KAAD-Seminar "The Synodal Path in Latin America"

|   Lateinamerika, Aktuelles, Seminare

Pope Francis attaches great importance to the Church listening to "the people of God" all over the world and gaining strength for renewal from this practice. It was also against this background that 23 scholarship holders (two of them representatives of the Albertus Magnus scholarship programme) reflected on and discussed the topic "The Synodal Path in Latin America" at the Catholic Academy of the Diocese of Essen "Die Wolfsburg" in Mülheim an der Ruhr from 6 to 9 June.

In his opening speech, the Chief Executive of the Bischöfliche Aktion Adveniat, P. Dr. Martin Maier SJ, outlined synodal processes since the founding of the Latin American Bishops' Council (1955). He referred to the famous conferences of Medellín in 1968 (implementation of the Second Vatican Council), Puebla in 1979 (option for the poor) and Santo Domingo in 1992 (towards a new evangelisation). The focus of his presentation, however, was on the developments of the past ten years. At the latest, the founding of REPAM (Network Panamazonica) in 2014 made the Church in Latin America "a laboratory of change and innovation in the sense of a synodal and missionary conversion", said Martin Maier. This was followed by the Amazon Synod (2019) with its focus on interests of indigenous peoples' and the large-scale Ecclesial Assembly of Latin America and the Caribbean (2021), known as the Asamblea Eclesial for short, where representatives of all the countries involved deliberated on the future of the Church on the subcontinent. Martin Maier emphasised that the name of the 2021 Assembly, namely "Asamblea Eclesial" and not "Conferencia Episcopal", stands for a change in the Latin American Church.

Dr Frank Ronge, Director of the Office of the Synodal Path (German Bishops' Conference / Central Committee of German Catholics), recognised the promising tendencies in Latin America in his presentation on the synodal path in Germany and impressively outlined the mission, structure and objectives of the process in Germany. The participants thus gained first-hand insight into the work of the synodal path and benefited from this comparative perspective in their analyses and reflections. They were impressed, for example, by the fact that decisions of the synodal assemblies were clearly formulated and published. Such a practice, transparent to the interested public, could serve as a model for those responsible in Latin America. Finally, publications made it easier for the interested public to follow the handling of the decisions. Participants also noted that Frank Ronge's presentation had broadened their view of synodal efforts in Germany, as international reporting on this topic is not always objective.

A round table discussion on the topic, which was attended by the theologian Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Margit Eckholt (University of Osnabrück), the theologian Dr Birgit Weiler MMS, who teaches in Lima, and the Peruvian priest Juan Bytton SJ, who currently serves in Rome, joined the discussion by video. All three speakers had been involved in various synodal processes in recent years and emphasised the indispensability of this form of work in view of the great challenges facing the Global Church. The Bolivian priest Damián Oyola R. and the Brazilian theologian Rafael Sampaio gave precise presentations on how the lack of priests in Latin America also promotes the responsible participation of lay people in the parishes.

A seminar of international students in a city of the Ruhr area requires at least a brief introduction to the industrial history of the region and today's structural change. An impressive visit to the German Mining Museum and a guided tour of Bochum, led with great commitment by Mark Radtke, lecturer at the Wolfsburg, served this purpose.

The participants left Mülheim after lively discussions and open conversations that broadened their understanding of synodality in Latin America and the Global Church. Their reflections will be incorporated into the work of the various alumni groups on the subcontinent.