VATICAN CITY — His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, USA, met with Pope Francis on Monday in the Vatican. It was Archbishop Broglio’s first face-to-face meeting with the Holy Father since his Nov. 15 election as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
Archbishop Broglio was among bishops gathered from around the world to discuss with Pope Francis the nascent “Continental Phase” of “Synod 2021-2024: For a Synodal Church.” The Synod is a three-year process of discernment in which bishops, priests, religious, and laity are called to pray, reflect, listen to each other, and share views on the Holy Spirit’s will for the Catholic Church going forward in light of theSecond Vatican Council (1962-1965), which looked at the signs of the time to render more accessible the faith.
In an interview with the Vatican News Service, Archbishop Broglio expressed hope that the synodal process will open the hearts and minds of U.S. Catholics, helping them become better listeners and thus overcome the political polarization that is currently so prevalent in American society:
“Unfortunately, one of the aspects – I do not know how prevalent this is in the Church, but certainly one of the aspects of the society in general in the United States – is the inability to listen to the other. You only listen to the newscasters that tell you what you want to hear, or from your point of view, and if you do not agree with someone, then you do not listen to him or her.
“We even see this on university campuses, where you would think a fundamental aspect of learning is also to listen to those who may not necessarily agree with me. But we have this closing off where we do not want to hear people, if they represent a certain position they are not welcome on a campus.
“I am hopeful that at least among Catholics who participate in the synodal process, perhaps this opening to the presence of the Spirit will allow … and that does not necessarily mean that this is a moment of changing convictions, but it is a moment of hearing where the other person is and trying to respond and put together that sharing of views. I hope that that will help heal, at least as far as the church is concerned, some of the polarization.”
The Continental Phase is the third of four phases in the Synodal process, which Pope Francis opened in October 2021. First came the Diocesan Phase, in which views were shared in local churches with the People of God gathered around their pastors, focusing on communion, participation, and mission; next, theEpiscopal Conference/Synods of Oriental Churches Phase, wherein views were discussed among prelates at the national level, resulting in creation of a Document for the Continental Stage (DCS). In the Continental Phase, churches will use the DCS to engage in listening and discerning on a continental basis, looking beyond barriers of nationality, culture, and language in search of a common vision, culminating with the celebration of Continental Synodal Assemblies between January and March 2023. The fourth and final phase will consist of a two-year Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome in October 2023 and October 2024 to complete the process of discernment.
According to the Holy See, “The purpose of this synod is not to produce more documents. Rather, it is intended to inspire people to dream about the church we are called to be, to make people’s hopes flourish, to stimulate trust, to bind up wounds, to weave new and deeper relationships, to learn from one another, to build bridges, to enlighten minds, warm hearts, and restore strength to our hands for our common mission.”