Church leaders across Asia vowed to listen to the faithful as the diocesan phase of the Synod on Synodality started officially on Sunday, Oct. 17.

“Let us create opportunities for listening and dialogue on the local level through this synod,” said Cardinal Jose Advincula, Archbishop of Manila, in his homily during Mass to open the process.

He said that by listening, the Church will be able to share its mission with the people while also making everyone's perspective part of the "synodal journey."

“In God’s family, you have a voice, and your voice counts,” said Cardinal Advincula, adding that the process will involve “as many people as possible.”

In India, Matters India quoted Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay urging the people "to walk together in the same path" in the synodal process.

"We have to encounter Jesus through prayer and adoration and to hear what the Spirit wants to say to the Church," he said in his homily.

Bishop Emmanuel Trance of Catarman in the central Philippines told Church-run Veritas 846 in an interview that the synod should be an "encounter and beginning of unifying our local Church."

He urged the faithful to "listen not only in our ears but also in our hearts.”

“Listening in this synodal process is to listen to the marginalized, even to the non-Christian community,” said the bishop.

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The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines earlier announced that “small circles” will gather in parishes, schools, and ecclesial communities “to pray together” and discuss issues affecting the Church during the synodal process.

The current synod is not the first to be held in the Philippines. In 1582, Manila had its first synod under its first bishop, the Dominican friar Domingo de Salazar, to discuss the rights of the Indigenous peoples under Spanish rule.

“A synod is not just an assembly in view of administration; it is a convocation guided by the Spirit for the challenge of mission,” read a statement signed by Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, president of the bishops’ conference, issued earlier this month.

He said that among the issues that will be discussed during the gatherings are the “challenges” posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the sexual and financial scandals in the Church and in government, “secularism and materialism, and the double-edged power of the digital world.”

In his homily on Sunday, Cardinal Advincula said that issues concerning women, children, the elderly, those in the business sector, government officials, the members of the LGBTQ+ community, and ordinary workers, among others, will be discussed during the process.

“We want to listen to you. We want to journey with you. We want to discern God’s will with you,” said the prelate. “No matter how far you feel you are from the Church and even from God, you have something to contribute.”

Pope Francis officially launched the synodal process at the Vatican on Oct. 9 to engage the entire Church in preparing for the Synod of Bishops’ next ordinary assembly in 2023. 

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