Cardinal Dolan Opens Diocesan Phase of Church’s Synod


Cardinal Dolan, along with diocesan bishops across the universal Church, opened the Archdiocese of New York’s diocesan phase of a synod on Oct. 17, beginning a process of “preparation and prayer,” at the request of Pope Francis, in anticipation of the Synod of Bishops in Rome in October 2023.

The diocesan phase, which runs until April, will focus on listening to and consulting the people of God. The synod’s theme is “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission.”

Cardinal Dolan, in his homily at St. Patrick’s Cathedral during the 10:15 a.m. Sunday Mass, said Pope Francis “wants us to join him in praying, listening, discerning, examining ourselves personally, and the Church communally, to see if we’re  on the path Jesus has set for His beloved bride, His mystical body, the Church.”

A week earlier, Pope Francis formally opened the process leading up to the assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 2023. 

Discernment is what lights the way and guides the synod, “preventing it from becoming a Church convention, a study group or a political congress, but rather a grace-filled event, a process of healing guided by the Holy Spirit,” the pope said in his homily at the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Oct. 10.

 Some 3,000 people attended the Rome Mass, including the 270 people—cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and laypeople—invited to the day of reflection in the Vatican Synod Hall Oct. 9.

Brooklyn Auxiliary Bishop James Massa, rector of St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, was among the principal concelebrants at the St. Patrick’s Cathedral Mass.

Cardinal Dolan welcomed leaders from the archdiocese who he said “so generously participate in consultative organs of these vast acres of the Lord’s vineyard”—members of boards, committees, religious orders, schools, charities, health care, witness in the public square, business and governance.

He acknowledged the synod’s leadership at the local level: Elizabeth Guevara de Gonzalez, director of the archdiocesan Office of Adult Faith Formation, and Msgr. Joseph LaMorte, vicar general and moderator of the curia for the archdiocese. 

Ms. Guevara led the Prayer for the Synod, which the cardinal said was composed by the pope. At the end of the liturgy, before the dismissal, she shared upcoming plans for the diocesan process of the synod. “Our next step is to participate in dialogue and prayer,” Ms. Guevara said. “Our pastors will provide more guidance in the weeks and months to come. Thank you all for joining us and for participating in this blessed process.”

The cardinal, in his homily, considered “the role of authority and leadership in the Church” and acknowledged that “Jesus teaches us about all that” in the Gospel passage of Mark, which had just been proclaimed.  

“Yes, the Church is of divine origin,” said the cardinal, but she is “composed of very human membership.”

“Yes, Jesus gave us a rather fluid blueprint about the structure of His Church—His apostles, the sacraments, a basic creed and moral expectations, bishop, priest, deacon, women and men with duties in marriage and family and communities of faith, using gifts, what the Bible calls charisms—of teaching and worship and charity, administration, healing and service—the mandate to teach the nations about Him.”

Throughout “her colorful history of two millennia,” the cardinal continued, “the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church has expanded and developed its style of organization and authority.”

He cited as examples: “We’ve had popes at the head of conquering armies and popes all by themselves in jail. We’ve had bishops revered as princes; we’ve had bishops beheaded by princes.

The Church, he said, has “managed property, buildings and money to compete with a Wall Street firm, or at other times existed solely on faith, prayer, bread, wine, the Bible and the good will of her people.

“The Church has members trying to raise families, run businesses, make a living, while ever in allegiance to the teachings of our Lord.”

Those examples, he explained, only touch on the array “of how the Church we cherish has tried for 2,000 years” to lead and teach with authority, govern and serve “since Jesus commissioned us to do so.”

“And now,” the cardinal said, the successor of St. Peter as bishop of Rome and pastor of the Church Universal, “Pope Francis, has asked us all to commence an examination of conscience on how we as a Church” are living up to the model of the Church given us by Jesus.

“Synodality,” the cardinal said, is the topic Pope Francis calls for the process of preparation and prayer for the Synod of Bishops in Rome in two years.

The Holy Father, with the authority of St. Peter, has “reminded us of certain clear essentials intended by Jesus; constant, although at times, we admit clouded and dimmed, in the Church’s amazing 2,000 year drama.”

Among the “non-negotiables”:

  • The energy and direction driving the Church comes from the Holy Spirit, not ourselves;
  • Our journey through this life back to our true and eternal homeland of heaven is most effectively accomplished precisely as a journey as we walk with and accompany each other, with Jesus as our guide, His Blessed Mother and the saints, and we sinners at each other’s side; 
  • That on this journey we pay special attention to those at the side of the road, especially those who might be sick or weak, poor, or unable to keep up with us. 

“We are loyal Catholics,”  Cardinal Dolan said. “The Holy Father has asked us to help him keep the Church always under the direction that Jesus, our Good Shepherd, intends.

“So I thank you all this morning for accepting his invitation to begin this work of synodality. Stay tuned for other invitations as the process continues.”

After the Mass, CNY spoke with Kevin McGinley, 62, and his wife Jen, parishioners at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Having just learned about the synod, he said they had not “dissected” it yet but would examine it more closely in the coming weeks. 

His initial take on the synod is, “the more we can look into, the better it is.”

Catholic News Service contributed to this article.