While the formal theme of this year’s seminar was how to announce the Gospel in changing times, Pohlmeier, Gordon, and Bishop Louis Tylka of Peoria, Illinois, said the unofficial topic of the week was synodality.
What they talked about
“We’re in the midst of the synod,” Tylka, who attended the seminar Sept. 1–8, told CNA by phone from his diocese. So the course, he added, focused on questions such as: “What does it mean to be a synodal Church? What is the ministry of the bishop in relation to that?”
Care for the planet and one’s neighbor, themes important to Pope Francis’ pontificate, were also a major part of the seminar, Tylka said.
The week’s presentations also covered child protection and the sexual abuse crisis.
“That’s one of those things that I think we will take home, saying we will be very, very careful not to neglect,” Gordon said.
Some talks, Pohlmeier noted, were directly about synodality and what it means. At the same time, those of a more practical nature, such as canon law for bishops, “would always include some comment on the synodal approach.”
“You’re going to get different articulations of what that means depending on who you talk to, but in general, my understanding is that it is more of a listening posture,” the St. Augustine bishop said.
Bishop Gordon said Pope Francis himself modeled this listening attitude in their meeting with him on the final day of formation.
In the nearly two-hour meeting, he said most of the time was spent with the pope answering the bishops’ questions. “So you finished the course, [the pope] said. You’ve heard a lot already… Now I want to hear from you.”
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This was Gordon’s big takeaway from the week: “It has to go back to the Holy Father’s words to us as he was answering our own questions, you know, asking us to exercise that episcopal closeness.”
The week also included time for communal prayer, Mass, adoration, and confession.
Bishop Tylka of Peoria said his personal opinion is that “a big part of synodality is the willingness and openness to create space for people to share their stories, to share their own encounters with Christ, to share their own experiences of how life is going.”
“So I think the role of the bishop clearly is to model that openness and that willingness to engage in dialogue,” he said.
This was my small group for discussion on Synodality! What an amazing group of bishops from around the world. Such a rich discussion on the Church! pic.twitter.com/fIOPLXwnfo
— Bishop Lou Tylka (@bshplou) September 2, 2022
What (not) to wear
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