Diocesan Synthesis Document from the Archdiocese of Seoul at the Diocesan phase of the 16th ordinary general assembly of the synod of bishops
1. The Archdiocese of Seoul has been taking her journey ‘towards God with hope’ for carrying out synodality since 2003, when the Diocese held her synod. While the Diocese was planning a new Diocesan synod to strengthen the pastoral capacity of the Diocese and parishes, the 16th synod of bishops was held under the agenda ‘for a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission’.
Goal on the Diocesan Level: ‘Experiencing and Realizing a Synodal Church’
2. In 2021, during the opening Mass of the Diocesan synodal process of the 16th synod of bishops, Cardinal Andrew YEOM, Diocesan bishop at the time mentioned, “as opening the Diocesan synodal process, we have joy and hope, and also go through sorrow and pain.” In his message, Joy and hope meant that we would find the Holy Spirit who lives in the Church. On the contrary, sorrow and pain referred to fear that the shortcomings and errors that belong to us as weak human beings would be pointed out and revealed. And then, in 2022, at the session for explanation of the Diocesan annual pastoral letter, as newly appointed Diocesan bishop, Archbishop Peter CHUNG presented the agenda: ‘Experiencing and Realizing a Synodal Church’ to the Diocesan priests as our goal of the synod on the Diocesan level and emphasized importance of ‘listening’ asking them to listen carefully to the voice of the people of God with patience to the very end.
3. Accordingly, the Archdiocese of Seoul had the Consultative meetings with small group meetings in order to listen directly to the opinions for a synodal church from the people of God. The meetings were held mainly centered on parishes and apostolic associates. In addition, the synod website was also operated by the Diocese for those who were not able to attend such meetings for unavoidable reasons so that they would be able to present their opinion themselves.
4. First, for volunteers, who would preside over the consultative meetings in parishes and apostolic associates as the first listeners on the synodal journey, a synodal promotional video and the consultative meeting guide were produced and distributed. Volunteer training was conducted as well. Moreover, pre-synod educational materials were provided so that volunteers can deliver the concept of synodality, communion, participation, and mission of the Church as three factors realizing synodality. Also 10 core topics for the Church realizing synodality. Finally, all those materials were posted on the synod website of the Diocese so that all participants and volunteers could look them up. In this way, the Diocesan level of the synod was going to be guided.
Difficulties in the Process of the Diocesan Level of the Synod
5. One of the difficulties in operating the consultative meetings was the absolute lack of time. According to the purpose of this synod, the most important thing was the participation of the people of God, so the lack of time for the process of the Diocesan level was the biggest difficulty experiencing the Church that realizes synodality. After listening to the voices of particular churches on this matter, the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops in the Vatican decided to extend the period during the process of the Diocesan level. This shows that the universal Church and the particular churches are communicating with each other, and that this synod considers this communication most important.
6. As the consultative meeting progressed, other difficulties occurred. The first was a cultural/linguistic difficulty involved in explaining and understanding the newly theologically established concept of ‘synodality’. There were fundamental and actual difficulties in translating the term ‘synodality’, rooted in European language, into Korean language so that the Church in Korea would fully understand the abundant meaning. In the Korean or Asian churches, “together with each other” is a way of living our daily life. Therefore, it was difficult to explain all experiences such as working together, dancing together, singing together, and living together in connection with the concept of ‘synodality’ and to establish it through the process of consultation. Secondly, it was difficult to express the experience of the Holy Spirit being with us in our daily life in concrete terms of life. Within the cultural context of the Korean or Asian church, it is hard to find a relational concept that could explain the ‘’ Holy Spirit. Although God and Jesus can be understood as the Father and the Son of God through the concept of family, the relationship concerning the Holy Spirit who proceeds from God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son is unfamiliar. We believe and know that God is with us and Jesus Christ has saved us. However, it was difficult to find and express how the Holy Spirit, who has been sent from the Father by the ascended Savior Jesus Christ, is present in our daily lives, abiding in and guiding us. Also, having a conversation at the consultative meeting was another difficulty. Because of its Confucian culture, Korean society values age and courtesy, which makes it difficult to have an equal conversation among people from different age groups. Also, due to the influence of experiencing the division of North and South Korea and ideological confrontation, the conversational pattern often takes the form of unilateral teaching, correcting, or blaming the other party rather than respecting and listening. In addition, changes following the rapid growth of the Korean society have caused fundamental differences between generations and social classes. As a result, differences in values among people make it difficult to communicate with each other through conversation and to listen carefully to each other. From the beginning of the consultative meeting, it was doubtful whether the meeting would proceed well, and these difficulties came out as the consultative meeting progressed.
Personal Reflections and the Consultative Meeting
7. The synod guide video and educational materials were provided in advance so that participants could conduct personal reflections before the consultative meeting. Through the personal reflection process, the participants looked back on their lives, recalled the most impressive religious experience, and remembered God they experienced in that moment. In addition, by examining how such experiences are related to the 10 core topics for a synodal church which consists of communion, participation, and mission, the participants prepared for the consultative meeting.
8. After completing personal reflections, the participants came to experience a church that realized ‘synodality’ by sharing their experiences and also listening to those of others in which they met God who was with them in their lives during the meeting. In the process of understanding ‘synodality’, experiencing the Holy Spirit, and the conversational consultation, the understanding and expression of mutual trust and respect through encountering, listening, and communication, has amazingly grown. Each participant’s personal experience became a community experience through the consultative meeting and developed into a church experience by way of discerning the leading of the Holy Spirit who was present at the meeting. All this process has grown into the experiences of a synodal church through discernment by the 10 core topics for a church that realizes ‘synodality’. Each consultative meeting submitted their synodal opinions on the synod website of the Diocese on methods and procedures to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit for the Archdiocese of Seoul to become a church which lives ‘synodality’ better. Also, all synodal opinions from the consultative meeting (that is, the first listening session) at each parish was summarized and submitted on the synod website of the Diocese as the parish synthesis after the second listening session where the pastor of the parish and the parish synodal team interpreted and discerned them again.
9. Meanwhile, in order to listen to the voice of marginalized people, the Diocesan synodal team contacted associates connected with those who have difficulty speaking out, particularly, women, the disabled, LGBTs, migrants, and North Korean defectors, listened to their synodal proposals, and received their opinions. In addition, the network meetings for religious orders who were under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Seoul were held and the synodal process was explained. They also were requested for presenting the synodal opinions to the Diocese, which now have been received. Furthermore, Archbishop Peter CHUNG of Seoul sent letters twice to the Diocesan priests and listened to their proposals in the context of the Diocesan level of the synod. Also, pre-seminarians and seminarians participated in the meetings and submitted their synodal opinions.
10. Participation in the consultative meeting was a response to Pope Francis’ inviting the entire people of God to the 16th synod of bishops. Participants in the meeting shared and listened to their own experiences through prayer, meditation, and conversation. Also, while being conscious of the leading of the Holy Spirit, according to the 10 core topics for a church that realizes ‘synodality’, the meeting looked into the areas in need of repentance and healing for the Church to be renewed, and presented opinions for the Church realizing ‘synodality’. In the end, at the Diocesan level, total 6,038 consultative meetings were held in 174 out of 232 parishes and in apostolic associates, and more than 31,932 persons participated. In addition, approximately 40,000 synodal opinions were submitted through the consultative meetings and particular proposals. Submitted synodal opinions were presented in connection with under the topics such as priests, religious, laity, pastoral collaborators, church ministry and administration, listening, communication, church participation, education for formation, concern for the voice of the poor, and the ecclesial role and mission in her relationship to society.
Experience of communion through participation
11.The synodal opinions expressed through the consultative meetings can be summarized as a renewed recognition of the precious value of ‘personal communion through encountering’. In other words, it was recognized that ‘listening to each other with mutual respect and consideration’ is a highly important factor for personal communion. Participants expressed the meeting as a time of God’s grace in which they could feel gratitude, exaltation, and true joy, recalling the moments when they reflected on themselves and could sense the presence of the Triune God by paying attention to spiritual discernment for sensing the leading of the Holy Spirit during the meeting. This was realization of what Pope Francis said during the homily of the Mass for opening of the synodal path. “Dear brothers and sisters, let us have a good journey together! May we be pilgrims in love with the Gospel and open to the surprises of the Holy Spirit. Let us not miss out on the grace-filled opportunities born of encounter, listening and discernment”.
12. Through this synod which consisted of various types of meetings in which people from various classes participated, the participants just expressed their opinions freely and openly which used to remain as nothing more than ‘mere talk’ and they experienced it was fine with free expression. Also, it was learned that other’s opinion might be different from their own. In addition, it was experienced that someone listened to their opinions wholeheartedly. This experience led to the experience of ‘belonging’, that is, being a ‘member’ of the Church. Out of the synodal opinions, the opinion that they experienced “faith with others” rather than “faith that I believe alone” was repeated. That shows that Catholic faith is not individual but communal, and that this synod was an opportunity to recognize the joy of communal faith such that each individual spiritual life has a great influence on each other in the Church.
Facing the Church’s Weaknesses through Listening
13. The relationship between church members revealed by the synodal opinions is generally experienced and recognized as a ‘vertical and closed structure’. This is also referred to as authoritarianism because parishioners have an impression that they find it difficult to reach the clergy. In the Church community, the pastoral activity of the clergy is expressed as clericalism and the relationship between religious, lay assistants and lay people is also understood as something vertical and authoritative. That reflects the following realities as its causes; the lack of free communication, difficulties in comfortable access to priests and religious, management of the Church that seems to be priest-centered or operated by arbitrary decision made by the clergy, and such a situation where only a few lay members’ voices are heard. For these reasons, the faithful have been given a negative impression that the Church is not a place for listening and a spiritual life but a place for instruction and obligation. This way, they experienced being rejected rather than respected as members of the Church community. By betraying the hope that community and faith were growing together, this led to doubts about whether Christians today were living up to the evangelical counsel.
14. While reflecting on themselves, the participants also acknowledged that they did not live their lives based on prayer, the sacraments, and the teaching of the Scriptures and the Church and that they neglected their relationship with God whereas they gave priority to social and human relationships while promoting secular friendships. It was pointed out that for this reason the faithful easily left away from the spiritual life, so repentance for their cursory spiritual life would be needed. Also, the following instances were pointed out as to be corrected: longtime parishioners show unfriendly attitudes towards new parishioners who are recently baptized or newly moved in the area. Some lay assistants or group leaders show authoritative attitudes. Sometimes discrimination occurs on the basis of differences in terms of educational background, environment, financial state, culture and leisure life. As these problematic situations have accumulated, the unity and communion of the Church have been undermined. As a result, new parishioners became reluctant to register, avoided joining groups, left the parish community, or even gave up their spiritual life.
Experiencing God as Source of Communion, God the Holy Spirit
15. Through the consultative meeting, participants experienced how touching, comforting and healing grace can be given by communion with the Triune God through listening which began with prayer and through discerning the will of the Holy Spirit by paying attention to the leading of the Holy Spirit. They experienced the growth of the community’s faith while sensing God’s presence in mutually respectful conversation. In addition, after they experienced ‘communion of God with us’ and ‘communion between themselves with God and the community’, the participants are taking a journey forward to mission of the Church with the identity of ‘children of God and people who have experienced the Gospel’. Furthermore, participants discovered ‘who the Church community was not together with, and what the Church community couldn’t do together’ and suggested that the growth of faith should be necessary to be with the marginalized people, and that the Church should stand up for taking care of them.
Companions on the Synodal Journey: Concern for Those Whom We Haven’t Been with
16. Many participants expressed their concern about the aging of the Church community through the synodal opinions. They proposed to organize and develop pastoral programs for elderly Christians so that they shouldn’t be marginalized due to the pastoral direction of the Church community’s activities which were centered on the middle-aged. Along with the provision of solutions for the aging of the Church community, the participants also mentioned the necessity of the effort to pay attention to children and the youth groups to revitalize them who will take the leading role in the future faith community. In parishes, Mass for Sunday school and the youth tends to disappear. They find the spiritual life not enjoyable but rather obligatory. The young adults appealed that they took too much responsibility and burden, and that they were spiritually exhausted by taking on extra-work in the activities of the Church community. The most frequently mentioned opinions from the youth is a request to let them participate in parish pastoral councils or in the process of establishing pastoral plans ‘as an observer at least’. In order for the young people to boldly express their opinions and to effectively deliver them to the Church, the Church should reflect on them from the young people’s point of view.
17. Through the consultative meeting, participants suggested that the Church should be a welcoming church for those who have difficulties in church life. It is undoubtedly important to take care of catechumens and to confer baptism, but it is also suggested that even after baptism the Church still should take care of newly born Christians with continuous attention so that they can willingly adapt to their spiritual life. Furthermore, it is suggested that the Church should pay attention to non-practicing Christians. Besides, it is suggested that the Church should take care of an increasing number of single households, unmarried people, and those who are restricted from their spiritual life for various reasons such as divorce, the second marriage and so on: it is not hard to find such cases in the Church, which reflects the changes in Korean society. In addition, as the current parish activities are focused on those who live family life in a traditional form and conducted by territorial unit, there is a need to develop pastoral-spiritual programs for those who live in a non-traditional form and who have difficulties in participation in the parish activities based on territoriality.
18. Participants in the consultative meeting suggested that the Church should look after everyone so that no one is marginalized. First of all, it requires attention and effort for neighbor in financial difficulties, the elderly living alone, single parent families, and the disabled. Also, participants suggested that the Church should actively speak out for those whose human rights are seriously violated by social inequality and injustice, and that the Church should take an active role through participation and solidarity.
19. In particular, in the process of listening to the opinions those who have difficulty raising their voices at the Diocesan level of the synod, the disabled requested active interest, effort, and support of the Church to create an atmosphere where they can be active in the Church community and to celebrate Mass for the disabled. Also, many activities in the Church are done through women, so it is necessary to change the understanding of the Church and to improve the system through education, research, and support for activities that respect and promote women’s dignity in the Church so that women’s activities are not denigrated, breaking away from the existing patriarchal idea in our society. Besides, to be specific, it was suggested that the Church provide practical help for those who are suffering from domestic violence, sexual exploitation, prostitution, abortion, etc. and to provide education concerning sex, love, and the value of life according to the teaching of the Church not only for the young people but also for all Christians.
20. In the process of the Diocesan level of the synod, the Archdiocese of Seoul listened to the opinions from LGBTs. Through the consultative meetings and particular proposals, with languages and expressions with restraint, participants appealed that there are LGBTs among Christians as well, and they want to remain in the Church, but they are having a hard time being accepted by the Church. Particularly, the suicide problem of young LGBTs is serious, and the suicide rate of LGBTs among the Christian youth is higher than among the non-Christian youth; therefore, the Church needs genuine concern and understanding for them. Participants requested that the Church not allow discrimination and hatred, but embrace LGBTs among Christians with maternal love so that they can live with comfort and strength in the Church. They also requested hopefully that the Church should improve her awareness of LGBT and provide various pastoral measures.
21. Archbishop Peter CHUNG of Seoul, since he was also apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Pyong-Yang, intended to listen to the synodal opinions of North Korean defectors. Participants and volunteers for those defectors claimed that the Church’s concern and activities for North Korean defectors decreased and that conflicts between the bishop’s conference and the Diocese should be resolved. They mentioned that it is difficult for defectors to adapt to the parish life without help after baptism because they know only a few things about the spiritual life. Hence, they requested for the accompaniment of faithful Catholics to help them lead their spiritual life. In addition, foreign migrant participants, who belonged to the Archdiocese of Seoul, appealed that it was difficult to live in a foreign soil as international student or foreign worker. Migrant participants also requested for concern and support for themselves so that they might join the local parish community as ordinary Christians to walk together and companions of faith.
Call for Renovation of the Church and Fulfillment of her Mission
22. Participants, who discovered their identity and the Church’s identity through the consultative meeting, came to look at the poor and marginalized. In order to carry out the mission of the Church, it is suggested that the active participation in service activities is required. For this purpose, it is also asked for religious education for different situations and different age groups. In a situation where there is no educational opportunity other than homily after their being baptized, participants propose to provide religious educational courses through various media at the Diocesan or parish level so that the faithful can easily receive religious education and establish their identity. It should also enable the faithful to realize that they are God’s beloved children and proud descendants of martyrs. It is suggested that the educational course should include the Scriptures, the sacraments, and the teaching of the Church so that all Christians can explain Christianity with confidence whenever and wherever they are asked to explain it. In addition, there were requests for more various educational contents and methods: it was proposed that the education of the Diocese and of each parish be proceeded in such a way that the faithful would have easy access to Church’s activities in solidarity with the society, to missionary works both domestic and international, and to the practice of loving neighbors. Most notable is the emphasis on the education of the liturgy and the sacraments as well as the biblical study. Through this synod, it was recognized that listening to the word of God and the celebration of the Eucharist are the source of communion and the starting point to realize a synodal church, and that participation in a synodal church is to fulfill co-responsibility for common mission of the Church. The laity and the clergy fulfill the common mission together; however, the celebration of the Eucharist is one case where there appears a clear distinction. In addition, there were requests for more various educational contents and methods: it was proposed that the education of the Diocese and of each parish be proceeded in such a way that the faithful would have easy access to Church’s activities in solidarity with the society, to missionary works both domestic and international, and to the practice of loving neighbors.
23. Participants in the consultative meeting professed, with gratitude, that a synodal journey itself became an opportunity of formation for themselves. They also demanded a system that could sustain the synodal meeting and asked for opportunities of formation and communication processed in ‘synodality’ to become a better synodal church. For this purpose, participants suggested that they need an educational opportunity to develop the abilities to speak as children of God, to listen carefully, and to discern the word of the Holy Spirit in what they speak and listen. Also, they suggested that there be educational programs concerning the hierarchical structure of the Church and the correct attitude of the faithful so that they understand their equal but proper dignity, authority and responsibility. The faithful hoped that, even after this Diocesan synodal process, the spirit of the synod, i.e. synodality, would be continuously realized in the life and activities of the Church.
24. The consultative meeting functioned so positively and optimistically for the participants that they hoped this kind of communication would take place more frequently within the Church community. For this reason, they emphasized the necessity for more active operation of the organizations proposed in canon law for the sake of pastoral care, such as the Diocesan pastoral council, the Diocesan finance council, and the parish pastoral council. In particular, in terms of appointing/electing members of each organization, it should consist of volunteers of all ages and from various classes, who meet Christian criteria not secular criteria such as economic wealth or social status. Furthermore, it was suggested that when the Church is involved in activities related to a professional field of the world, participation of the practical experts in that area, who has faith in God, should be assured.
25. Participants in the consultative meeting express the importance of the Church’s message to society in terms of fulfilling their prophetic office, not the Church’s political message, hoping and pleading for
26. The Archdiocese of Seoul has set the goal of the second phase at the Diocesan level as follows: to collect the opinions proposed through the consultative meetings and to organize them into a Diocesan synthesis. From the beginning of the consultative meetings, the Diocese proceeded the Diocesan synodal process in such a way that all the people of God, not simply the representatives, participated in it. Since Seoul Archdiocese had already listened to the synodal opinions directly from the people of God through the consultative meetings, she decided not to hold the synodal meeting among the representatives at the Diocesan level. On the other hand, in consideration of pandemic situation, the Archdiocese of Seoul, a city with metropolitan characteristics, publicly conducted the Diocesan synthesizing process as suggested in the synod manual: by sharing the fruits of communion and participation performed at the consultative meetings and also the mission of the Church that realizes synodality, the Diocese proceeded the Diocesan synodal process practically ‘together’ with everyone in it.
27. To elaborate the Diocesan synthesis, the synodal opinions submitted by the consultative meetings were assigned to the document synthesis team composed of the laity, religious, and the clergy. The document synthesis team conducted the third listening session as they read the suggested synodal opinions carefully with prayer and interpreting them, while asking for the help of the Holy Spirit. The submitted synodal opinions were classified based on three criteria approved by the Archbishop Peter CHUNG; firstly, 3 components of the synodal agenda which are communion, participation, and mission; secondly, the 10 core topics for a synodal church; thirdly, whether the opinions are about the practice for realizing synodality, or about repentance and healing, or about something to which the Church needs to pay special attention in her journey of synodality. As the result of classification, 52 streamlined reports were submitted. Thereafter, the reports were separately elaborated based on the following themes; 1) on the dreams and hopes expressed by many of the synodal opinions; 2) about interesting and noteworthy content; 3) regarding areas in need of repentance and healing; 4) on the inspiration that the Holy Spirit gives to the ecclesial community; 5) on how the Holy Spirit grows a Church that realizes ‘synodality’; 6) on the procedure and journey to realize better ‘synodality’; finally, 7) about the cultural image that can express the journey of the synod and its fruits.
God the Holy Spirit Who is Present with Us, Guides, Nurtures, and Brings Us to Life In our Practice of Listening
28. The request of the Holy Spirit discerned by the Archdiocese of Seoul through the submitted synodal opinions from the consultative meetings and particular proposals at the Diocesan level is, in a word, ‘listening’. The essence of the Diocesan synodal process was ‘listening’ through encountering. All the suggested synodal opinions were made through listening. Given that participants felt a strong sense of belonging and responsibility as members of the Church as they actually experienced ‘listening’, it was learned that listening is what the Holy Spirit is currently requesting of the Church. As revealed through listening, the first fruit of discerning of the Diocesan synodal phase is our profession that the Holy Spirit is with us while being active in our lives, and has led us to grow through the synod.
The Fruits of the Synodal Journey through Invite and Response
29. The Holy Spirit invited the people of God and the entire human family to the synodal journey, and brought ‘joy, peace, patience, kindness, and truthfulness’ as the fruits of the journey to those who participated in the consultative meetings at the Diocesan level. With worries and fear, participants in the meetings carefully told each other their stories, relying on the Holy Spirit in prayer. While listening to each other’s sharing, the participants “hoped that they would be respected and well-considered, and that the preciousness of personal encounters would be continued”. They experienced inner-healing through the consultative meeting. It was a time to experience the fruits of ‘patience’ from listening, ‘joy’ from personal encounters, ‘kindness’ from being welcomed, ‘truthfulness’ from conversation and interaction, and finally ‘peace’ with worries and fear’s disappearing.
Through Encountering and Listening, the Weakness of the Church discovered in the Light of the Holy Spirit
30. Through the consultative meeting, the Holy Spirit guided the participants to encounter and listen, and led them to discover the weakness of the Church through a self-reflection session. Under the light of the Holy Spirit, they could speak as children of God and humbly listened to the weakness of the Church with the intention to respect other’s rights with patience and to do good. The participants pointed out that communication between the laity, religious, and the clergy had lacked respect for each other and warm hospitality. They mentioned that the arbitrary decision-making process made by the clergy expressed as clericalism had often occurred. The participants also acknowledged their indifference to or neglect of following the teaching of the Church, taking care of the poor and marginalized in need, working for their mission of proclaiming the Gospel, and participating in Church activities. They realized that the absence of encountering and listening led to a non-ecclesial life in which there was no communion with God. The consultative meeting became an opportunity for the laity, religious, and the clergy to meet all together as the people of God, and also for the Diocese and Religious orders to meet and listen to each other carefully. While experiencing the synodal journey in which they, as members of the Church, together faced individual and communal problems squarely, diagnosed those problems and looked for the solutions to them, the participants experienced what ‘a journey together’ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit is.
31. Through the synodal opinions, on one hand, it was diagnosed that the clergy had a negative impact on the faithful and the ecclesial community. The clergy seemed to be concerned only with their personal life and to neglect the offices, for instance; 1) to neglect the sanctifying office by insufficient prayer and lack of sacramental celebration; 2) to neglect the teaching office by performing homilies and catechesis not based on the Scriptures. It was pointed out that such unfaithfulness of the clergy became one of the reasons that caused the departure of ‘the people of God’ away from God. Participants, on the other hand, shared about the difficulties that the clergy went through during pastoral ministry. The spiritual exhaustion problem of the clergy was recognized as paradoxically showing the importance of providing mental/physical care for the clergy. Furthermore, the participants realized that the problem of caring for the clergy is a problem of the Church, beyond the individual level, and the active care at the Diocesan level is necessary. Participants thus suggested that, in the context of encountering and listening of the synod, the Diocese should directly listen to the clergy on their difficulties, and then, in order to solve this issue, offer individual clerics the appropriate care they need. In this way, the ecclesial community can be the source of communion by helping the clergy to show God’s mercy to the faithful and to faithfully conduct the celebration of the sacraments and proclamation of the Word.
32. These consultative meetings became opportunities to recognize that the lay brothers and sisters, religious, and the clergy participate all together in the ecclesial community with equal dignity according to their proper status by the Holy Spirit. In the meantime, it was discerned that the lack of ‘mission awareness’ and the passive attitude toward the practice of mission resulted because our identity as Christians had not been firmly established. Due to the tendency of ‘individualism’, the faithful were also satisfied with their individual spiritual life by themselves; also, they preferred social communion in the secular world to Divine communion with neighbors in faith. Besides, the participants confessed that such immature Christian identity resulted from their neglect of God’s Word and the teaching of the Church. The participants reflected on themselves for not responding in their daily life as Christians to the Christian stance on abortion, suicide, euthanasia, opposition to the death penalty, environmental protection, and promotion of world peace. In addition, they reflected on the fact that they were indifferent to the practice of love for neighbors and to social solidarity, and that they avoided establishing ties with the local communities, institutions, and other religions and took a closed attitude towards the local society even on the missionary dimension. Participants, however, through the consultative meeting, realized their own identity and the identity of the Church. They also began to look at the society which the Church should walk together with, especially those who were poor and in difficulty in it, in order to grow into a church to live ‘synodality’.
Taking a Deep Look into the Difficulties of Those Walking Together
33. The Holy Spirit led the participants, who realized the identity as children of God with equal but unique dignity, through listening and conversation in the consultative meeting, to turn their eyes and listen to those whom they had not heard. The Holy Spirit reminded them that particularly the difficulties of the elderly and the youth, the poor, the disabled, women, LGBTs, migrants, and North Korean defectors have been ignored. So, first of all, it was necessary to meet them and listen to their difficulties and requests. Through listening, the synodal meeting made the Church face the reality that the principle ‘option for the poor’ is not so easy to practice as the Church had claimed. By the invitation and the leading of the Holy Spirit, the Church noticed the followings; 1) the forms of poverty faced by the poor span multiple dimensions such as material, emotional, and spiritual; 2) the difficulties experienced by the disabled vary according to the type of disability they have; 3) from a masculine point of view, it is difficult to ameliorate the male-centered mindset and the social and structural gender discrimination; 4) LGBTs are experiencing difficulties as diverse as their diversity; 5) migrants and North Korean defectors are also living with existential and practical difficulties such that they cannot be described “simply” as marginalized people. The Holy Spirit invites the synodal Church to go deeper into the neighbors in need and the society to meet them, listen to them, and accompany them.
Formation in Synodality
34. The Holy Spirit, through the journey of the synod, made us realize the necessity of formation in synodality. The educational program on how to realize synodality should be provided so that the faithful can learn how to listen and speak as children of God, and how to discern the word of the Holy Spirit. Through the education, the authority and participation of the people of God can be expanded in a synodal church. In order to deepen communion with God and the Church to promote missionary awareness of the Church, the educational programs for the Bible study, the sacraments, and liturgy should be provided. In addition, the comprehensive re-educational program on the correct attitude to live as the people of God should be offered. A synodal church is no longer a one-sided teaching church. The methodology of education on how to realize synodality should not be a one-sided and oppressive. It should be a way, by the leading of the Holy Spirit, for the entire people of God to learn together, teach each other, and grow together in the process of reading, sharing, debate and discussion, and consideration together.
Requests for Growth into a Synodal Church
35. The Holy Spirit, through the consultative meeting, informed the Church of the issues for the Diocese to review together to grow as a synodal church as following; 1) the Diocese should grow into a church in which all the people of God participate through repentance from ‘clericalism’. The local church should pay attention to personnel system of the clergy and religious so that they can fulfill mission of the Church faithfully by strengthening their capacities through the offices entrusted to them; 2) it is requested for parishes to provide the parishioners with opportunities to participate in establishing the parish’s annual pastoral plan at the beginning of each year in a synodal fashion in order to take co-responsibility for the common mission; 3) it is requested for parishes to listen to all the parishioners in terms of important decision-making case on the process of the parish operation, and to set up a suggestion box for parishioners to present their opinions on parish pastoral care; 4) the Diocese is requested to operate the Diocesan pastoral council, and to prepare a structural system in which pastoral collaborators from various classes together representing the entire parish can participate in the appointment of the parish pastoral council. Such a system should be carried out in accordance with the criteria of the Gospel; 5) a study for the education program on formation of the lay leaders is requested in order to expand participation of the laity in a church to realize synodality; 6) the parish community should put an active effort to provide material/spiritual care for those in financial difficulty, the elderly, the sick, new members and non-practicing parishioners. The parish community should also visit, pray and have a conversation with them by expanding spiritual and missionary activities such as legion of Mary and small group meetings; 7) the parish needs to communicate with the local society by participating in local activities so that they would be connected to the mission work; Through on-going discussion about the suggested opinions, set-up of the road map to realize the suggestions continuously, and sharing it, there needs to be a continuous virtuous circle in which the Church grows into one that lives the spirit of synodality and thereby realizes herself.
To Renew ‘Relationship’
36. During the journey at the Diocesan level of the 16th synod of bishops, the ‘core’ of a synodal church that the Archdiocese of Seoul has experienced is ‘relationship’. Three pillars to support a synodal church are communion, participation, and mission. These are also another expression which addresses ‘relationship’ of the Church to live synodality. Communion with God, communion with neighbors, communion with the ecclesial community, and communion with a society, all these are ‘relationship’. This ‘relationship’ is an attribute of the Triune God. It identifies the uniqueness of individual human beings, but, at the same time, it is also a way in which human beings participate towards one another. Besides, the mission of the Church to bring to the world the salvation that God the Father has accomplished through Jesus Christ, is the first ‘relationship’ in which the Church serves the world. The journey of renewing ‘relationships’ for a synodal church was the journey of the synod at the Diocesan level. During the Diocesan synodal process, the Archdiocese of Seoul prepared for the start of the synod of bishops towards the Church to live synodality by newly experiencing a synodal ‘relationships’ through mutual listening.
A Journey of Listening
37. The Diocesan synodal process of the Archdiocese of Seoul was, in a word, a journey of ‘listening’. Through listening, it was a journey to experience listening and to learn how to listen. In listening, we heard the voice of the suffering people of God. We saw the wounded and hurting church. We also met the forgotten and neglected God, the chaotic society and the world. Through listening, however, we realized the Holy Spirit personally present in our specific lives. In addition, through listening to share personal experiences about the Holy Spirit, we experienced the grace of comforting and healing ourselves, our neighbors, and the Church. As Pope Francis said, true communion is “not a strategy or program, achieved through mutual listening between brothers and sisters”, it is possible only when we have a fundamental conversion of individuals before any changes to the church system and organization. The people of God who shared experiences of the Holy Spirit through mutual listening with respect and consideration, is not simply an individual participant of the synod, but a person created according to image of God, a being saved through Jesus Christ sent by God, and a special being led and accompanied by the Holy Spirit who is present in their lives. The Archdiocese of Seoul will listen to the synodal opinions of such special beings, the laity, religious, and the clergy, with all hearts, will discern based on the Gospel, and will try to become a church to realize synodality according to the leading of the Holy Spirit. The Archdiocese of Seoul wouldn’t make the voices of the people of God just echoes in vain, but prepare and proceed everything to realize synodality by means of concrete and practical researches and plans.
Parrhesia for Listening
38. The 16th synod of bishops is prepared through the Diocesan level. The collegial dimension of the Church to live synodality, is revealed through listening process by listening to the voice of the entire people of God. Listening as main component of the synod at the Diocesan level continues at the national and continental level as well. From the beginning of the synodal journey, the Church invited the people of God and requested them to have parrhesia, which is a capacity to speak freely and frankly, bravely and firmly, as children of God, for the Christian faithful and the ecclesial community. At this moment of closing the Diocesan phase, the Archdiocese of Seoul suggests ‘parrhesia for listening’ towards the synodal journey henceforth. Through listening of the Church with parrhesia, all the human beings will have communion with God. The laity, religious, and the clergy will deeply participate in the Church to realize synodality with equal dignity by the grace of the Holy Spirit according to their own status. Listening carefully itself will be a comfort and consolation. Thereafter our Church will live as an example as the missionary Church.