Vatican Asks Bishops to Invite Local Protestant and Orthodox Leaders to Participate in Synodal Path

Offering “some practical suggestions to ensure the ecumenical dimension of the synodal journey,” the cardinals encouraged bishops to reach out to leaders of other Christian communities in their area.

Cardinal Kurt Koch and Cardinal Mario Grech.
Cardinal Kurt Koch and Cardinal Mario Grech. (photo: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA and Diocese of Gozo / (CC BY-SA 4.0))

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican has issued a letter asking Catholic bishops to invite local Orthodox and Protestant leaders to participate in the diocesan stage of the two-year process leading to the 2023 Synod on Synodality. 

Cardinal Mario Grech, the general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, wrote a letter together asking  Catholic dioceses to embrace the “ecumenical dimension” of the synodal process.

“The dialogue between Christians of different confessions, united by one baptism, has a special place in the synodal journey,” said the letter published by the Vatican on Jan. 17.

“Indeed, both synodality and ecumenism are processes of ‘walking together.’”

Offering “some practical suggestions to ensure the ecumenical dimension of the synodal journey,” the cardinals encouraged bishops to reach out to leaders of other Christian communities in their area.

“After identifying the main Christian communities present in the area, [the bishop] should prepare and send a letter to their leaders (or better visit them personally for this purpose),” it said.

The bishops should then invite local Christian leaders to send delegates to pre-synodal diocesan meetings and submit written reflections on the questionnaire included in the preparatory documents. 

National bishops’ conferences are likewise asked to invite representatives from other Christian communities and national councils of churches to participate in the synodal process. 

The Synod on Synodality is a global, two-year consultative process of “listening and dialogue” that began in October 2021. The first stage is a diocesan phase expected to last until Aug. 15.

The Vatican has asked all dioceses to participate, hold consultations, and collect feedback on specific questions laid out in synod documents. At the end of the current process, a synod of bishops is scheduled to take place in Rome in October 2023 to produce a final document to advise the pope.

The letter, signed on Oct. 28, was shared in a Vatican press release on Jan. 17 ahead of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which takes place on Jan. 18-25.

“The synodal shaping of the Catholic Church at all levels has significant ecumenical implications  as it makes it a more credible dialogue partner,” it said.

“Finally, the synodal process itself is an  opportunity to further foster ecumenical relationships at all levels of the Church, since the  participation of ecumenical delegates has become the customary practice, not only in the Synod of Bishops, but also in diocesan synods.”

Duccio’s ‘Pentecost’ (1308)

Pray the Pentecost Novena

The prayer recalls and invites Catholics to participate in the nine days that the Blessed Virgin Mary and the apostles spent in prayer after Christ ascended into heaven.