Canadian bishops prepared for the upcoming Synod on Synodality and highlighted their work in Honduras on the first day of the 2023 Plenary Assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The bishops gathered Monday in King City, Ontario, just outside of Toronto, for their four-day annual meeting. Speaking to reporters in a news conference after the first day, Vancouver Archbishop John Michael Miller discussed the bishops’ synod preparations. There will be four Canadian bishops representing the country and four non-bishop representatives.

“[We had] a little bit of a trial run as [to] how the synod in Rome should proceed,” Miller said. 

Unlike previous synods, Miller said the Synod on Synodality will likely be “mostly discussion in small groups, probably language groups” rather than an auditorium setting. So instead of making major presentations at their meeting on the first day, they tried to create an environment similar to what is expected at the synod.

“[It was] a small taste in our small-group discussions at our meeting today,” Miller noted.

The archbishop added that the synod will be aimed at “being opened toward many voices” and the synodal process “is based on listening to the voice of the Spirit.” He said there will be a “great emphasis” on voices within the Church and a focus on what the Holy Spirit is saying within the churches, but that the Holy Spirit speaks in many ways. 

“The Spirit speaks in many ways in the world and we should be attentive to those voices as well,” Miller said.

The Synod on Synodality will take place in Rome through two assemblies — one which is set for Oct. 4 through Oct. 28 and another that will take place in October 2024. The synod will focus on questions about how the Church can be a sign and instrument of union between God and humanity; how to better share gifts and tasks in the service of the Gospel; and on the processes, structures, and institutions in a missionary synodal Church.

Synodality, as defined by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s International Theological Commission, is “the action of the Spirit in the communion of the Body of Christ and in the missionary journey of the people of God.”

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Humanitarian efforts in Honduras

At their meeting Monday, the bishops also discussed humanitarian efforts in Honduras, particularly the work in Guapinol to protect a river that has been severely affected by pollution, negatively impacting the small village’s population of 45,000 people. 

“Suddenly their life has become just like a terrible [situation], not being able to use their river, which is the heart of their life,” M. Carl Hétu, the executive director of development and peace, said during the news conference. 

Hétu said he provided the bishops with the fall action plan to “stop the mining,” which is causing pollution and “to restore the river and restore the [physical and mental] health” of the people. He said the mission is currently gathering signatures and requesting action from the Honduran ambassador to Canada.

The problems in Guapinol are similar to problems in Africa and Asia, where the “protection of the environment [and the] protection of labor and children is no longer respected” when companies are searching for raw materials, according to Hétu. 

During their meeting this week, the bishops will also address the expansion of euthanasia in Canada and the protection of vulnerable persons, including minors.