About 60 delegates from various church backgrounds met in Rome from 12 to 15 March to prepare the event “TOGETHER | Gathering of the People of God”. This ecumenical gathering will take place on the weekend of 30 September in Rome, in advance of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will discuss the theme of Synodality.

Daniel Darmanin, President of the local Justice & Peace Commission and member of the Executive Committee of Justice & Peace Europe took part in this preparatory meeting which ended with a private audience with Pope Francis.

Daniel, why did Pope Francis ask the community of Taize’, in collaboration with other ecumenical partners, to organize this prayer meeting?

When Pope Francis announced that the upcoming General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops would be preceded by an ecumenical prayer vigil, he said that “the path to Christian unity and the path of synodal conversion of the Church are linked.” The title of the vigil –  “Together: gathering of the People of God” – also indicates the desire of the Holy Father for the people of God to walk together, as brothers and sisters in Christ, thus demonstrating their desire to increase the visible unity of ‘journeying’ Christians.

This synodal process comes at a crucial time in the Church and in the wider world. On the one hand, in a hyper-globalized world, we know, more than ever before, that we are connected to each other and to our common home. On the other hand, differences between us tend to become separating polarizations, which violently separate us from one another and are causing extremely damaging divisions in our societies, churches and also within our families.

Against this background, walking and working together like brothers and sisters, even if we are not the same and even if we do not agree on everything, becomes a prophetic act of resistance against the polarizing forces which are tearing us apart.

What kind of programme is being prepared for the young people who plan on attending the weekend?

Young people aged between 18 and 35 from across Europe, from all Church backgrounds, will be hosted from Friday evening in parishes and Christian communities for this event which will include Scripture readings, prayers of praise and intercession, Taizé songs, and moments of silence.

The “Together” weekend will be a journey made up of several parts. On the morning of 30th September, there will be various thematic workshops in different areas of Rome. This will be followed by a time dedicated to prayer for all the young adults in the city centre, before proceeding in procession towards St. Peter’s Square for the ecumenical prayer vigil, which will see Pope Francis, representatives of different Churches and all participants unite in praise and silence.

What are your hopes for the synod of synodality which is currently underway?

The synod can be a moment of historic importance, perhaps a turning point, in which we, as Church, become aware of the immense task we have ahead of us.

Under the guidance of the Spirit, we need to rediscover a sense of what holds us together and that starts by genuinely listening to each other. That is the necessary first step on the long and arduous journey ahead in which our “tent” is enlarged to really include everyone and in which, rooted in the Gospel, we are invited as a community of people on the road together to share the Good News with the world.

In my opinion, the synod we are currently experiencing, rather than being about a particular subject or theme, is about the process of how we can journey together. Thus, this experience should not be viewed as a one-off “event” in the life of the Church or as a closed-end process with a clear end date. It should rather be lived as a new way of being Church, of journeying together and finding new and creative ways of making everyone feel co-responsible for the Church we love and the mission entrusted to it.

One final question. How is Justice & Peace Europe (JP Europe) participating in this synodal journey?

For over fifty years it has been JP Europe’s goal to promote the Social Teaching of Church in the European context and we continue to do so in a time of increasing economic, social and ecological challenges. We cherish the Social Teaching of the Church as an inspiring stimulus for faith and as a powerful motor to promote the Common Good at all levels of society.

Since the opening of the synod on synodality in the autumn of 2021, JP Europe has been praying as a network for its success and reflecting on the best ways to share our values with all those who are undertaking the synodal journey. In 2022, as part of the initial process of consultation, we shared a short reflective document. This year, between the 5th and 12th of February, I also participated, together with Stefan Lunte, Secretary General of Justice & Peace Europe in the European continental meeting of the Synod. This meeting, which was held in Prague, discussed the document ‘Enlarge the space of your tent’ which gathered the fruit of the discernment on the syntheses prepared by various Episcopal Conferences around the world.

Lastly, Justice & Peace Europe is also collaborating in the organization of the ecumenical prayer service which will precede the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. As a member of the Justice & Peace Europe Executive Committee, I had the privilege of participating in the preparatory meeting in Rome and look forward, this coming September, to welcoming young people from all over Europe for a weekend of sharing our journey together as the people of God.   

Join Daniel Darmanin and Stefan Lunte on the 24th of April at 18:00 for an online round-table discussion organised by JP Europe with other participants from the continental assembly of the Synod. Register here.