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'Listening is done much more with the heart than with the ears': Cardinal Gregory opens Synod 2023 in DC

Dioceses around the world opened their portion of the Synod of Bishops on Sunday, including Washington DC—one of two in the US headed by an African-American.

The Archdiocese of Washington opened on Sunday evening its portion of the next Synod of Bishops, a two-year initiative which began in Rome on October 9th and in dioceses around the world yesterday.

“Pope Francis has invited the entire Church to engage in a serious effort to listen to one another, and thereby to seek to hear the voice of God's Holy Spirit speaking through the many voices of the Church,” said Cardinal Wilton Gregory at DC’s Opening Mass during his homily, which referenced the New Testament narratives of synodal dialogue.

“The dialogues of different people were helping to establish the Church of Christ.”

According to the Vatican’s preparatory document, the process leads up to the 2023 General Synod of Bishops entitled “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission” and aims to help the Church “learn through Her experience which processes can help Her to live communion, to achieve participation, to open Herself to mission.”

In Washington—one of only two dioceses with an African-American ordinary—the livestreamed Mass took place at the Cathedral of St Matthew the Apostle, where Gregory was joined by his brother bishops (including the African-American Roy Campbell) and several priests.

The Mass was open to the public and attended by numerous seminarians, representatives from religious communities, and parishioners.

(Each parish in the archdiocese was reportedly instructed to send at least two representatives.)

“We [walk together], with much confidence that the Holy Spirit who spoke to the first church will speak to the Church today,” Gregory said in his conclusion, emphasizing that the synod is to move the Church forward “with [its] entire history intact.”.

Seminarians praying after Mass.

The Mass concluded with the “Adsumus Sancte Spiritus” prayer, which was also used at each session of the Second Vatican Council and at previous synodal gatherings throughout the history of the Church:

We stand before You, Holy Spirit,
as we gather together in Your name.
With You alone to guide us,
make Yourself at home in our hearts;
Teach us the way we must go
and how we are to pursue it.
We are weak and sinful;
do not let us promote disorder.
Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path
nor partiality influence our actions.
Let us find in You our unity
so that we may journey together to eternal life
and not stray from the way of truth
and what is right.
All this we ask of You,
who are at work in every place and time,
in the communion of the Father and the Son,
forever and ever. Amen.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).

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