By John Battle, Commission Chair

Saturday 16th Dec (11am to 1pm at Wheeler Hall) there is an open invitation to a “special event ” of our Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission to reflect on who we are now and our purpose and mission in the Diocese in the light of the Church’s ” Synodal Process” which Pope Francis has got underway with a recent first session at the Vatican.

It couldn’t be more timely. The first decades of this twenty first century have seen the breakdown of the optimisms of globalisation and democratisation (remember the hubristic declaration of “the end of history” and a new American century?). Countries have retreated back into defensive nationalism and new outbreaks of violence, conflicts, terrorism and are scarring our times – not least in producing new generations of refugees. Economic developments are of increasing inequalities, insecure work and deepening poverty and disenfranchisement as democracies come under stress. The answers of traditional “surface politics” no longer cut through. This leads to disillusionment and despair – particularly for the poor. The climate crisis deepens internationally with devastating environmental impacts worldwide. Yet, governments step back from seriously tackling it – jeopardising the future for generations. Here in the UK we face a coming General Election .

Two years ago Pope Francis initiated a Synod of the Church proposing a “long process of listening and discernment…open to all the people of God; no one being excluded to journey together under the guidance of the Holy Spirit as missionary disciples” . The Bishops’ letter to the People of God at the close of the first Synod session this October stresses that we address “the context of a world in crisis , whose wounds and scandalous inequalities resonate painfully in our hearts infusing our work with a particular gravity…. reflecting on our common home where the cries of the earth and the poor are becoming increasingly urgent“.

We are all invited to join in the synodal process which is now a call to participate in ” synodal discernment “. The Church’s tradition of social teaching has long advocated the ” see judge act” method of reflecting and taking action; the Second Vatican Council stressed the need to read ” the signs of the times”; ” discernment ” has become a key word in our Catholic practice. But too often this method of ” see-judge-act” and “discernment” has been regarded as an individual and personal process . The hallmark of the present Synod is the need to develop ” collective discernment ” – a coming together to read the signs of the times”.

Central to this method of ” collective discernment ” is real “listening”, a practical skill neglected and devalued in contemporary discourse (not least in political and social practice). An adviser to Pope Paul VI during the Second Vatical Council which emphasised ” renewal in the Spirit” ( “aggiornamento” ) urged the accompanying need for ” approfundimento continuo” – a “continuous deepening” .

Our task now is one of joining to the Synodal process of journeying (synod means “walking together”) through our troubled times is to get together urgently. At the conclusion of the first session there is an invitation of the Synod Bishops “to the People of God” ( letter Oct 25 2023) to ” deepen the listening … to those who have been denied the right to speak  or feel excluded,… to victims of racism in al. its forms…to the enthusiasm of youth , to their questions and pleas, … to the dreams , the wisdom and the memory of elderly people…the world in which we live and which we are called to love and serve even with its contradictions demands that the Church strengthen cooperation in all areas of her mission“.

So how does the Justice and Peace Commission, and everyone in the Diocese, develop our work of addressing poverty in our society, press for action on the climate crisis; campaign for nonviolence and peace, address persistent racism, and regard young people not as ” the future ” but as ” the now of the Church” ( in Pope Francis’s words) – as our special Spark Justice project works to deliver?

This open session of ” collective discernment ” and ” deepening listening ” – coming together in the shared presence of the Holy Spirit –  is our participation in the new Synod process to help us all better address the challenges of our troubling times and develop our actions.

Join on Saturday 16 December 11:00 – 13:00

Wheeler Hall, Leeds Cathedral

If you can spare a couple of hours then come and join us to reflect together on the signs of the times.

Please use the button to register as we will be providing a light lunch (and a mince pie, of course!) at the end of the meeting.