Lay Catholic to Represent Church in Poland at Opening of Synodal Process in Rome

Cardinal Mario Grech, the general secretary for the Synod of Bishops, said that the synod had been transformed “from an event into a process.”

Professor Aleksander Bańka.
Professor Aleksander Bańka. (photo: episkopat.pl. / episkopat.pl.)

WARSAW, Poland — A Catholic layman will represent the Church in Poland at the official opening of the synodal process leading to the 2023 synod of bishops meeting in Rome. 

Aleksander Bańka, a professor of the University of Silesia in Katowice, southern Poland, was appointed as a delegate of the Church in Poland by Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of the Polish bishops’ conference.

Bańka will be part of a contingent of 10 people representing Europe, comprising of Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE), two bishops, and seven lay people.

The appointment was first mentioned publicly on Aug. 25, when Poland’s bishops announced that “for the first time, a lay person will represent the Church in Poland at the inaugural session” of the synodal process.

Bańka was named as the representative in an Aug. 30 press release on the Polish bishops’ website.

The Vatican said in May that the synod of bishops meeting in 2023 would begin with a two-year consultative phase involving Catholic dioceses around the world.

The synodal process will officially open with a “diocesan phase” in October 2021 and conclude with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican, on the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” in October 2023.

Cardinal Mario Grech, the general secretary for the Synod of Bishops, said that the synod had been transformed “from an event into a process.”

The two-year “synodal path” will be inaugurated in Rome on Oct. 9-10. The initial diocesan phase will be followed by continental assemblies and culminate in the meeting of bishops from around the world in Rome.

Bańka, a husband and father, works at the Institute of Philosophy of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Silesia.

The author of many books and articles, he specializes in the history of philosophy, the philosophy of religion, and the intersection of philosophy and psychology with Christian spirituality. 

He served as chairman of the Commission for the Laity during the second synod of the Archdiocese of Katowice and is associated with the Center of Spirituality of the Movement Light-Life in Katowice archdiocese. 

In a 2017 article, “Youth and Experience of Living Faith : The Essential Aspects of the Path to Christian Maturity,” Bańka reflected on declining participation in the Church among young people in Poland. 

“Often actions undertaken within the scope of the New Evangelization are taken tongue-in-cheek or even with hostility or as an oddity, clutter spreading, or cheap entertainment,” he wrote. 

“Often it is connected with some reluctance towards new communities and Church-renewal movements, which in some parishes are — speaking openly — unwelcomed or treated as an element of local parish color.” 

“Potential hidden in these communities remains undiscovered and unused; it even happens sometimes that the laity organizing in a given community — mainly young people — are left to their own means.”

Oscar Wergeland, “Service in a German Village Church,” ca. 1880

This Sunday, I’ll Be Going to Church. Will You Join Me?

“The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.” [CCC 2181]