Synod and Synodality, an initiative open to all

Initiatives for Synod 2021-2024 / Faculty of Theology



Faculty of Theology

The course offered by the Faculty of Theology, aimed to respond to the need to create a path of research and study on the challenges posed to the Church by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. The online and in-person course, thereby ensuring attendance from world countries, albeit intended primarily for students from the Faculty of Theology was open to all those interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the subject.

In the academic year 2021-2022, the Faculty of Theology introduced a new course with the purpose of tackling the subject: ‘Synod’ and ‘Synodality’ and recent theological approaches. On the initiative of the Dean, Fr. Philipp G. Renczes S.J., and the Head of the Department of Dogmatic Theology, Prof. Dario Vitali, the course aimed to identify the questions theology is faced with in tackling the challenges posed to the Church by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops (SGSV), and thus build on a shared theological foundation.

In response to the call expressed by His Holiness Pope Francis, there emerged an urgent need to pursue a path of research and study aimed at giving it concrete form within a specific academic programme. In fact, synodality is a path of listening for the purpose of communionparticipation, and mission in the life of the Church. The act of listening is critical to a renewal that reflects the synodal sensitivity of the Ecclesial Community, whereby discernment leads the faithful to be active participants by virtue of their baptism, and provides guidance for mission. 


A course open to all, in-person and online: an experimental initiative

By launching an initiative that could be described as “experimental” - albeit not the first among the online courses offered by the Department of Dogmatic Theology - the idea was to open the doors of the university to all those who, out of interest or in the fulfilment of their various tasks and ministries, wished to reflect together on the theme of synodality in the context of successive lectures. The course’s resonance was remarkable: in addition to the hundred or so students enrolled at the Pontifical Gregorian University, it attracted almost 400 external participants

The opening of the course, for and with such a broad audience, gave us the opportunity to reflect on the theme thanks to the contributions of various experts and professors from the Faculty of Theology. Hence, in response to the Holy Father’s call for everyone to be involved in the synodal process, it was decided that the course should be structured in a dialogical manner, where participants asked questions and offered their insights, with the help of several students who offered their support regarding technical and organisational aspects inherent to this format. 

The purpose of the course was to offer a contribution to the Italian Church. In fact, the course was addressed primarily to students from the Faculty of Theology, whose priority was to dedicate time and thought to the theme of synodality. Nevertheless, as it was open to all and aimed at answering the fundamental questions surrounding this theme, the discussion between professors, students and the other participants enjoyed greater impetus, as part of an interdisciplinary itinerary that marked new momentum towards achieving the ‘third mission’, as hoped for by AVEPRO, for an improvement of academic standards through the integration of differing horizons and topical issues.

The interdisciplinary nature characterising the course’s content provided an interesting perspective for reflection. In their capacity as members of the Faculty of Theology, the professors who intervened offered insight into the fundamental questions. A number of them already work and collaborate with the SGSV in various capacities. More specifically: Prof. Dario Vitali is Consultant and member of the SGSV Steering Group, Prof. Giuseppe Bonfrate is Consultant and member of the SGSV Theological Commission, which also includes Prof. Riccardo Battocchio


How much progress have been made the synodality?

The course consisted of 12 classes, from November 26, 2021 to April 1, 2022. The themes of the first part of the course were addressed and discussed in the discussion sessions offered in the second half of the course involving a dialogue with lecturers and experts from the other departments of the Faculty, as well as with experts from other universities. This made it possible to deepen the aspects that emerged in the first classes through constructive dialogue and exchange. 

The focus of research, having as its starting point the question “Where do we stand with synodality?”, gradually explored the central themes: Magisterial documents and contemporary theological positions on the subject were introduced, followed by an analysis of synodality as a dimension of the Church.

This was followed by the biblical and patristic foundations in the early Church. And based on Second Vatican Council sources, whereby Lumen Gentium proclaims that “the entire body of the faithful cannot err in matters of belief”, (LG 12), the subject of the People of God was defined as the protagonist of the synodal process listening to the Holy Spirit for ecclesial discernment. The subjects were expounded covering the major areas of dogmatic theology: ecclesiology, Trinitarianism, anthropology and pneumatology to anchor synodality, as a pneumatic dimension of the Church, to the identity of the believer starting from Christian initiation.

In addition to the subjects of the first part of the course, enriching contributions were shared, some of them especially enlightening: biblical theology listening to contemporary theology; ecclesiology listening to canon law, considering the question of integrating the voice of the people of God into the life of the Church. A number of points were discussed with regard to the spiritual traditions of Christianity, touching on the delicate topic of ecumenism. Finally, synodality as a response to secularisation, whereby theology is in a continuous state of listening to the “signs of the times.”