Summary of the Synod's progress in the dioceses

Power and participation

The synodal Church is a participatory and co-responsible Church.

Who in our Church makes the decisions and what do they involve? Is it exclusively a form of individual chairmanship or is there a community dimension to it as well? Is there teamwork, and in this context, is lay involvement promoted, such as in pastoral and economic councils, in community leadership? Are we willing to take shared responsibility for decisions and actions?

Wszystkie syntezy w jednym dokumencie PDF

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 Bishops’ contact with 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 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 “priest’s dominant role 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 The passivity of the faithful and the “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. “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. 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 the voice of all.” 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 because of 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.

[Source: https://synod.org.pl/synteza-krajowa/]

1.1 Authority and participation

1.1.1 How are the goals to be pursued, the path to achieve them and the steps to be taken determined?

– The setting of goals in the universal church belongs to the Pope, in the national church to the episcopate, within a diocese to the bishop, and within a parish to the pastor.

– The Church of the 21st century should help those in need and solve the challenges of the modern world – pandemics, environmental degradation or hybrid war and migration. Great work in this regard is being done by a number of organizations, such as “Aid to the Church in Need,” raising funds and helping not only Christians in countries where there are wars or people are experiencing some kind of drama.

– In the synodal style, decisions are made by discernment, based on consensus flowing from shared obedience to the Holy Spirit.

– During bishops’ synod, discernment in prayer

– The goals are defined in terms of the audience, the work, the time we are in and the cultural reality. It is always the goal of parish community activities to integrate faith into personal life, and to show that indeed the Church is a unique home where everyone can find their place.

– During parish council meetings, carol meetings with parishioners, individual meetings where you can make suggestions.

– The term “authority” in the church has a negative resonance for me. I prefer the word “service” and “responsibility.” The purpose of the Church is defined. And for this, we need to establish activities to reach as many people as possible since we share responsibility for others. You can reach out in different ways through different ministries. Each community is different and needs different activities. Each parish is a different specificity, and this is where you should determine what to do and how to do it. There is a need for activation at different levels of life, activation of different communities.

– The goal should be discerned together, because then we will pursue it together. By inviting all the people who make up the Church to take steps, we will make them feel responsible. Good communication is needed for this.

1.1.2 How is authority exercised in our particular Church?

– In the particular church, it belongs to the diocesan bishops. It is very separate from the lives of lay people. Being close to the Church, working in its structures, knowing the hierarchy of power, I can’t tell how power is exercised. But this, too, is due to little involvement of lay people in understanding or obtaining information.

Decisions in the particular church are made by the metropolitan, who heads the ecclesiastical metropolis. The diocese is headed by a diocesan bishop, supported by an auxiliary bishop, followed by a dean who heads a deanery, and in the parish area a parish priest assisted by vicars.

– In our particular Church, we associate authority with service, upholding values, principles and order. Final decisions are made by the parish priest after prior consultation with parishioners, communities, the Parish Council, and he takes responsibility for it. We can see how in particular churches much depends on how the function of the pastor and priests is carried out.

– The priest comes first and is always right, even when he is not right (clericalism).

Unfortunately, it is often despotic power, sometimes accompanied by denunciations and jealousy. However, it is important to appreciate all the efforts and hardships made by those in charge, aimed at the welfare of the community and taking care of what the community has. However, looking through the lens of faith, even a difficult experience of being misunderstood or mistreated can be used as a difficult grace sometimes also much needed to look at what is really important in a different way.

– Clericalism remains a constant temptation for priests who interpret the ministry they receive as power rather than selfless and generous service.

– Some priests are burned out professionally, but they are afraid to admit it.

– In my parish, the authority is the parish priest, I always associate it that way, and what the authority is depends on the character and openness of the parish priest.

– Power is exercised hierarchically: pope-cardinals-bishops-priests-the faithful. Such a structure is not always conducive to the bringing of new initiatives by the faithful, often taking up the subject of changing something in the Church by the laity is met with a “wall” of schematization, conservatism, misunderstanding, in which there is no room for innovation, lack of flexibility consistent with obedience to the Church. This approach of power does not always equate to opportunities for development and maturation.

1.1.3 What are the practices of teamwork and shared responsibility?

– The practice of teamwork is almost non-existent, so co-responsibility is diluted. unless it is work done for the parish, where it is easier to have co-responsibility.

Among the practices of teamwork we can include congresses, retreats, symposia, parish councils, work at the parish church led by the parish priest.

1.1.4 How are lay ministries and the taking of responsibility by the faithful promoted?

– In some parishes the laity is very much involved, in some it is to a small extent, and they are mostly still the same people.

– The laity are undoubtedly noticed and have an impact on various matters. Sometimes it is financial support, but they also get involved in various works for their church: from repair work to, for example, writing the parish chronicle, or helping to maintain the parish website…. The problem may be that the laity is not very involved, and hence the activity of only a certain, still the same group of the faithful, in the absence of greater involvement of the general public.

– The parish council, or the various teams that meet on the occasion of upcoming important events or celebrations, works very well. There is a very high proportion of lay people in our parish community, this is due to the large number of groups operating at the parish. Each group, in addition to its formation meetings, is often involved in activities within the life of the whole parish, this stimulates activity as well as further links with the parish. Above all, lay people are encouraged to take up the ministries of lectors, altar servers, animators in the Oasis community, schola leaders, and those responsible for prayer communities.

1.1.5 How do synodal bodies function at the level of the particular Church?

– They do not function in the parish.

– There was one announcement after Mass that the synod was starting.

– At my parish, no one said anything or invited anyone to anything.

– The work of the synod began with the Eucharist celebrated by the Shepherd of the Archdiocese. Appointment of diocesan team coordinator. The work of parish teams under the leadership of a coordinator in the parish.

– There are various synodal bodies in the particular Church. Mostly they involve clergy, especially the higher church hierarchy. There are also councils for economic affairs, mediation or pastoral councils, in which lay people can also participate. At the level of our parish, it is the parish council or even the community council. The parish synodal team, which will most likely develop into some permanent form of cooperation with the priests of our parish, is also working efficiently.

– Synodal bodies promote the synod’s cause too little. It would be worthwhile to undertake broader initiatives telling people about the ongoing synod, such as posters at parishes

– No such bodies. The parish is shrinking year by year. There is a lack of people who are genuinely committed and concerned about the affairs of the parish. Calls and attempts by the pastor to renew various groups often fail. It is more convenient for the faithful to watch from the sidelines and possibly comment quietly on what is going on than to get involved in the work of the parish.

1.1.6 Are they a fruitful experience?

– I have no opinion. This is a new experience and its fruits are yet to be seen.

– They prompt the faithful to reflect on the condition of the Church, the role of the faithful in the Church. They mobilize efforts to improve its activities, including evangelization.

– I think that most of the faithful, or at least those attending only the Sunday eucharist, have no idea what the synod is, what its goals are know and that you can fill out a form on the curia’s website, etc. Also, the clergy’s communication with the faithful in the context of the synod is poor.

– I think that any synodal experience always gives greater discernment-so it is a fruitful experience, because it gives some view of the reality of the Church.

– People I have spoken to are disappointed by the lack of interest from the clergy in this synod,

– Some of my acquaintances, after reading a this survey, gave up their desire to answer questions worded this way because of their lack of understanding.

– Yes, I could get to know the questions and answer them if possible. Courtesy of others, I was able to complete the questionnaire on the computer. (not everything is understandable to me)

– I don’t know, but I know people who participate and I can see their joy in doing so and their satisfaction. I heard from one such person that at these meetings you can feel the work of the Holy Spirit, which is, after all, what this is all about.

– That remains to be seen after the synod. Determining this matter in advance is an impossible task. It’s all about the cause-and-effect sequence. It is not known in advance whether my demands will reach the Pope. Maybe someone will filter them out beforehand? It is also possible that my words will reach the addressee and something will change in the Church. It is impossible to determine this, while writing these words, because it is currently a distant future.

[Source: https://synod.org.pl/archidiecezja-bialostocka/]

1.1 Activity in the life of the Church

For a significant number of participants in synod meetings, the context of the statements was a positive image of the Church from the past – from childhood or youth. In most cases, he has led these individuals to their current involvement in community life. Concern for the welfare of the Church and the desire for repair were the impulses that led them to participate in the synodal discussion itself. Active participation in the parish life of the Church was a measure of the dynamism that characterized the community. Without the active participation of the laity, the Church becomes dead and loses its luster, its power of attraction. The source of activity is primarily participation in Mass. and services, prayers, adoration. The desire for cyclic adoration in silence was expressed. Contemplation of the Eucharistic Jesus and openness to listening to His word results in activity in parish and social life. The model for such an attitude is to be love for one’s neighbor and the Church, following the example of Christ.

Greater involvement in the life of the Church at the parish level is seen as a way to make evangelization efforts devoid of routine, leading to a deepening of faith and sometimes even conversion. Evangelism courses and the ability to share the experience of faith, the need to form youth and adult groups were enumerated. Even the idea of establishing a Bible school at the diocesan level has been hinted at. They emphasized the role of adult catechesis, Bible circles and formation in terms of the formation of moderators and animators.

Discovering the talents of parishioners and inviting them to participate involves trusting them and giving them responsibility. Entrusting specific tasks of parish administration to lay people touches on the issue of changing the way parishes are managed. Sometimes this demand was combined with a reminder of the role of women and the need to involve them more actively in ministry.

Being active in the Church also means, as was pointed out in almost every study, the parish’s presence on social media and communication through modern media.

In many parishes, the prevailing belief is that the laity has too little influence on the functioning of the church structure closest to them, that too little depends on them, since everything is ultimately decided by the pastor anyway. The feeling of not being heard and being underestimated has a paralyzing effect and leads to withdrawal and refraining from speaking up, and breeds fear of prejudicial classification and shuffling. Overcoming these difficulties could open up the hidden potential of the parish.

The cyclical meetings of parishioners are a chance to learn about the personal desires of believers and to better understand the Church’s teaching on issues such as: Eucharist, sacraments, sexual ethics, moral and social teaching. It’s also an effective tool in dialogue with the world, especially those who are disconnected or non-believers.

For many, one of the most painful experiences is the absence of their relatives and friends from Sunday Mass. and in a broader sense – in the Church. Such attitudes cannot be judged unequivocally, which does not mean to give up evangelization efforts to get people to return to the Church. Many, looking at the empty pews in the temples, see especially clearly the absence of young people, but formulating a prescription to change this situation does not come easily. People point to the need to change the approach to the ways of forming the faith of the young, but also note the importance of catechesis for adults. In families, the faith of those who are missing from the life of the Church is formed. They emphasized the need to arouse the enthusiasm of faith by promoting spiritual authorities and leaders in the immediate environment.

Attention was paid to the need to offer counseling and organize support groups for families and individuals experiencing a crisis. For many, this is an effective way to realize the ideal of the imagination of mercy. A recurring issue in some of the syntheses was the issue of volunteering and reflection on what to do to effectively develop it. The charitable dimension of parish functioning is a practical test of understanding the principles of the Gospel, of putting it into practice in concrete terms.

[Source: https://synod.org.pl/diecezja-bielsko-zywiecka/]

1.1 Key slogan of the world synod: participation.

In parishes, active participation in what happens in the Church is viewed in an ambiguous way. A third of respondents confirmed the involvement of the faithful in consultation and decision-making. This is primarily possible in association movements. Others confirmed the involvement of the faithful, but not in all areas. In particular, it was noted that certain topics are considered “untouchable” (specific examples from the survey: economics, how to appoint a pro-priest, parish administration, priest’s lifestyle, etc.). Lack of participation opportunities: More than half of the survey participants experience no or a lack of participation in their parish. The reasons for this are “lack of interest on the part of pastors,” lack of listening to the voice and needs of the people, “poor flow of information from the various bodies and poor competence of the pastor,” “rigid requirements in terms of hierarchy and administration,” “lack of criticism,” but also “lack of community/relationship among the faithful, which has resulted in a lack of a living bond with the Church.” This often leads to frustration and anger. One statement is charac-teristic: “there are actually quite a lot of motivated people who are currently frustrated by the authoritarian façade management of the parish – a feudal system”; “a lot of what is said goes unheeded and is simply ignored”; “young people are not seen and their ideas and interests are not heard”; the parish “does not allow them to participate in the decision-making process.” Some respondents found the manner of governance “opaque, detached from reality and unsuited to the requirements of the situation.”

The attitude of priests toward those involved in the life of the Church: participation also depends on the person of the priest and the faithful. In order for participation to take place, committed people with certain social competencies are needed. They should be people-oriented and communicative, accompany and support, be able to delegate and bring others into a defined area of responsibility, and recognize people’s real problems. It was also mentioned that due to the heavy workload and responsibilities in many parishes, pastoralists are often invisible and inaccessible, and sometimes even programmatically avoid contact with people; “for me, pastoralism, is caring for each individual soul. To do this, the pastor must also be visible to the community, open to spontaneous appeals to him. He must not back down and say that we know when the parish office is open.”

Condition for participation at the layperson level: The prerequisites for good cooperation and the basis for participation are: “trust and respect, support and assistance, openness, forbearance, sincerity and kindness, personal responsibility and promotion of individual self-reliance, as well as showing possible ways to achieve priority tasks for the Church”; “encouragement and reinforcement, a culture of kindness and the opportunity to participate in decision-making on an equal footing”; “willingness to compromise and give freedom of expression”; “to think of others and listen to each other. Good cooperation between pastoralists and laymen takes place when “responsibility is delegated in a way that takes into account talents and qualifications, and when the possibilities and limits of involvement are respected.”

Church of participation: “Participation means taking seriously the predispositions and charisms of individuals.” That’s why it’s important to “take seriously the competence of elected bodies (parish councils, among others)”; “they should be able to carry out what they were elected to do.” Outside the Commons, spontaneous forms of participation and involvement are needed to “enable as many laymen as possible to contribute their own ideas and thoughts.” However, this requires making the work of boards and councils more flexible. The Church of participation presupposes an analysis of how power is exercised because “a rigid, clerical understanding of it prevents serious, competent participation by the faithful. Hierarchy is often understood as an overly rigid system that thinks and acts top-down.”

At the diocesan level, it is therefore necessary to create framework conditions for the active participation of the laity. The first step into the future is to establish transparent decision-making processes at both the diocesan and parish levels. What is needed is a deeper understanding of authority in the Church that enables, complements and supports the independent action of individual responsible persons. Responsibility should also be delegated where lay people can and should act independently.

The future-oriented Church feeds prudently on new ideas. It therefore needs co-shaping and co-determination on the part of youth and adults, as well as authentic dialogue between pastors and the faithful. The Church is stretched between the divine and the human, and therefore cannot act according to the slogan: “let’s do business as usual.” Parishes that consider themselves very independent and follow their own paths need to be strengthened and promoted: “this inspires greater confidence toward lay involvement.” There must be room in the parish for “thinking differently” and activities with those who do not identify with the Church. Raising the profile of church volunteerism (not only within the framework of Caritas activities) contributes to the emergence of more responsible ministries for existential problems in individual communities.

[Source: https://synod.org.pl/diecezja-bydgoska/]

1.1 Key conclusions gathered during the diocesan stage of the synod

From the abundant material collected during synodal meetings at various levels of Church life in the Archdiocese of Czestochowa, as well as from the responses to the questionnaires sent out and from comments sent to social media sites and profiles, three groups of voices and requests were identified that recurred most frequently. These are: the need for the sacred; the problem of inter-personal and inter-community relations; and building a clear vision of how the Church functions in the pastoral and institutional areas. These three groups of applications will be discussed below. It should be added that in the collected synodal material there were many voices referring to specific parishes, communities, temples or individuals. These were specific problems, the discussion and solution of which concern the mentioned realities. They are not listed in the following synthesis, as they relate to individual cases and individual problems and are not general in nature.

(…)

1.1.1 The problem of interpersonal relations in the archdiocese

The second group of most frequently formulated synodal conclusions concerns relationality. Both the synodal meetings and the surveys sent revealed a great need to listen to each other, meet, respect, cooperate and deepen relationships. The problem has been noted especially at the levels of relations between priests and laymen, but also within the circle of priests themselves and among laymen, especially those active in movements, communities and associations.

1.1.1.1 Relationship between priests and laity

This topic generated the most excitement during the synod meetings. From the voices gathered, it seems that there is a great distance between the laity and the clergy, and not only in terms of attitudes and mutual relations, but also in the area of participation in community affairs and joint involvement in them. There was no shortage of voices describing the very good relationship between priests and laity. The faithful praised their pastors for their friendliness, availability and diligence. There were voices such as: “The priest in my parish is available to parishioners after every Mass. One can come to him and be listened to”; “Our parish priest is a good organizer, able to gather parishioners around him and mobilize them for concrete actions.” Also, several priests shared the experience of their good relations with the laity, declared that together with them they create the reality of the parish.

The vast majority of synod participants, however, note the lack of openness on the part of priests, especially pastors. The faithful complain that the parish priest does not know his faithful, does not build closer relationships with them, looks down on the laity “from above” and decides the most important things in the parish himself. The laity do not feel subjectively treated in their communities. They express a desire for priests to spend more time meeting and talking with them and to count their opinions. Repeatedly in the surveys, the laity stressed the need for ordinary human kindness and a smile, as they often experience harshness, harshness and great distance from the clergy. They feel that priests treat the Church as their property, where they are the ones entitled to decide everything.

Priests, on the other hand, look at the problem from their perspective. Many complain about the lack of involvement of the laity, their entitlement and urging priests to deviate from church discipline (especially in the process of preparation and admission to the holy sacraments). Clergymen often feel lonely in their parishes, stressing that only a narrow group of the faithful want to take joint responsibility for parish affairs. In contrast, the synodal material collected did not include demands for some kind of competition for power in the Church between clergy and laity. More often emphasized was the desire to preserve the existing roles that stem from the clerical and lay states.

1.1.1.2 Relationships among priests

Priestly synodal meetings were held in each decanate of the archdiocese. These meetings showed the great need for this type of meetings, where priests can raise priestly and pastoral issues in a fraternal atmosphere. The priests felt that it would be best if bishops attended such meetings. They expect a more paternal attitude and closer contact from their bishops. Instead, they understand the enormous responsibility of their superiors and their increasingly difficult tasks in managing the archdiocese and personnel matters. They also complained about the high individualism of priests, their frequent isolation from the priestly community. It has been noted that priests in the archdiocese are increasingly affected by loneliness; there are deaneries where all priests work at single posts. There have been voices about the need to create priestly pastoral teams. The need for greater and concerted concern for sick and elderly priests was pointed out, so that they do not feel rejected left alone with their problems. Several criticisms have been leveled at the lack of a coherent, consistent and clear permanent formation. Very often, priests stressed the positive role of monthly prayer meetings in the deaneries.

1.1.1.3 Relationships between church communities

As for relations between the laity, the opinions of the synod participants were mainly concerned with the problem of contacts between communities and their cooperation. A certain rivalry between some groups has been noted, criticizing each other’s spirituality of individual movements or groups; exclusivism and treating one’s own sensibilities as only right and best. The need to build spaces of cooperation between movements and communities at the diocesan, deanery and parish levels was emphasized. The problem of the rigid, absolute treatment of the laity’s affiliation with parishes and the lack of acceptance of their association with supra-parish communities or movements or with other parishes, such as in the reception of the Holy Sacraments and parish catechesis, was also raised.

[Source: https://synod.org.pl/archidiecezja-czestochowska/]

1.1 An analytical look

1.1.1 Authority and participation

A superior should serve, as Christ as High Priest was a servant. Service should manifest itself in respect for another human being and not in treating a subordinate as a pawn in a game to be persecuted and exploited.

Offices in some church institutions should be term-limited, as those in office at some point would revert to so-called “tenure. row.

Hierarchy comes from God’s law, so it can’t be flattened to listen to everyone and have everyone be right. The Hierarchy should do better and serve the whole Church.

Our goal is salvation, to which the path marked out by the Lord Jesus in the Gospel leads us. God’s Commandments and sacraments help us achieve this goal.

The exercise of authority and management in the parish belongs to the pastor. Teamwork and shared responsibility are implemented when organizing and preparing important events in the life of the parish. The Parish Council meets to determine important matters, mainly related to renovations or financial issues in the parish. Service in the Church must not be confused with servility. It is supposed to stem from love for God and people, not from a desire to secure someone’s favor.

[Source: https://synod.org.pl/diecezja-drohiczynska/]

1.1 What does the Church enjoy?

1.1.1 Authority and participation

In the vast majority, the respect and obedience shown to the bishop is evident. In many cases, the parish priest is seen as the true shepherd of the faithful in the parish, who in no way shows superiority over his parishioners and comes to their aid if he can.

Increasingly, there is a perception that everyone is responsible for the parish community through various activities: participation in the pastoral council, the economic council, the Parish Caritas Team, various communities, or care for the temple. The participation of the laity in the issue of responsibility for the Church is open. However not all the faithful are directly interested in the affairs of the Church, there is no problem of including them in direct cooperation. They are pleased to see cases of teamwork between priests and laymen in various fields. Goodwill is evident from both sides in pastoral activities that serve the welfare of the faithful.

1.2 Areas in need of healing and conversion in the parish and diocese

1.2.1 Authority and participation

There are cases of abuse of power. Priests, people in charge or prominent in the Church (including lay people), with their position already established. They are reluctant to accept comments, opinions and ideas from third parties. Several synodal syntheses stressed that priests consider themselves infallible and are closed to suggestions from parishioners.

In some parishes, the degree of lay involvement is negligible. Among the reasons cited are the following: lack of desire to get involved in anything, the accumulation of other activities, being able to get involved in the Church now is not seen as a source of pride, lack of a good organizer who would skillfully encourage parishioners to get involved.

[Source: https://synod.org.pl/diecezja-elcka/]

1.1 What we know after local meetings – feedback

The meetings resulted in the accumulation of knowledge, which can be put into buzzwords and themes.

1.1.1 Issues of particular significance

1.1.1.2 Need to bridge the gap between clergy and laity.

Among the difficulties in the Church is the lack of ties between Church members, both within the laity and between the laity and the clergy, as well as between the clergy themselves, including the hierarchy of the Church. The lack of a sense of community is noted not only at the parish level, but also at the diocesan and universal Church levels. The lack of community ties manifests itself, among other things. anonymity and treating the faithful as a collection of parishioners and the lack of an individual approach to a particular person. Half of the synod’s statements deal with the difficulties the faithful have experienced in communicating with pastors (from simple daily contact to issues of shared responsibility).

The faithful are pained by the fact that some clergymen lead dual, worldly lives, are attached to material matters, escape into activism, and forget about spirituality and the apostolate. The result of such attitudes is a distance from the faithful, especially from simple people of faith, focusing on the duties of administration, management, rather than on actions guided by concern for the salvation of each person who has been entrusted to priests by the One God and placed on their path of vocation. They also raised the issue of transparency and the inability to resolve cases of abuse in the Church.

1.1.1.3 A greater burden of responsibility for the Church falls on the clergy.

Various communities, including young people, complain about the difficulty of finding their place in the Church. The evangelization (catechization) offer is unattractive, causing these people to leave the Church or adopt a passive attitude. There have been claims about the low level of catechesis and the lack of adequate programs for particular age groups of young people, resulting in the extinguishing of faith.

Catholic media was found to be fading among many others. It was suggested that the Church invest in modern communication and teaching tools, as well as cultural events to promote the good that comes from the Church. The possibility of involving competent laymen would give the desired effect in this matter. This is illustrated by positive examples such as running the social media of parishes and communities or broadcasting prayer and preparing evangelization materials.

[Source: https://synod.org.pl/archidiecezja-gdanska/]

1.1 Synodal path – parish

Around the five themes identified, it is necessary to highlight some common issues “resonating” in our diocese. The selection of original statements (comments) of meeting participants – as suggested by the ISKK – is subjective, but consulted/discussed within the team of diocesan coordinators and other collaborators:

1.1.1 “Power and Participation”.

When asked about associations and social organizations operating in parishes:

“An Association for the development of the village (…) was established, which, among other things, has as its statutory goal “maintaining and disseminating religious and national traditions” and also integration with a religious emphasis around the branch church (…).

To the question, How do prayer and liturgical celebration inspire action? (The impact of pastoral letters on reality):

“Activities, especially in the communities, are ‘prayed for,’ the listening of the Holy Spirit is preserved, and ‘spiritual and economic works’ are commended to God in prayer by the pastor. Shepherd’s letters are difficult to receive directly (read them) and give little. On the other hand, if they carry an idea, they change reality (e.g., the Year of Mercy introduced a turn toward mercy, and the Year of St. Joseph – there were monthly adorations of the Blessed Sacrament with St. Joseph, etc.).”

“This topic greatly enlivened the activity of those gathered and revealed many extreme views (…). Those with progressive views, most often young people, expect pastoral letters to carry a clearly formulated message, using modernized language, containing less theological content and, above all, to give the faithful guidance on how to deal with the process of secularization, where is the limit of liberalization or diminishing the importance of the sacrament of marriage, etc. After listening to the pastoral letter, the faithful need to know what it was about. Similar comments from the attendees were made about the sermons and homilies they heard while attending Masses. In different parishes.”

[Source: https://synod.org.pl/diecezja-gliwicka/]

1.1.1 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.

[Source: https://synod.org.pl/archidiecezja-katowicka/]

1.1 Authority and participation

The synodal Church is a Church that shares responsibility for itself and the world. It has a participation in power. The community of God’s people, which is made up of laity and clergy, is the subject of pastoral care to varying degrees and extents. All members of God’s people are equal in vocation and dignity, with simultaneous differentiation of priestly, prophetic and pastoral functions. All participate in the actualization of the salvific mission of Christ. The performance of particular pastoral functions depends on the role fulfilled in the community of God’s people, resulting from the authority of ordination and the charism granted by the Holy Spirit enabling the performance of specific tasks.

Authority and offices in the Church are servile in nature. All administrative and organizational activities of the Church should be deaconesses. Authority in the Church is exercised hierarchically, through shepherds. However, all members of the community should have the opportunity to take part in its exercise (with varying degrees of involvement and responsibility). This responsibility of the laity is most often expressed through: membership in parish councils, animating prayer life (e.g., organizing adoration, leading the Stations of the Cross), assuming liturgical functions (e.g., lector, psalterist), involvement in charitable and caring activities, reporting pastoral initiatives and suggestions to the pastor or diocesan bishop, making monetary donations for repair and construction work, physical effort for the material growth of the parish and the beauty of the church and its surroundings. In recent years, men have been heavily involved in this area, if only in knightly orders. Very often there are the same people at different levels of involvement in the parish.

[Source: https://synod.org.pl/diecezja-kielecka/]

Twelve questions were addressed to parish and decanal teams. 161 parishes and 6 deaneries submitted responses. Dozens of individual, anonymous surveys were also submitted via mail or email. Here is an attempt to synthesize the submitted votes by subject criterion.

1.1 Authority and participation

1.1.1 How does the parish community determine the goals to be pursued, the path to achieve them and the steps to be taken? Who sets these goals and who evaluates the fruitfulness of these activities?

The parish implements the diocesan bishop’s instructions. Some targets are identified during bishops’ visitations. Local issues are determined by the pastor, sometimes – but not always – after consultation with the pastoral council.

The first person is the parish priest, who sets certain goals. They concerned important issues for the parish, such as investments for the renovation or heating of the church. Decisions are made with the knowledge of the pastoral council. Lower down, i.e. in parish groups, decisions are made by those leading them. Most depends on their activity and ingenuity. Sometimes it is felt that the lack of initiatives is due to a certain misunderstanding: the priests are waiting for a signal from the laity, and the laity are convinced that the first step belongs to the clergy.

In ministry groups, the goals are usually defined by the leaders or collectively by all members of the group. They are then evaluated and approved by the clergy. In general, spiritual goals are determined by the pastor, while material goals are determined by the pastor in consultation with the pastoral council. There are parishes in the archdiocese implementing the New Image of the Parish program under the Movement for a Better World, where the process of discernment of goals and their implementation involves the laity to a much greater extent:

The goal is set by the renewal program within the movement and the annual pastoral plan of the Church in Poland. The parish coordination team creates an annual program and indicates what goal we want to achieve, who is to do it, how and when. After each event, which is another part of the program, there is an evaluation: what succeeded, what failed, what lessons for the future.

1.1.2 How does the Pastoral Council function in the parish?

Council meetings are usually held several times a year, or on an ad hoc basis when something urgent needs to be discussed. There are parishes where the council is a real help to the parish priest and realistically represents the parishioners as a whole, but attention is also drawn to the growing difficulties in identifying candidates, as there is a shortage of people, especially younger ones, willing to commit to serving the parish community. They already consist mainly of seniors. Many laymen express concern about the future of the institution. In parishes where the pastoral council functions well, councilors are usually involved in other forms of assistance as well, such as organizing pastoral visits, physically working to maintain order around the church, conducting fundraisers and distributing wafers. However, the council does not always do its job properly:

I once attended a council meeting as a representative of the “Friends of the Bride” community at the end of 2021. The council did not have a working character or an agenda, it ended without a conclusion, and we did not address such big topics as how to attract people after the epidemic….

It seems that the way council elections are conducted should be reformed. The need to arouse greater awareness among the faithful for its work so that the council does not go only to those who, for various reasons, are associated with the parish anyway. In addition to the presence of those involved in parish life, it would be useful to have “outsiders,” so to speak, whose presence would objectivize planning and help in the evaluation of activities already implemented.

[Source: https://synod.org.pl/archidiecezja-lubelska/]

1.1 Topics of meetings concluded with the formulation of conclusions

1.1.1 Complicated relationship between clergy and lay faithful

Members of the synodal teams have observed with concern the passivity of the laity in their parish communities, i.e. the poor implementation of the duties flowing from the sacraments of baptism and confirmation. In order for lay people not involved in parish life to feel at home in the parish, it is necessary to return to the Council’s concept of the parish as a community of communities. Therefore, it seems right to restore the actual functioning, or create from scratch, the interfaces of communication. This includes, for example, the parish councils: pastoral and economic. It is known that the decisive vote always belongs to the pastor, nevertheless the advisory bodies or formation communities, should serve the lay faithful for proper growth in the Church.

It should be added that dialogue between clergy and laity is hampered in many places. Thus, the problem of forming new communities arises. According to lay members of synod groups, this may have to do with specific old schemes, clericalism and ossification of structures.

[Source: https://synod.org.pl/diecezja-lomzynska/]

Meetings and panel discussions held within the Diocese of Lowicz regarding the Synod on Synodality focused on several topics. The whole discussion was based mainly on an assessment of the situation in which the Church currently finds itself, showing the positive and negative features of the Church, and drawing conclusions. Certain paths have been suggested, which, according to those taking up the discussion, the Church should follow.

The deliberations in the Diocese of Lowicz focused on several topics:

1.1 Clergy and laity on the road to heaven, or the role of the laity in parish life

These considerations highlighted several areas in which the laity should be involved:

  1. Liturgical-prayer area, here attention is given to the ministry performed by altar servers, lectors, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, ceremonialists, catechists and catechists. Their action can and should be an aid to pastors. They can replace priests at levels that are within the competence of the person: support at liturgical ceremonies and events, conducting preparation for the reception of the sacraments, and, above all, bearing witness to the faith.
  2. Administrative and economic area: parish councils, which should be a support to the priest who administers the parish, laymen can perform clerical duties, family counseling, religious instruction in school, decoration and decoration of the church, repair and construction investments, assistance in raising funds.
  3. Spiritual-evangelization area, i.e., making spiritual efforts towards converting ourselves, living a life of faith that should be a testimony to others, spiritual support for priests.

In order to increase the effectiveness of the Church, it is necessary:

  1. Involve the laity in chancery work
  2. Take care of the high quality of the activities undertaken in the parish
  3. Priests should be available constantly to the faithful and especially to the sick
  4. Limit the reading of letters at the Eucharist
  5. Take care of those in need of help
  6. Educate parishioners on attitudes and principles of the faith and explain the liturgy

[Source: https://synod.org.pl/diecezja-lowicka/]

1.1 Authority and participation/discernment and decision-making

Symptomatically, the last three topics included in the main question: How do I understand my participation in decision-making and responsibility in the Church? were presented by meeting participants in the most synthetic way. It is important to point out here that there is a very high degree of consistency among the voices with regard to the vision of power. The dominant and, in principle, common voice was the recognition of the hierarchical nature of authority in the Church, thereby unanimously rejecting the concept of democracy in this sense. At the same time, such a picture of authority is combined with a concrete vision of it: The Church is hierarchical and should remain so. Decisions should be made by those who are predisposed to do so and they should take responsibility for them. But authority is not only about responsibility, it is also about serving humanity. Authority, responsibility and service must be formed by love. This applies to all levels of the hierarchy from the bishop to pastors and priests. The laity do not want to take over the competence of bishops and presbyters – on the contrary, they want to have confidence in them and treat them as shepherds. This trust is built through the credibility of the shepherds – their authenticity, their witness to the faith and their ongoing formation, noticed by the faithful. The laity also feel responsible for them in the dimension of prayer support, realizing the difficulty of their mission. At the same time, they expect power to be realized through service. An important recurring theme was the expectation of a clear message. Especially today, in times of difficult experiences, relativized values and various media messages, the laity expect a concrete voice from the bishops and a consistent episcopal position, and want to feel that they are being guided in responsibility and love. Another problem is that, unfortunately, one often gets the impression that bishops (but also priests) do not know the daily life and real problems of the people (livelihood, environmental, spiritual) – they speak an unintelligible, hermetic language. A problem often pointed out is that many times priests do not respect the bishop’s decisions, and the laity see this and see it as bitter: “I hear about those parishes where there are so many different communities, and in ours there is nothing, neither communities nor read letters – I don’t understand this, because after all, there is obedience, and if the bishop writes a letter, and in ours it is not read, I internally rebel.” This is an example of very common statements.

There is a slightly different view of authority and responsibility at the parish level, where, while it is true that the pastor, as shepherd, has responsibility for his community, he is not necessarily the leader in all activities. Here one can clearly see the difference in the understanding of responsibility for the parish: laymen understand it as primarily a responsibility for another human being, while priests, especially pastors, often prioritize responsibility for the church (the parish household in the broadest sense) over responsibility for the Church writ large. As a result, delegating tasks ranging from economic to organizational or evangelization to the laity comes with great difficulty to most priests – especially pastors. This is well illustrated by the following reflection: “Many of us laity have a strong need to be co-responsible for the Church, we want to experience that we have the same dignity and value as the clergy, although our tasks are different. In addition, we want to experience the joy of serving, co-creating, using our gifts and skills. However, our ability to act depends on the goodwill, or lack thereof, of the clergy. A large number of lay faithful are characterized not only by a lack of internal formation, but basic religious knowledge. It is not surprising, then, that many clergy lack good experiences of working with the laity, and it can be quite easy for them to develop a tendency to treat us ‘down’. Many of the 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 Polish 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. We are not taken seriously. We are also not given any real influence over the operation of the parish.”

On the other hand, there is a very strong reflection that the laity are not mentally prepared or simply do not want to take co-responsibility for the parish and prefer to remain passive . “We can participate in taking responsibility, and if we accept a task then we must be consistent in it and do what we commit ourselves to,” he said. This requires a barrier to be broken by the laity – to get involved – and from priests – to allow the laity to share responsibility in, for example, parish councils or economic councils.” “Not too much lay people want to get into parish councils and economic councils, they don’t have the time, they don’t want to be responsible for decisions, they don’t want to get into parish affairs in so much detail, and most often they think that the parish priest knows best anyway and may not want to listen to them in making decisions.” Thus, most of us have learned real shared responsibility.

The syntheses show how few lay people are ready to take co-responsibility for their parish. This, of course, is not just a responsibility for material matters, but also a responsibility for evangelization – the transmission of the faith – catechesis, and charity. This is certainly a generational habit, a kind of clericalism of lay people accustomed to shifting all responsibility to priests. Priests, on the other hand, inundated with the number of demands, often treat the legitimate demands of the laity as a passive and demanding attitude. Perhaps the lack of dialogue and community, in which parishioners and their clergy are one, is apparent here.

[Source: https://synod.org.pl/archidiecezja-lodzka/]

1.1 Participation – experiences and dreams

The one who builds the Church through the ages is God Himself. Our task is to accept what God “gives” and at the same time participate in what He “inflicts.” It is our participation that requires “shared responsibility” and “commitment.” With these words, the participants were introduced to the topic of the third synodal meeting on participation in the life of the Church. Eagerly sharing the experience of their involvement in the Church and in the parish, both clergy and laity pointed to its various dimensions. An important way of building up the Church, emphasized by many, is prayer, including prayer for the Church, for priests and for vocations. There is also no shortage of those who add fasting and other sacrifices, illness and suffering to prayers for these intentions. Others understand “building up the Church” almost exclusively as material support of its initiatives through monetary offerings, participation in collections, material support of missions, and donation of concrete work for the Church and the parish (cleaning, renovations, decorative work). Still others support the Church by using their skills, education and professional competence, sitting on the structures of Parish Pastoral Councils and Parish Finance Councils, catechizing, working in church counseling centers or providing advice to the pastor on specific administrative issues. Finally, many understand the work of building up the Church as a “spiritual work,” attaching to prayer involvement in the preparation and celebration of the liturgy (altar servers, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, church ministry, organists), membership and leadership in prayerful and formative parish and supra-parish groups and communities, and finally charitable involvement in Parish Caritas Teams, in various types of volunteer work and works to support the homeless and marginalized. The latter form of “building” the Church still seems to be attractive to young people as well, even if they declare a weak relationship with the Church and irregular practice of the faith. Among the participants in the synodal meetings who were asked about “participatio” in the Church community, there were also those who stated: “in the Church I am a man from the pew and I don’t get involved in His life from the inside,” or “the time of pandemonium has caused changes in me and I don’t want to get involved in the Church anymore,” or “I have lost confidence in the Church and no longer have a desire to be in it.” Among the reasons cited most often were the pace of life and the associated lack of time, the resistance of the clergy to cooperate and even “their extinguishing of the initiative of the laity,” and a number of front-page arguments: the scandal of pedophilia and abuse of power in the Church, the glamor, immorality and living beyond their means of the clergy, the haughtiness of the hierarchy and their involvement “in the alliance of the throne with the altar.”

One priest, using the statement that the Church is “a vineyard and not a quarry,” pointed out the need for constant concern for implantation in Christ and treating the Church as a cultivated field of God. In turn, one lay participant confessed: “I have a dream to be involved in something that has a future, rather than sustaining an open-air museum.” Above all, the synodal consultation unveiled the great number of those involved and willing to engage in this cultivation, as well as the enormity of their commitment to this work. But from this reflection of priests, consecrated persons and laity, postulates and dreams were also born:

  • Pastoral conversion of clergy and laity to transform structures and respectfully form subjective faith and love for the Church;
  • Forming the lay faithful to share responsibility for the Church, especially in the parish dimension, given the decline in priestly and religious vocations;
  • Pastoralists’ openness to youth initiatives, even if they go beyond the framework of traditional pastoral care;
  • greater involvement of pastors, especially young priests who seem to “stand behind the wall,” if only in simply being present with those involved in the parish, working together with them and the immediacy of their interactions;
  • The openness of pastors in talking about the material and spiritual problems of the parish community and their willingness to share the tasks of parish administration with the laity;
  • Limiting the Curia’s interference in parish pastoral life and the transfer of pastoral materials to parishes;
  • Care for the inclusive nature of parish groups and communities, so that they are open to new members, care for the ongoing formation of communities and their leaders;
  • sensitivity to the charisms God bestows on community members and the courageous use of them in the service of the Church.

[Source: https://synod.org.pl/diecezja-opolska/]

Below is an aggregate compilation of the collected voices in the key of the ten synodal issues. All statements were taken from the reports, emails and other voices presented, then reworked and adapted for this report. Each issue is preceded by a brief, general philosophical-theological-pastoral reflection, after which specific indications (conclusions) are written for further work in the synodal process in the Diocese of Plock, that is, steps to be taken in what has been discerned as the voice of the Holy Spirit.

1.1.1 Authority and participation

The pastoral work of the Church of Plock is based on close ties with the universal Church and its visible head, the Successor of St. Peter. The bishop of St. Peter’s, as well as the diocesan bishop and his auxiliary bishops. This particular trait is still characteristic of ecclesiology on the Vistula, and certainly represents a great potential for the People of God, faithful to Truth and Tradition to teach, sanctify and govern the community. On the other hand, in some parishes, this creates the danger of reducing pastoral care to merely carrying out top-down “directives,” without reflecting on local capacities and needs. This is why discernment in the well-formed and righteous consciences of the pastor and the faithful is of such great importance.

The reality of the parishes of the Plock Church, like the communities of the Church in Poland, points to the enormous and still decisive role of the pastor in leadership and management. On the one hand, the social position of the clergy has changed in recent decades in Poland and a certain “normalization” of relations with the faithful. The priest, especially the parish priest, continues to be an important reference point in the lives of many people, including non-practitioners, in the life of parishes as well as other local government units. It is the priest who is often the engine of action, the initiator, the inspirer, the spiritus movens of what can be done in the sphere of pastoral, material, charitable and social activities in the space of the parish, city, municipality. Many of the faithful, encouraged by the priests, are beginning to discover their active place in the community. On the other hand, there is still a lingering belief that caring for religious objects is the domain of the priest. A not inconsiderable number of the faithful, even those involved in parish and diocesan life, prefer to be collaborators rather than decision-makers. The time of the coronavirus pandemic has made it clear that the faithful can and do feel responsibility for the Church’s temporal goods, but they should engage more widely and with a sense of greater shared responsibility in the structures that are already in place, such as the Church. Parish Economic Councils.

  1. The assessment of the quality of parish functioning in the minds of many is related to the number of faithful attending Sunday Mass. The contemporary circumstances of life, the troubles and discouragement of many of the faithful hint at going more beyond the circle of dominicantes and communicantes, especially to the peripheries of material and spiritual poverty.
  2. The time of the COVID-19 pandemic revealed how important inter-neighborhood relations should be in the deanery. Cooperation on the occasion of indulgences and retreats, priestly naming days and other celebrations are a good and long-established way of building good relations in the diocese.
  3. The current formula for canonical visitation of parishes needs to be reconsidered, as well as the appreciation and more scrupulous conduct of annual deanery visitations, which should take on more of a formula of fraternal accompaniment and, when necessary, admonition.
  4. The space for exchanging views about the world and the Church is the media, especially the Catholic media. They need more articles and broadcasts, “justifying that hope which is in us” (1P 3:15).
  5. It was pointed out that in difficult situations, priests sometimes need more support from the curia and superiors.
  6. In recent years, most parishes have undertaken numerous renovations to temples and parish buildings. This creates tremendous opportunities for new opportunities to carry out pastoral work.

[Source: https://synod.org.pl/diecezja-plocka/]

1.1 Positive areas of church life and those in need of healing and conversion

1.1.1 Authority and participation and discernment and decision-making

The syntheses contain very many examples of fruitful cooperation between clergy and laity, especially at the local level. Many parish priests are seen by their parishioners as open and engaged people “to talk to.” Although the model of parish leadership is most often classic: “Dominating in everything is the role of the priest,” “It is accepted that the parish belongs to the parish priest, and it is he who makes all decisions.” Synod participants further stressed that authority in the Church, like all of its activities, is primarily for the Church’s mission, which is eternal salvation: “We ourselves, our beliefs and life choices, are the fruit of the Church’s mission.” They understand and do not undermine the role that the Pope, the bishops and all the clergy play in the Church. They express respect to those who have received the sacrament of Holy Orders or the gift of consecrated life.

Synodal syntheses include the desire to better arrange mutual cooperation, so that through greater synodality in the Church, unity, respect and shared responsibility between clergy and laity will grow. So that the subjectivity of all the baptized becomes more apparent. For a notable majority of members of synod groups, participation in this Synod was “the first experience of having a real influence on decisions in the Church.”

Almost all Synod participants expressed the view that “an anachronistic model of one-way communication prevails in the Church” and that a “culture of feedback” is needed. In their view, there is a lack of transparency in the area of finances and in the activities of parish councils, and the power of the clergy is often abused: “as a rule, the layman always comes to ask.”

The majority of Synod participants stressed that shared responsibility and serious discernment of what is good for the Church will only be possible if the Church authority completely frees itself from “withholding information, withholding facts, not saying straightforwardly what is happening in the Church, and not giving specific information about crimes in the Church,” “Too often the information provided by the Church hierarchy on difficult topics is too vague.”

[Source: https://synod.org.pl/archidiecezja-poznanska/]

1.1.1 Synodal Church, a co-responsible Church

According to the expressed opinion of participants in the consultation, the goals of lay involvement in the Church are defined by pastoral groups, communities, pastors, by the Bishop. The laity, when engaging in the Church, must not fall into a state of “clericalization” – everyone should know his place in the community without overlapping functions, taking over competencies, “mixing vocations.” Lack of cooperation between the laity and clergy results in a lack of lay participation in the life of the Church. Disregarding and ignoring the voice of the laity results in the formation of a distance and pushing the laity away from active involvement in the life of the parish community.

In response to the question, How is authority/governance exercised in the local church? Participants in the consultation noted what is commonly known that hierarchy is in effect in the Church. The laity has no direct influence on governance in the Church – canonical authority is in the hands of the bishop, pastors. Indirectly, the laity can participate in decisions through Parish Councils (Diocesan Council) – as long as these bodies function on a permanent basis (“they are not dead bodies”). Those who hold power would do well to ask themselves every day: Who is coming closer to God through my power? Am I not abusing my power and hurting anyone with the power of my influence? How, through authority, do I care effectively for the salvation of the souls entrusted to my care? Authority is a humble service to Christian brothers and sisters of the secular state; this state desires and has the right to expect to be that part of the Church which is governed by people full of the Holy Spirit, though like every human being sinful, yet full of faith, living the spirit of the Gospel, above all humble in spirit, people open (!) to the human needs and challenges of the time. “Tenure of power” must never lead to the extinction of faith in the parish/diocesan community of believers.

In response to the question, How are teamwork and shared responsibility put into practice? Participants in the consultation noted that where the cooperation of the laity and clergy appears, there is necessarily a dialogue, then co-responsibility in the community of the Church is realized in practice.

In response to the question, How are lay ministries and taking responsibility for the Church promoted? Participants in the consultations mentioned: praise and thanks by name; liturgical altar service, organizing and leading prayer (vigils, vespers); co-organizing retreats; promotion of the laity at formation, pastoral meetings; promotion of the laity in Catholic magazines, social media; inviting the laity to participate in apostolic activities (works) (e.g. ministry to the poor, the needy); promotion of the ministry of the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion; rosary rosaries. In general (at the parish, diocesan level), involvement involving the multiplication of the Church’s (mainly material) well-being is promoted, such as monetary offerings, newspaper articles, contributions to the maintenance of parish websites or volunteering. The concepts for church initiatives and the direction of their organization generally remain in the hands of the clergy.

In response to the question: do we have fruitful experiences of synodality at the local level? Participants in the consultation responded: the involvement of priests who are guardians of various groups, pastoral communities, is a substitute for synodality. Similarly, the involvement of groups, communities in the pastoral activities of the parish/diocese is a substitute for synodality. The meetings held so far,the initial form of consultation in communities, pastoral groups in the diocese, is a good start to acquire synodal experience.

In response to the question, How do Pastoral Councils in parishes and dioceses, Priests’ Councils function? The participants in the consultations responded: pastoral councils, as entities uniting the laity, operate selectively in individual parishes; they are convened infrequently, sometimes they operate under the dictates of the parish host; sometimes they are “dead bodies”, facade bodies, which reveal themselves before the bishop’s visitation – in general there is poor knowledge of their existence and functioning. These councils, which are functioning, realistically support the work of the pastor. Priestly councils are almost unknown, knowledge is minimal.

In response to the last question in this topic area: How can we promote a more synodal, community-based approach to shared responsibility for the local church? The participants in the consultation answered: to start with seminary formation; to be actively present in the world of social media; to speak “the language of the young” (simple, understandable, but “taken care of form and content, do not lecture ex cathedra); to encourage participation in pastoral groups appropriate to the age and predisposition of the faithful and further to courageously discuss the co-responsibility of the laity for the local Church; take care of the cooperation of groups, communities in the parish; take special care of young groups, listen to their voice, address their needs; organize more meetings between the Bishop and communities.

Wanting to foster a more synodal, communal approach to co-responsibility for the local Church, it is worth paying attention to the proposals, solutions of the laity; it is worth not ceasing to pray in community and let only Christ act in the Church; it is worth creating an “environment” in the Church where everyone will feel needed; It is worth to be open to those “to whom things go wrong”, maybe they are lost – to condemn sin, but not man; it is worth developing what creates the common good; it is worth strengthening the role of the Diocesan Council of Movements (take care of systematic meetings, exchange views, solve pastoral difficulties).

[Source: https://synod.org.pl/diecezja-rzeszowska/]

1.1 Authority and participation

The synodal church is a church of power, participation and shared responsibility. In practice, this means that whoever leads the community is to draw from the example of Jesus Christ. When leaning into the ministry of authority, one must always put God first. Our goal is to be a sign of the Kingdom of God already here on earth, bearing witness, open-heartedness to others, and sacrificial service. As participants in the synod meetings emphasized, the leader of the community of believers is to be the visible center of unity, taking on the task of coordinating everyone’s journey toward a common goal. He leads the community by giving it the right direction. It accompanies in an attitude of constant searching and listening for signs related to the Word of God and life. He should animate the community and make decisions based on the Gospel. It is up to him, after listening to community members and spiritual discernment, to make a decision. In the synodal Church, the entire community, in the free and rich diversity of its members, is called to pray together, listen, analyze, dialogue, discern and counsel in making pastoral decisions that will respond to the will of God.

Young people participating in synod meetings reported that one of the common arguments among peers leaving the Church is the lack of authenticity of its members. This seems to be one of the biggest sins in our communities. Unauthentic attitudes, hidden motivations and double lives speak more powerfully than supernatural arguments, which is why it seems so important to talk about the problems that affect us. For the truth has it that it will always come out, and on the other hand, spoken with love and understanding, it does not deter, but can even convince. Hypocrisy causes many people, not only young people, to leave the Church, and often speak out against it.

There is also a need for the clergy to approach the proposals and ideas that lay people put forward, especially in matters concerning the operation of the parish, not only in economic matters, but also in pastoral matters. Participants in the synod meetings unanimously emphasize that it is advisable to hold consultations so that the faithful feel more responsible for the affairs of the Church. There is also a need for greater transparency in parish finances and for lay people to be allowed to co-determine. There is also a need for the steward of church property to inform the faithful about expenditures, which will result in greater awareness of the material needs of the church.

[Source: https://synod.org.pl/diecezja-sandomierska/]

1.1 Authority and participation – Discernment and decision-making

As the whole Church, we are invited to take responsibility for it. Not everyone understands this. There are laymen who don’t want to take this responsibility, but there are also clergy who don’t want to allow the faithful to co-determine and share responsibility. We recognize that there are spaces in the community that are inherently incumbent on the clergy, but there are many duties that can be successfully performed by lay people (in administrative, economic matters, etc.). More trust in the laity is needed. We see the need for greater cooperation between laity and clergy and clergy and laity. Clergy should coordinate parish activities rather than replace the faithful in what they can do on their own.

There is a need to change the approach of the clergy to the proposals and ideas of the laity in matters concerning the operation of the parish, not only in the dimensions of economics and management, but also in pastoral care. It is advisable to consult more widely and responsibly in advisory teams – at the diocesan level: pastoral council, economic council; at the parish level: parish council and economic council, or reorganization of councils where necessary.

To stimulate the faithful to take more responsibility for the affairs of the Church, more transparency in governance – both in economic and personnel matters – is needed. Transparency in church (parish) finances and the need for parishioners to have a say in economic matters are essential. There is a need to inform parishioners about expenditures, which will breed greater awareness among the faithful about the Church’s material needs.

Testimony:

“I pray for our parish, we have MARGARETS in the parish, attend services, pray before the Blessed Sacrament, pay what dues there are, and even personally collect dues, distribute formation materials, wafers, organize rosary circle activities, help and participate in pilgrimages and various meetings in the parish or diocese.”

[Source: https://synod.org.pl/diecezja-siedlecka/]

1.1 Authority and participation

  1. The exercise of authority is seen as a service in preserving the unity and Tradition of the Church. This topic requires a deepening of understanding among lay Catholics, as there is sometimes a growing tendency to democratize pastoral care and even marginalize the clergy entrusted by the Church to exercise authority. There is a need to explain more deeply to lay Catholics the importance of hierarchical obedience in the Church, especially in environments where there is a lot of activity by lay Catholics, so that they respect and honor Church offices.
  2. Pastoral bodies established and created in parishes can be a beneficial advisory voice. They provide assistance to the offices through grassroots opinions, ideas and valuable suggestions from everyday life in the world.
  3. There is a need to evaluate pastoral activities at various levels without fear of criticism or negativity. Those entrusted with authority should not be afraid of those they serve by holding offices in the church community.
  4. Helping to combine participation and governance are economic and pastoral councils that function in parishes, as well as groups of people concerned about branch churches, which are often treated by the faithful as their own temple. That’s why Pastoral Days at branch churches are so important.
  5. Positive results come from being guided by love, so that all those to whom the service is rendered are heard, welcomed without exalting themselves or feeling looked down upon, which always pushes them away and creates barriers.

[Source: https://synod.org.pl/archidiecezja-szczecinsko-kamienska/]

1.1.1 Authority and participation

The issue of authority and participation in the Church is closely linked to the issue of understanding the Church and sharing responsibility for it. Survey responses clearly showed a correlation: if there was a response in the same survey expressing a correct understanding of the Church, then the response regarding authority and participation was also profound and correct. Here are sample statements on this issue: “we can join in the responsibility for the Church by participating in the work of the Fifth Synod of the Diocese of Tarnów. It is already apparent that as a result of the consultations undertaken at the synod meetings, many topics and thoughts have emerged that should be taken up and discussed at the parish level. Many of the topics discussed at these meetings were very important to the parish, and often forgotten or constantly put off “for later”. The synod has helped to remind them of their importance, as well as to mobilize them for action”, “our co-responsibility for the Church is expressed by our faith, sacrifice, prayer, as well as by the ministries we perform”, “our co-responsibility for the Church is expressed in the Christian education of the younger generation”, “the dignified attitudes of priests and the faithful strengthen the sense of community, and thus co-responsibility for the parish. We all felt this especially during the pandemic, when we were not deprived of access to the sacraments, the doors of the church were always open, which many people took advantage of.”

[Source: https://synod.org.pl/diecezja-tarnowska/]

1.1 Synthesis of the various synodal themes

The following is a synthesis of the various synodal themes. We have largely given voice to the participants in the synod meetings. Their statements are shown in italics.

1.1.1 Authority and participation

1.1.1.1 Authority in the particular Church

An analysis of the recorded statements at synod meetings indicates a threefold perception of the issue of power and participation in it:

  • The power should only be in the hands of the clergy: The pastor is in charge, and it should stay that way; the father of our parish is the pastor!(statements representing a minority),
  • The perception of the clergy’s monopoly on power in the church/parish: Authority in our Church is exercised by priests; I think everything is decided by the bishop, and parishioners have little say; Currently, he manages one person – the parish priest. The faithful are not listened to; With us the power is not shared by anyone,
  • The desire for lay faithful to participate in the decision-making process and assume shared responsibility: Priests in the Church are like parents in the home, they can’t do everything for the children; The task of the bishop and priests is to involve the laity more and more in the life of the Church. We are all responsible for ministry in the Church; Participation in the synodal meeting is the first life experience of its kind for us; In our parish we have the experience of being invited to various actions, but no longer to set goals and directions; I think we are still a long way from a situation in which everything that a presbyter does not have to do is put in the hands of equals in dignity.

1.1.1.2 Participation and co-responsibility of the laity

Experience of synodality and participation in the decision-making process:More and more I feel important and noticed by the priests; We are invited to participate and share responsibility; Very often in our parish all groups are involved in the joint preparation of the general parish works.

Communities, groups, associations and especially parish councils play an important role: The parish council is a place where we can express ourselves and propose creating something for the good of the whole; In the parish council we are invited to dialogue; At the parish level our community is synodal.

There are also certain expectations: There is a need to create a space for the laity to listen; Authority in the Church must be neither authoritarian nor fully democratic. It is necessary to find a consensus between one and the other; The point is that a priest leaving the seminary should know that a layman is not a >>enemy<<; There should be more involvement of the laity to relieve the burden on priests. It would be necessary to use the knowledge and skills of the laity in the Church.

The point of reference for the perception of authority in the Church as a whole seems to be related to the experience of a particular parish and the relationship with its pastor, and other priests, as the words of a participant in the synod meeting conclude: Authority in the Church has the face of our pastor.

1.1.1.3 Applications

The need to expand the space of responsibility of the laity for the particular Church. Emphasizing the role of parish councils, communities, movements and associations in the church community.

[Source: https://synod.org.pl/diecezja-torunska/]

1.1 Authority and participation in the Church

Participants in the consultations stressed how important and community-building and relationship-building it is for priests to work together with the faithful in pastoral care and serve each other. Prudent decisions by the parish priest on initiatives submitted by parishioners lead to the development of parish activity and the spiritual life of parishioners, in addition to integrating and dynamizing effective activities. Then the Church is alive.

The lay faithful recognize the authority of the pastor in the parish and the authority of the bishop in the diocese, to whom the final decisions belong. However, they stress that authority is first and foremost about service and listening to the voice of the lay faithful. They point to the need for authority figures, which, according to some of the speakers, are currently lacking in the Church. Synod participants also expect those in authority in the Church to provide clearer admonition on matters of faith and morals.

The prevailing thesis in the statements is that joint action is needed by both priests and lay faithful. However, this requires mutual commitment and mutual responsibility. The laity are willingly involved (though not everywhere they are allowed) in the course of the liturgy (reading of the word of God, singing, commentaries on the readings), as well as in other works in the parish, such as aid (Caritas), preparation for baptism, confirmation, and in these activities they see their participation in the life of the parish/diocese. They need such commitment, and they want to share their knowledge, including professional knowledge, experience, skills and talents. However, they expect priests to be open, pastoral in their conduct of such activities, as well as personal culture in their communication with each other. The lay faithful want to be co-workers with priests and share with them the responsibility for pastoral care in the parish.

In the synod discussions, it was stressed that the pastoral and economic councils should have a greater say in the parish’s process of taking all initiatives and participate more actively in the life of the parish and the diocese.

There has been criticism of priests who are reluctant to listen to lay people and have little involvement in the problems of young people in particular, who are not always able to define their expectations and place in the Church, but want to be noticed and needed. Many times it was pointed out that there is a need to constantly work on how to communicate with young people, who should experience an encounter with the community and thus with God (also during catechesis). It also noted the need for re-evangelization, mainly the teaching of the Eucharist and other sacraments. Many times the need for adult formation has been emphasized (e.g., through periodic catechesis for adults).

Help in discovering their place in the Church and participating more actively in pastoral work is also expected from pastors by consecrated virgins and widows.

The need for the presence of lay Catholics in the public space, in state and local government, etc., has been clearly recognized. The role of the laity includes. The proclamation of the Gospel – with the witness of life and the word – in environments where clergy do not have access or such access is severely limited. Formation for the proper participation of the lay faithful in the Church must take place first and foremost in families (the witnessing of the faith to children by parents).

Attention was also drawn to the need for greater transparency in financial matters.

[Source: https://synod.org.pl/archidiecezja-warszawska/]

1.1 Results of survey analysis in the key of the synod’s main themes

1.1.1 Priests and pastors

The key to understanding almost all the responses that were included in the surveys is the attitude toward the parish priest or priests and the nature of the relationship with them. If the priest is a disliked, antipathetic person then everything is judged in the key of this dislike. The church and the parish are judged badly from this perspective – pastoral activities, dialogue, conflict resolution, the quality of homilies, the attitude of priests. Similarly, in the other direction, if the priest is liked, very many things in the parish are evaluated positively. Surveys have found that the priest is the prism through which the faithful make evaluations of their parishes. It also shows that if priests in a parish (and especially the pastor), allow the faithful to have their say, listen to them, give them attention and time, ask for their opinions, allow them to co-determine the parish, exemplify the content of homilies and catechesis, and do not treat parishioners in advance on the basis of “I know everything best,” they will be perceived positively, thus the Church’s evaluation changes. Such a relationship is found in the vast majority of community and individual surveys. The surveys describe situations in which the priest is not very open, has no time for the faithful, but is accepted because people know that the parish is large and there are few priests. They don’t blame the priest for not being physically able to devote time to every community and everyone who wants to. On the other hand, in the surveys it came out that the faithful do not demand democracy in parishes, they realize that it is the pastor who has to make various decisions, is responsible for the parish, and in case of disputes has to settle and decide.

There are practically no surveys that rate a priest well and a parish’s activities poorly. The priest’s attitude projects an image of the parish and the Church in general. The priest in the statements of diocesans was considered good when:

  • Has time for parishioners,
  • Is kind, not abrasive,
  • He speaks good, engaged and thoughtful sermons (he doesn’t read sermons off the page),
  • does not get involved in politics, does not suggest who to vote for,
  • does not think it knows everything best,
  • takes care not only of the external image of the parish (construction, cleanliness of buildings, practicality), but also of the spiritual matters of parishioners.

Criticism of priests mainly concerns:

  • The priest does not want to talk to the faithful, and if he does talk, he knows everything better,
  • is abrasive,
  • does not speak interesting, good sermons, does not apply himself to preaching,
  • He says moralizing sermons, not up to date,
  • doesn’t talk to the faithful because he doesn’t have time,
  • cares more about the profane sphere (the external) than the sacrum (spirituality, formation, liturgy),
  • places too much importance on hierarchy (considers himself superior, from another caste, from another format),
  • His words, attitude, way of life, views are detached from the lives and affairs of ordinary people.

There are also voices in the surveys that the Church should account for pedophile scandals and be more open to homosexuals (mostly young people write about this), but there are also many opinions in the surveys that openly criticize the Church’s dialogue with the world, too open to new ideological currents.

The opinions presented in the surveys show that the faithful need priests who are committed and with authority, but which is built not on the priest’s sense of superiority or otherness, but on direct interaction with the faithful and good transmission of the content of the faith (catechesis, sermons, formation). Another issue that came up in the surveys is the evaluation of the pastor after the changes in the parish. Often those who had a good relationship with the previous pastor view the new one negatively, while thosé who did not have a good relationship with the previous one see the relationship with the new one as an opportunity to take a more prominent place in the parish. What can be seen here is a peculiar struggle among some of the faithful for position in the parish and relations with the pastor.

1.1.2 Responsibility for the community

In this section, those filling out the questionnaire mainly mention bishops and priests, followed by communities and all parishioners. One gets the impression that priests have decisive tasks and important opinions in every matter concerning the parish, hence they also have the greatest responsibility. Pastoral and parish councils are also mentioned in surveys as co-responsible, but this is not the prevailing opinion. In general, the faithful considered the clergy to be responsible for the community of the Church – this was formulated in almost every survey.

[Source: https://synod.org.pl/diecezja-warszawsko-praska/]

1.1.1 Authority and participation

Authority in the Church is exercised hierarchically and should remain so. In matters of faith and morals, the authority is the bishops and presbyters, exercising authority in the name of Jesus Christ. The laity also participate in the life of the parish through active involvement in liturgy, prayer groups, oratories, and day care centers. It also emphasized the significant role of pastoral parish councils, which are an advisory voice on parish issues, or councils and chapters in religious congregations. It was also pointed out that it should be possible in various church institutions to appoint a competent lay person to manage it, especially when we see a decreasing number of vocations to consecrated life and the priesthood, and there are fewer and fewer priests themselves. However, they cautioned that “the clergy should not cede too much responsible authority to the laity.” Thus, a “golden mean” is necessary.

The surveys also revealed that in some parishes there is an authoritative style: the parish priest only gives ordinances, and the laity are supposed to obey and fulfill them; this leads to withdrawal and lack of initiative on the part of the laity. Sometimes there is a lack of consultation between the pastor and the faithful regarding the investments being made. The lack of Economic Councils was also highlighted. This has been interpreted as confirmation that parish priests do not want advice from lay people, who often have a better idea of finances. Attention was drawn to the need for greater transparency in financial matters.

In this context, concerns have been expressed about some decisions, such as mounting Internet relays on church steeples. “We should not combine profit-oriented technology with the image of a place dedicated to the Lord God,” notes a participant in the synod road.

Some have also criticized the episcopate’s deference to ordinances on restrictions during the pandemic. Also pointed out was the lack of authority in the Church and thus of spiritual leadership of the magnitude of Cardinal. Karol Wojtyla or Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski. The laity needs the unambiguous voice of the shepherd. They see difficulties in recognizing leadership in the Church.

On the other hand, the lack of taking responsibility of the laity for the life and some affairs of the Church has been pointed out. The laity see no possibility of real influence in shaping it. Also, the lack of a sense of community makes them not choose the Church as a reality for which to devote their energies. This can be seen, among other things. in the reluctance of some parents to have their children serve at the altar as altar servers or lectors.

[Source:

1.1 Authority and participation

At the center of the Church is Christ, not those in authority. Remembering this and realizing that authority in the Church is a ministry builds a space in which everyone can participate. Parishes, communities living this truth, especially those in which the responsibility for the Church is shared by many people of different states, representing the experiences of different age groups and discerning together the directions of service, are places of growth for all members. Such teamwork is shared by some communities, some parish councils, and more commonly appears in the preparation and organization of important events for the parish or diocese. Its fruit is always an increased sense of shared responsibility for the Church among all the faithful.

Usually, however, community goals are set top-down without wide consultation (at parish, diocesan and national levels). Very often they remain unknown to most addressees. In parishes, decisions are made by the parish priest, sometimes with the participation of the parish council. The councils are often dominated by older parishioners, mostly men, and thus do not reflect the real structure of the parish. We can see the need to allow younger generations to have a voice, as well as transparency at the level of selection of council members. Shared responsibility for the Church is not fostered by the institutionalization of the parish and the increasing bureaucratization of the relationship: priest – believer. There is often a lack of trust in the laity, which is particularly evident in the failure to entrust them with important functions in the Church. Many lay people have the competencies needed to participate in parish management – not everything has to be done by a priest. Similarly, this applies to the management of the diocese. Where the priest does not allow the faithful to share responsibility, over time he is left alone and problems arise. There is also a need for greater transparency of finances in the parish and diocese – the faithful should know what their money is being spent on and how. Its beginning is good communication within the parish, for example, through the website. A deeper knowledge of the situation within parish communities from the bishops is also needed. It calls for the creation of some form of formation and training for those who, along with the pastor, share responsibility for various aspects of parish life.

There is a great need for the proximity of pastors, including the bishop, to the laity. The faithful need authority figures, guides strong with God. They greatly appreciate the authenticity, willingness to serve, the ability to admit mistakes, and the adequate responses of the authorities to priests’ transgressions of church law.

There is a need for permanent synodal bodies in the diocese so that the laity can participate in the process of discerning the direction of the diocese (an example of a fruitful initiative of this type is the annual youth meetings of the Youth Parliament).

[Source: https://synod.org.pl/archidiecezja-wroclawska/]

1.1 Listening, speaking up, participating in power and decision-making, synodality

We priests must beat our breasts[…] We do not understand each other with the faithful.

Pastor of the city parish

In answering the question “How does the Church listen to the laity, especially women and young people?”, we looked at the makeup of our diocesan synod. There was only one woman in our sharing group, and the youngest members were between the ages of 30 and 40, all the others were older men.

Participant in the diocesan synod

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.

Pastor of the city parish

None of the participants in our meeting knew that there was a diocesan pastoral council in the diocese. The composition of this body is not known to us. We also don’t know anything about the topics that are discussed at council meetings.

Faithful layperson from a rural parish

Synodal organizations in the local Church do not function. These are just facade institutions with nice names.

Faithful layperson from a rural parish

There is a lack of initiatives linking the Church with culture, civil society. The only institution deviating from this pattern is Caritas. The Church does not learn from its own mistakes. The church is associated with a very fossilized structure.

Voice from the decanal consultation meeting

* * *

The lay faithful complain that in some parishes pastors run away from contact with the faithful, avoid meetings, refuse to listen to their parishioners and participate in their daily lives and delegate responsibility to the laity. To justify this attitude, priests make the argument that the laity are too demanding and unprepared due to poor spiritual formation and lack of knowledge. Priests are focused on teaching others rather than listening to them. On the other hand, it is also not uncommon for lay faithful to withdraw and not want to get involved.

In the Church, therefore, one must strive to enter the conversation honestly and courageously. The need for clergy and laity to listen to each other. For this purpose, it is necessary to have an appropriate forum to enable such communication. Such a place, providing the necessary conditions for people to meet and talk with each other in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, should exist in every parish. It was there, after Sunday Mass. The faithful could exchange thoughts and opinions with their pastors.

A natural forum for discussion is created by various groups, movements, communities and associations operating in parishes. However, their activity was severely curtailed during the pandemic, and many of them have not recovered to date.

The following were pointed out as practical tools for breaking down barriers and providing an opportunity for dialogue between clergy and laity: the pastor greeting people who come before the start of Mass, meeting and talking with the faithful after Mass, and providing all parishioners with a phone number for the pastor so that they can call him and talk if needed. It was also requested that during pastoral visits to parishes, the bishop should not only speak, but should try to listen to the voice of the faithful by creating a space conducive to frank conversation and discussion.

Difficult and sensitive topics must not be avoided in ongoing conversations and discussions in the Church. However, all participants in the conversation must take responsibility for their words. Statements should be sincere and bold. However, they must not be irresponsible. Besides, you can’t just stop at debating. This is because speaking up is also discouraged by the fact that it is not uncommon for everything in the Church to “end up just talking.” The conversation must lead to concrete changes, to solutions to the problems that are articulated in the course of the conversation. Explanations, answers and practical conclusions must not remain shallow or merely apparent. You always need to be able to get to the root of the problem and offer a concrete solution.

Authentic conversation and debate is not possible in too large a forum. The number of participants should be selected to allow everyone to speak and actively participate. If this condition is not met – and this happens at many church meetings – then there can be no real discussion. Although a small and knowledgeable group in principle should facilitate discussion, on the other hand, this is not always the case. Indeed, voices from small rural parishes signal that in such communities, the obstacle to getting involved and speaking out is a great fear of negative feedback from others and stigmatization.

The natural place for lay faithful to participate in the process of discernment and decision-making in the Church is the pastoral and economic councils established within parishes and at the diocesan level. However, these bodies, even if they actually exist, are not representative. There are too few lay faithful in diocesan bodies, especially women and young people. Parish councils, on the other hand, usually consist only of trusted individuals selected by the pastor. So real action must be taken to change this state of affairs. The composition of the council cannot be decided solely by the pastor. It should be a truly representative body, with members coming from all the towns or districts that make up the parish and from all age groups. Elections for parish councils should be made mandatory. The diocesan bishop should also define more precisely the prerogatives of parish councils. Clarify when the parish priest is required to convene the council and on what issues to consult it. It was also requested that the council be allowed to periodically give its opinion on the work of the pastor. This opinion should go both to the pastor himself and to the diocesan bishop, and perhaps to all parishioners.

Members of parish councils should receive proper formation so that they can properly carry out their tasks. There is also a need for parishes to exchange information on the operation of these boards.

[Source: https://synod.org.pl/diecezja-zielonogorsko-gorzowska/]

1.1 Authority and participation

Power is a service. Participants represented quite a divergence in expectations regarding the ministries, functions and place in the Church of lay people. One gets the impression that these conclusions have too often been individual expectations, devoid of an ecclesial outlook. It is important that the need for competence at various levels was emphasized.

It is noteworthy that interviewees attached great importance to moral role models in relation to both the community and the institution of the Church (groups – parish – Episcopate). One senses that more and more people who are genuinely involved in the life of the Church do not want to engage in initiatives, ventures, both of social and pastoral importance, with clergymen who are inaccessible, aloof and all-knowing.

The participants’ statements did not manifest a desire to deprive someone of power, but expressed a great desire to exercise it competently, responsibly and transparently. It said that the Church has suffered great image losses in recent times through inept governance.

The category of “authority” seems out of place in the context of Church life, as it distorts the understanding of the office of priest, bishop, pope. However, it seems that in the dimension of the Church in Poland, the element of “power “has been reduced to a minimum, while further reduction will lead to the abolition of the role of the priest as a shepherd.

It is incomprehensible when offices by their nature unrelated to priestly ministry are filled with clergy, while there is no shortage of competent lay people who could be employed in these positions.

One dreams of a church where authority means commitment, service and responsibility, as in a loving family. The lay faithful represent great potential in various areas of the local church’s functioning, which can be used for the common good. It is with great responsibility to select them and use their abilities. It is sad to say that there is a lack of sound human resource management in the Church.

Testimonials: “Involvement can manifest itself in working for the parish, forming parish groups, running the parish office, maintaining websites, newspapers. The laity can organize assistance for the needy.” “The laity should help the ecclesiastical institution to develop, to speak plainly what is incomprehensible and questionable (…).” “There is less respect for the laity in the Church. It seems as if the laity are only there to financially support the institution and pay for sacraments that should be free.” “It is the laity who make up the Church. Their role is momentous, (…) but the involvement of the laity must not take the opposite form – intrusiveness (…)”.

[Source: https://synod.org.pl/ordynariat-polowy-w-polsce/]

List of synodal topics

Towarzysze podróży

W Kościele i w społeczeństwie jesteśmy na tej samej drodze, ramię w ramię.

Kiedy mówimy „nasz Kościół”, to kogo mamy na myśli? Kto w naszym Kościele „podąża razem”? Kto oczekuje, aby bardziej ku niemu wyjść i zaprosić go do wspólnej drogi wiary? Jakie osoby lub grupy są zaniedbane i nie objęte troską o to, by iść razem drogą wiary i stanowić jedną wspólnotę Kościoła?

Zestawienie odpowiedzi na te pytania zawarte w syntezach diecezjalnych.

Czytaj więcej »

Słuchanie

Słuchanie jest pierwszym krokiem, ale wymaga otwartego umysłu i serca, bez uprzedzeń.

Czy umiemy słuchać siebie nawzajem w naszym Kościele? Czyj głos jest pomijany lub za mało słyszany? Z jakiego powodu? Czy potrafimy określić uprzedzenia i stereotypy, które utrudniają nam słuchanie innych? Czy z otwartym umysłem i sercem umiemy wsłuchiwać się w poglądy inne niż nasze; także osób spoza wspólnoty Kościoła?

Czytaj więcej »

Zabieranie głosu

Wszyscy są zaproszeni do mówienia z odwagą i zaufaniem, to znaczy łącząc wolność, prawdę i miłość.

Czy w Kościele nasz/mój głos ma znaczenie i czy znajdujemy przestrzeń do wypowiedzi i bycia wysłuchanym? Czy czujemy, że przemawiający w naszym imieniu faktycznie reprezentują także nas? Jaki mamy na to realny wpływ?

Czytaj więcej »

Celebrowanie

„Wspólna droga” jest możliwa tylko wtedy, gdy opiera się na wspólnotowym słuchaniu Słowa Bożego i sprawowaniu Eucharystii.

Czy liturgiczne celebracje i doświadczenie wspólnotowej modlitwy w naszym Kościele mają realny wpływ na moją/naszą praktykę codziennego życia: decyzje, wybory, inspiracje? Czy czujemy się zaproszeni do czynnego (praktycznego) zaangażowania w liturgię, czy też pozostawia nam się rolę „widza”? Czy sami pielęgnujemy w sobie pragnienie zaangażowania? Czy przeżywanie liturgii umacnia i motywuje mnie/nas do podjęcia misji ewangelizacji?

Czytaj więcej »

Współodpowiedzialni w naszej wspólnej misji

Synodalność służy misji Kościoła, do udziału w której powołani są wszyscy jego członkowie.

Czy mamy świadomość, że jako ochrzczeni wszyscy jesteśmy powołani do misji ewangelizowania? Co nas hamuje w podejmowaniu tej misji i wspieraniu w niej innych: w nas samych, w środowisku życia, we współczesnej kulturze?

Czytaj więcej »

Dialog w Kościele i społeczeństwie

Dialog wymaga wytrwałości i cierpliwości, ale umożliwia także wzajemne zrozumienie.

W jaki sposób w naszym Kościele rozwiązywane są konflikty i trudności wynikające z różnicy poglądów, dążeń, oczekiwań? Czy dialog jest naszym sposobem wychodzenia z tych problemów? Jak w tym kontekście wygląda współpraca różnych instytucji, organizacji i ruchów kościelnych? Czy umiemy uczyć się form dialogu od instytucji niekościelnych? Czy dialog jest również przestrzenią naszego spotkania z wyznawcami innych religii i zniewierzącymi?

Czytaj więcej »

Ekumenizm

Dialog między chrześcijanami różnych wyznań, zjednoczonymi przez jeden chrzest,
zajmuje szczególne miejsce na drodze synodalnej.

Jakie relacje ma nasza wspólnota kościelna z członkami innych tradycji chrześcijańskich i wyznań? Co nas łączy i jak razem podążamy? Jakie owoce przyniosło nam wspólne podążanie? Jakie są trudności? Jak możemy zrobić następny krok we wspólnym podążaniu naprzód?

Czytaj więcej »

Władza i uczestnictwo

Kościół synodalny jest Kościołem uczestniczącym i współodpowiedzialnym.

Kto w naszym Kościele podejmuje decyzje i czego one dotyczą? Czy jest to wyłącznie forma indywidualnego przewodniczenia czy jest też w tym wymiar wspólnotowy? Czy istnieje współpraca zespołowa i czy w tym kontekście promowane jest zaangażowanie świeckich, np. w radach duszpasterskich i ekonomicznych, w kierowaniu wspólnotami? Czy jesteśmy gotowi podjąć się współodpowiedzialności za podejmowane decyzje i działania?

Czytaj więcej »

Rozeznawanie i podejmowanie decyzji

Na drodze synodalnej podejmujemy decyzje poprzez rozeznawanie tego, co Duch Święty mówi przez całą naszą wspólnotę.

Jak rozumiemy to, że Kościół jest hierarchiczny a nie demokratyczny? Czy w tak zorganizowanym Kościele widzimy miejsce dla wspólnego rozeznawania i podejmowania decyzji całego ludu Bożego wraz z pasterzami? Jak możemy wzrastać we wspólnotowym rozeznawaniu duchowym?

Czytaj więcej »

Formowanie się do synodalności

Synodalność pociąga za sobą otwartość na zmiany, formację i ciągłe uczenie się.

Jak formowane są osoby, zwłaszcza te, które pełnią odpowiedzialne funkcje we wspólnocie chrześcijańskiej, aby były bardziej zdolne do słuchania i dialogu, rozeznawania? Czy mamy świadomość odpowiedzialności za własną nieustanną formację do odpowiedzialności i misji ewangelizacyjnej w Kościele?

Czytaj więcej »

Peryferia

W wielu syntezach problem osób pozostających na marginesie Kościoła przewijał się w kontekście podstawowych pytań synodalnych. Jednak w niektórych opracowaniach peryferiom poświęcone zostały osobne sekcje – prezentujemy je w tym miejscu.

Czytaj więcej »

Młodzież której nie ma

Palący brak młodzieży w Kościele zauważono w prawie każdej syntezie diecezjalnej. Najczęściej poruszano tą kwestię w kontekście pytań synodalnych. Czasami poświęcano młodzieży osobne sekcje – prezentujemy je w tym miejscu.

Czytaj więcej »