"Enlarge the space of your tent" (Is. 54:2)
The Working Document for the Continental Stage (DCS) of the 2021- 2024 Synod on Synodality helps us to discern more deeply the movement of the Holy Spirit in our time.
This document, presented in the Vatican the first of November, 2022 highlights a wide range of issues that emerged during the local sessions and serves to strengthen the unity of the emerging vision, in its global context.
WHAT IS THE CONTINENTAL STAGE?
The Continental Stage consists of a time of listening and discernment of all of the People of God and of all local Churches on a continental basis, leading to a series of continental assemblies.
This does not mean a replication of the consultation, listening and discernment that has already taken place, which was an invitation to all of the People of God. This is, rather, a deepening of that discernment process by the people identified to represent the local Churches in the pre-assembly processes prior to each Continental Assembly. It is understood that there will be differences in approach that take account of the established practices, cultural and language elements, geography, and logistics of each continent.
WHY WAS THIS STAGE ADDED?
This Continental Stage is part of this synodal process to emphasise the dialogical movement between the universal Church and the particular Church (cfr. CIC 368; Communionis Notio n.7). This process involves a discernment on the main synodal theme "how we walk together today" and its priorities are developed in a manner as inclusive as possible. We are convinced that a synodal Church is a Church of local Churches with the vision of a mutual dialogue and connection between the universal Church and the particular Church.
Furthermore, with this stage, we intend to encourage the creation or strengthening of links of neighbouring Churches (cf. Fratelli Tutti n.151) because, while it is true that the relationship between the Universal Church and the Particular Church remains fundamental, it has become evident over time that there are dynamics, tensions, challenges and historical-cultural peculiarities specific and traceable at the level of the individual continent and region.
To better grasp the peculiarities of this continental stage, it is important to move away from a merely temporal and spatial vision (first a local stage, then the continental stage, the universal stage and finally the local implementation stage), and adopt the dialogical approach existing between the Universal Church and the particular Church (the individual Christian communities of a circumscribed territory, led by a bishop, and "in which and from which subsists the one and only Catholic Church" (CIC 368; Communionis Notio n.7) within a single and unique process that always involves, but in a differentiated manner, the entire People of God.
WHAT IS THE GOAL OF THIS CONTINENTAL STAGE?
The intent of the continental stage is to deepen our discernment on what has emerged from the previous stage of local and national listening, with the aim of formulating open questions more accurately, and to better substantiate and flesh out the insights coming from the local Churches, now at a continental perspective. The DCS will assist the reflection on what has emerged from the consultation of the People of God in the local Churches around the world. This stage also wants to be an opportunity to listen to those realities on the margins of the Church not integrated in the previous stage. This stage is not yet the time to suggest answers, nor to decide on courses of action.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN AT THE END OF THIS CONTINENTAL STAGE?
The Continental Stage will conclude in each 'continent' with the celebration of the Continental Assemblies and the drafting of a Final Document of the Continental Stage. This document will have to be the fruit of an authentically synodal path, respectful of the synodal process actually carried out, thus reflecting the voice of the People of God within the Continent. More precise instructions on how structure this document will be offered together with the DCS.
The 7 continental documents will be sent, no later than March 31st, to the General Secretariat of the Synod and will form the basis of the Instrumentum Laboris.
The conclusion of the continental stage does not mean the conclusion of the synodal process of the People of God that began with the consultation of the local phase. Our journeying together can thus become the foundation for how we participate in Church as the whole of the People of God.