, and they should take responsibility for them. The faithful understand and do not question the role that the Pope, the bishops and all the clergy play in the Church. We pay our respects to those who have received the sacrament of Holy Orders or the gift of consecrated life. We do not want to take over the authority of bishops and presbyters. On the contrary: we want to have confidence in them and treat them as shepherds. We feel responsible for them. We are aware of the need to support our shepherds with prayer, as their mission is not easy.
Power is not only a responsibility, but above all a service. Authority, responsibility and service must be formed by love. This applies to all levels of the hierarchy – bishops, pastors, priests, deacons. This also applies to consecrated persons. Authority in the Church is there to serve the mission of the Church first and foremost. “We ourselves, our beliefs and life choices, are the fruit of the Church’s mission.” Power also requires trust, which is born of credibility. That’s why we would like to have authentic shepherds around us, living their faith and making it known that they are growing spiritually. We expect a clear lead from them. Especially today, in difficult times of relativization of values and multiplicity of media messages, we expect a concrete voice of the bishops and a coherent episcopal position.
The contact between shepherds and the faithful is extremely important. We expect “bishops to be closer to ordinary people to talk to, because in the current form only a select few have access to the bishop.” And unfortunately there is a lack of contact between the bishops and the faithful. We complain that the bishop “during the canonical visitation is limited to a formal meeting with the pastoral council and a narrow representation of parish groups, almost always under the watchful eye of the pastor.” 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 lived by the faithful and parish communities.
We lack contact between the curia and the priests in the parishes. We see “a low level of mutual trust, a poor flow of information between the curia and parishes, and a lack of dialogue between the bishop and the presbyters and laity.” We are aggravated that “many times priests do not respect the bishop’s decision.” Clergy and church structures often follow the logic of “top-down planning.” “Matters of spiritual life are determined and suggested by the primates, diocesan programs. Pastors most often accept this, taking the appointed, planned and ready actions, thus absolving themselves of invention. This sometimes leads to situations in which these activities do not match the specific local reality or are unable to induce the intended ‘upfront’ effects.” “The Church is dominated by an anachronistic one-way communication model,” and we demand a “culture[y] of feedback.”
We have a slightly different perception of authority and responsibility at the parish level. We can give very many examples of fruitful cooperation between parish pastors and lay people. We tend to perceive pastors as open-minded and engaged people “to talk to.” However, the model of parish leadership often does not suit us, especially the “dominant role of the priest in everything.” “It is accepted that the parish belongs to the parish priest, and he is the one who makes all decisions.” Here one can clearly see the difference in the understanding of responsibility for the parish. The laity understands it primarily as a responsibility for another human being. Priests, on the other hand, and especially parish priests, often prioritize their responsibility for the church (the broader parish economy) over their responsibility for the Church writ large. As a result, delegating the laity to various tasks, from economic to organizational or evangelization, comes with great difficulty to most priests – especially pastors.
This gives rise to a desire to better arrange mutual cooperation between laymen and priests. We have already learned that we need greater synodality, so that unity, respect and co-responsibility of clergy and laity grow in the Church, so that the subjectivity of all the baptized becomes more evident. During the synod, it became clear that there are many places in Poland where the faithful are ready to take responsibility for the parish. However, there are also communities where parishioners are not mentally prepared for this or simply do not want to take joint responsibility for some parish issues. This often turns into an attitude of passivity among the faithful and a “consumer-service” approach to the community. “In the consciousness of the faithful, the one who has power has everything. Power is ceded to the clergy, possibly to a few lay people working with them. All forms of involvement and active participation are attributed to the authorities, while the faithful adopt the attitude of passive participants.” This “consumerist” approach to the Church is so entrenched that various incentives for shared responsibility are not working.
Parish councils, both pastoral and economic, by the way, very often indistinguishable from each other, were a topic discussed at the synod. “In order to grow in common spiritual discernment, it is necessary, first of all, to revitalize already existing synodal structures in the Church, such as parish councils, which are often “a sham,” i.e., the “parish councils. exist only on paper and have no concrete contribution to the life of the parish or diocese, or are not appointed at all. They should be more effective, look for new ways to listen to everyone’s voice.” We see the lack of parish councils as a clear message “that parish priests do not want advice from lay people, who often have a better idea of finances.” It seems to us that the councils should include people who are active in the life of the parish community, including people from the periphery who can bring something new to parish ministry with their critical voice. We also lack a “female perspective” in parish councils. Often laymen have better training in economics and finance than clergy. “In the synod’s conclusions, there is a demand that pastors respect greater autonomy during the work of parish councils in their areas of operation. Sometimes, instead of a substantive discussion during meetings with parish councils, there is a statement by the parish priest: “Because I order it that way.”
We consider the practical aspect of authority and responsibility in the Church to be financial issues. In our opinion, there is a lack of transparency in this area. Here we see the peculiarities of the Church in Poland, which subsists on the sacrifices of the faithful. In many countries the matter is more transparent, for example, the faithful pay a tax. However, during the consultations, we repeatedly expressed our belief that the Polish funding model is more favorable due to the educational dimension. This is because it teaches to love, to share what God gives, or to see material goods as means to salvation. Such a model, however, requires financial transparency all the more. An additional issue that, according to many, negatively affects our parishes is the so-called “”parish”. Price lists, i.e., the introduction of designated fees for the sacraments.
FORMATION FOR SYNODALITY
The synod brought out the expectation of change in the Church – concerning the way it functions, not doctrine or structure. We need change to carry out our mission in the modern world. This need is not only related to the institution of the Church, but includes all of us – laity and clergy alike. We all have a lot of work to do here. First of all, we should be more concerned about personal conversion. We need to learn to walk together to renew the community of the Church.
However, a reluctance to change is born in some of us. Changes create anxiety. Such attitudes are clear. They are reinforced by the negative views on the so-called “negative”. german synodal road. From this perspective, formation in synodality is associated with something dangerous. It is better to maintain the status quo and preserve the existing forms, which were supposed to be the answer to the contemporary problems and crisis of the universal and local Church.
Synodality is not an easy task. “The synodal path in our parish is born in pain. At the halfway point of our synodal meetings, we can only confirm that we are sailing into completely new waters, fascinating for some, threatening for others.” However, we should move together in this direction. Because synodality makes us feel heard, encouraged to be involved and responsible. “It is also a very important signal to the faithful – we are all the ones who make up the Church, we are all responsible for it, we should all build it up and be concerned about its affairs and mission.” With our commitment, we will attract other people. “Participants in the synodal process are convinced that the enthusiasm of faith is a magnet that can effectively attract others – it helps them see the parish as an open and warm home where everyone is welcome”; “These meetings changed us, made us more sensitive to the other, to the Church. The Synod is for us. We discovered that we are a part of the Church, and thus became aware of our co-responsibility for the affairs of the Church, for its vitality, and asked ourselves – what can I do for the Church.” The synod gave a new space and brought a new quality of communication. He allowed an authentic meeting. He hinted at transcending stereotypes and prejudices. He engaged us. Some, thanks to these meetings, have gone on a transformational journey from fear to hope, from uncertainty to the courage to speak up.
For synodality in the Church to develop, we need further formation. “One can see a great desire to deepen the faith and experience it anew. Therefore, on the one hand, participants in the synodal meetings were very eager to share their testimony of faith, and on the other hand, they pointed out the need for spiritual and intellectual formation.”
The synod in Poland was a process. We ourselves learned from the beginning what it should be about. The commitment and openness that has been fostered among the lay faithful calls for continuation in the form of further work in parishes, communities and dioceses. The idea of establishing a Synodal Movement is a real opportunity for the spirit aroused during the synod not to dim. Such a movement can also become a space for finding practical solutions to implement the demands contained in this synthesis.
The synodal consultations at various levels were mainly attended by the faithful already involved in parish life, members of communities, as well as parishioners who were practicing and previously not directly involved in parish activities. The synod, although it happened in every diocese, was not a universal experience. Looking from the broader perspective of the peculiarities of Polish Catholicism, and especially the importance of the Church, it can be said that the synod in Poland was a “minority event.” Just reaching out to people who rarely practice or are outside the Church was a huge difficulty.
A major organizational effort preceded the preparation of the diocesan syntheses. At the parish level, the scale of involvement varied. Between 30 and 65 percent of the synodal meetings were held. parishes, depending on the diocese. Local coordinators in parishes made up a group of more than 6,800. individuals. In parishes, the synod was coordinated mostly by priests. Lay women were the next largest group of coordinators, followed by lay men. At the parish level, the most important form of consultation was synodal group meetings, which were organized in all dioceses (ISKK has data on the organization of synodal consultations from 38 out of 45 dioceses and eparchies in Poland). It can be estimated that they participated About 50,000. people.
At the diocesan level, the most popular form of consultation was synodal meetings, which in total were held over a thousand and attended by more than 15 thousand. people. The synod also held lectures, individual talks, school catechesis, panel meetings, radio broadcasts, retreats, and published newspaper articles. Several dioceses also held synod meetings online. In about half of the dioceses, a questionnaire (or questionnaires) was offered and completed by about 30,000. people. More than half of the dioceses have provided email boxes or a contact form, to which more than 12 thousand. letters. Priests were most often responsible for organizing consultations at the diocesan level. Another large group among diocesan coordinators were lay women and lay men. The function of contact persons was also undertaken by bishops, nuns and religious brothers. Dioceses informed about the synod on their websites. For the most part, special web pages dedicated to the synod have been created.
At the national level, the ISKK has organized six online consultations with diocesan contact persons (every month from October 2021 to March 2022). An important stage in the preparation of the national synthesis was two consultation meetings for more than 20 diocesan contacts (April 2, 2022 in Warsaw) and local coordinators (April 9, 2022 also in Warsaw).
The national synthesis was based on diocesan syntheses, which summarized the consultation stage at the parish level, in communities, as well as individual voices. Although the language and style of the diocesan syntheses vary, the topics, problems and issues addressed are very similar. Some were dominated by a pragmatic approach, paying attention to practical demands and the need for changes in behavioral standards. The vast majority of syntheses, however, presented the experiences and the experiences surrounding the synod. Many of the syntheses contained the spiritual fruits of the synodal process itself, while the postulates and guidelines came from the experiences and desires of the faithful. In this approach, the addressee of the demands was not an unspecified group of people or a “generalized institution.” Rather, they were a manifestation of responsibility and concern for a particular local community (parish) and for the Church as a whole.
The syntheses flowed from all dioceses and eparchies in Poland, with the exception of four. Two of these four dioceses did not prepare a synthesis due to a diocesan synod initiated earlier. Quoted excerpts from the syntheses have been included in the national synthesis without indicating the source (the diocese from which they come).
The national synthesis was created as the fruit of methodical accompaniment of dioceses on the synodal path. Its authors – Prof. Kaja Kazmierska, prof. Marcin Yevdokimov, Rev. Dr. Wojciech Sadłoń SAC and Luiza Organek – accompanied the dioceses on the synodal journey from the beginning, suggested solutions and methods, and personally participated in the synod. Our task was to synthesize the voices that emerged from the consultations and were included in the diocesan syntheses. In the methodology adopted, we relied on the guidance of the Vademecum on the Synodal Way and consultation with the Methodological Commission of the General Secretariat of the Holy See Synod. In the country synthesis, we intentionally use the first person to show that the content contained therein reflects the collective voice of those participating in the synod.
This voice is not just a collection of opinions about the Church, but expresses spiritual needs and reveals the spiritual sensitivity of those taking part in the consultation, which stems from living faith. Thus, the synthesis is the fruit of a spiritual process of discernment that was permeated by prayer and involved the sincere sharing of one’s own experiences in openness to the Holy Spirit. Of course, the synthesis does not exhaust the depth of spiritual experience resulting from the Christian faith. For the experience of Christian faith is based on such a personal and intimate relationship with God in the community of the Church that it cannot be fully expressed and communicated through colloquial language.
The immediate methodological basis for the preparation of the country synthesis was a thematic analysis of content and contrasting content against the selected synthesis. The synthesis analysis also used the Atlas.ti tool and applied a quantitative approach to estimate the saturation of individual codes, as shown in the charts on the following pages.
national (PDF version – for mobile devices)
national (PDF version)
Summaries of the synodal process in other dioceses, parishes and the perspective of participants in synodal meetings
Diecezja gliwicka obchodzi w tym roku 30. rocznicę istnienia (bulla Jana Pawła II Totus Tuus Poloniae populus – 25 marca 1992). Diecezjalny etap drogi synodalnej jest okazją do słuchania i dialogu na poziomie lokalnym – diecezjalnym. Zgodnie z Vademecum synteza jest aktem rozeznania i wkładem w następny etap procesu synodalnego: „W tym sensie synteza nie tylko informuje o wspólnych tendencjach i punktach zbieżnych, ale także uwypukla te punkty, które trafiają w sedno, inspirują oryginalny punkt widzenia lub otwierają nowy horyzont”.
Synodalne Spotkania Konsultacyjne w parafii p.w. Nawiedzenia Najświętszej Maryi Panny w Wożuczynie zostały przeprowadzone w trzech sesjach. Pierwsza z nich odbyła się
5 grudnia 2021 r. pt. „Słuchanie – mówienie – celebracja”. Druga miała miejsce 12 grudnia 2021 r. i jej hasłem przewodnim było: „Misja – dialog – ekumenizm”. Trzecia, ostatnia sesja odbyła się 9 stycznia 2022 r. i nosiła nazwę „Władza i synodalność”. Łącznie we wszystkich sesjach prac synodalnych na poziomie parafii uczestniczyło 35 osób. Pracowały one w 4 małych grupach, spośród których jedna z nich stanowiła grupę młodzieży starszej, zaś pozostałe trzy składały się z osób dorosłych. Niniejsza synteza jest zebraniem wszystkich wniosków poszczególnych grup ze wszystkich sesji. Dla usystematyzowania treści, wnioski zostały podzielone na trzy bloki, według tematyki każdej sesji.
Decyzję o udziale w spotkaniach synodalnym podjęliśmy świadomie, zdając sobie sprawę, że jest to okazja do wyrażenia własnych opinii na tematy ważne dla Kościoła. Podczas kolejnych spotkań odkryliśmy w praktyce, że ich struktura (modlitwa do Ducha Świętego, lektura Pisma Świętego, życzliwe wsłuchiwanie się w wypowiedzi innych i wskazywanie, co szczególnie poruszyło nas w tym, co słyszymy) prowadzi do wartościowych wniosków niekiedy całkiem odmiennych od założeń, z którymi docieraliśmy na spotkania synodalne. Dla nas to dowód na działanie Ducha Świętego i głęboką wartość spotkań synodalnych.
Stwierdzam, że szczególną wartością w Kościele jest aktywna obecność duszpasterzy starających się zaktywizować tych parafian, którzy jeszcze przychodzą do świątyni. Skupiają się głównie na prowadzeniu duszpasterstwa sakramentów. Wartością są także wierni, którzy żyją we wspólnotach jak Święta Rodzina w pokorze, prostocie i uwielbieniu Boga, i w których drugi to Chrystus. Słabością natomiast jest zanik duszpasterstwa ewangelizacji, gdyż nie dostrzegam działań duszpasterzy wśród ludzi, którzy do świątyni przestali przychodzić.