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Cardinal Grech opens world meeting of priests: ‘Our stories are human stories’

Landscape view of Sacrofano, Italy, north of Rome. / Credit: Dmitry Taranets/Shutterstock

Rome Newsroom, Apr 29, 2024 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

The World Meeting of Parish Priests for the Synod opened on Monday to discuss “how to be a synodal local Church in mission,” allowing priests from around the world to discuss questions raised during the ongoing synod and share their personal pastoral experiences. 

The four-day meeting, which is taking place from April 29 to May 2 at the Fraterna Domus retreat house in Sacrofano, Italy, just north of Rome, is attended by about 300 priests from around the globe and is divided into several sessions, taking cues from different themes and questions raised in the synod’s synthesis report. 

“The parish priest is a man of the people and for the people. Like Jesus, he is open to the crowd, constantly open to the crowd, to help each and every one understand that they are a letter from Christ,” said Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary general of the General Secretariat of the Synod, in opening the event on Monday morning. 

Monday’s discussion was based on the theme “The Face of the Synodal Church,” while Tuesday’s discussion will focus on “All Disciples, All Missionaries.” On Wednesday participants will come together to study “Teaching Ties, Building Communities.”

In reflecting on the overall scope of the Synod on Synodality, which will reconvene in October for its second and final assembly, Grech told participants on Monday that at the center of this process is an understanding, and sharing, of personal narratives. 

“Our stories are human stories, but human stories in which God, Jesus, is present,” the cardinal remarked. 

“Sometimes we need others to help us see God’s presence in our stories. This is our mission, this is the mission entrusted to us, to you, my dear brothers,” he said. 

Grech told the clergy gathered that “being synodal does not simply mean walking together, but rather walking with God, or better to say, God walking with us.” 

“Synodality is about God, before being about the Church,” he continued.  

The World Meeting of Parish Priests for the Synod was first announced in February and is jointly organized by the Dicastery for the Clergy and by the General Secretariat of the Synod in response to the first synod assembly’s synthesis report, which identified a need to “develop ways for a more active involvement of deacons, priests, and bishops in the synodal process during the coming year.”

“There is no synod without a bishop, but allow me to say today there is no synod without a parish priest,” Grech said to participants on Monday. “That is the reason why we felt the need to make this meeting, and so that we can enrich our preparation in view of the next session for the synod of bishops.”

This week’s meeting will culminate with an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Thursday, followed by Mass, celebrated by Grech, in St. Peter’s Basilica. 

According to Bishop Luis Marín de San Martín, undersecretary of the General Secretariat of the Synod, another purpose of the meeting is to “provide materials that will be used in the drafting of the Instrumentum Laboris [working document] for the synod’s second session, together with the summaries of the consultation coordinated by the bishops’ conferences and the results of the theological-canonical study carried out by five working groups formed by the General Secretariat of the Synod.”

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