Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator SJ, the Dean of the Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University, and former Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM) President, brings a unique perspective to the synod process.

As a theologian and director of the African Synodality Initiative (ASI) a programme under JCAM, he provides profound insights into the ongoing journey of the Church's self-exploration and transformation during a press briefing at the XVI General Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on October 17, 2023. He has been involved in the synodal process for the last two and a half years through ASI, working with the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) to prepare the stages and phases leading to the synod.

A theologian's privileged moment

Fr. Orobator emphasises the significance of the ongoing synod as a theologian. For him, it's a privileged opportunity to witness and participate in the dynamic process of the church making and remaking itself. This moment calls upon theologians to delve deeper into their intellectual and spiritual resources, contributing to the emergence of a renewed vision of the church's identity and mission.

The primacy of process

According to him the process itself holds greater importance than the ultimate outcome. He underlines the enriching nature of the mechanisms and frameworks for listening, dialogue, and discernment. This process, he believes, is fundamental to creating a space where every member of the church, regardless of their background or position, can actively participate and contribute to collective discernment.

The wealth of diversity

He draws attention to the remarkable diversity within the Synod. Seated among twelve individuals at one table, each coming from a different country, he witnesses a microcosm of the global church. The wisdom, insights, and gifts that come from this diversity are invaluable resources for enriching the universal church. It exemplifies the rich tapestry that is the global body of Christ.

Looking beyond the Synod

He maintains that the true work of the synod will begin once the gatherings conclude. Synodality, he reminds us, is about living, working, journeying, and discerning together. The true test lies in how the church collectively navigates the path forward. However, he also expresses confidence in the robust processes and frameworks that have been tried, tested, and refined, providing the necessary resources for this journey to not only continue but thrive.

In his reflections, we find a passionate call to engage deeply with the synod process, to cherish the diversity of voices within the church, and to recognise that the true essence of synodality lies in our shared journey as a universal church.

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