A new document published in early May: 'Synodality in the Life and Mission of the Church' approved by Pope Francis, explores the pope's hope for a synodal church: a church that walks together as the pilgrim people of God.
This is the description of the chuch given in the documents of the Second Vatican Council. The church is a communion and the responsiblity of all Catholics for the life of the church and its mission. The pope and the bishops assisted by their priests, still retain the decision making authority but all working as partners in the mission of Jesus.
Any process of discernment needs to begin with the consultation of the laity. Both laymen and laywomen need places in the church where they can express themselves which requires a need to overcome the clercal mentality that keeps them at the margins of church life. A call to a spritituality of communion, listening, dialogue and communal discerment.
A recent editorial in the Catholic Times gives the readers an understanding of synodality, collective consensus, and the meaning for the church. It is an old concept practiced in the early church and an important concept of the Second Vatican Council.
Pope Francis particularly brings back to us the tradition of collective consensus and is leading the local church to deeper reflection on the issue.
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, 'collective consensus' means that all members of the church will listen to each other and seek 'direction together' and respect each other. The bishops' synods and parish synods operate in the spirit of common consensus. This is different from the process of democratic consensus based on majority rule. However, church leaders are not to make arbitrary decisions regardless of the will of believers.
One of the greatest achievements of the papacy of Pope Francis in the minds of many is the revival of the "collective consensus" in the church. He also added that the journey of communicating with one another may cause tensions, conflicts and debates within the church, but it is a true fellowship.
The principle of 'common consensus' is the modus vivendi Ecclesiae, which is not limited to the synod. It is a principle that should be applied to the existential life of all members of the church, from the universal church to each local church, parish, institution, and organization. Therefore, church leaders must be in a position to respect all the reflection and judgment of all God's people through the power of the Holy Spirit.