People of God. Unity, Synodality, and Diversity

In the heart of Vatican City, on September 30, a momentous event unfolded. Believers from diverse backgrounds, hailing from all corners of the world, converged in St. Peter’s Square. They came together as brothers and sisters in Christ, under the benevolent gaze of Pope Francis, with the presence of Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop Justin Welby, Rev. Anne Burghardt, the General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, and many other esteemed church leaders representing various denominations. This was no ordinary gathering; it was a testament to the power of unity, synodality, and the richness of our shared faith.

A Tapestry of Faith and Unity

The assembly was a tapestry woven from the threads of the Synod, youth participants in the “Together” gathering, as well as leaders and delegates from different Christian denominations. 

These pilgrims of faith embarked on a journey of prayer, recommitting themselves to the path of unity that had unfolded since October 2021. They also extended their prayers to the Assembly members, who would soon gather for three days of spiritual preparation for the XVI Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, scheduled to open on October 4.

Youth participants share their reflection of unity and prayer in St. Peter’s Square.

Gratitude for the Gift of Unity

Throughout the gathering, powerful stories resonated from youth across different churches, reminding everyone of the profound significance of unity. 

Emile from Lebanon articulated, “There is no synodality without ecumenism and no ecumenism without synodality.” These two pillars, deeply rooted in the baptismal dignity of the People of God, beckon us towards a missionary synodal Church, fostering repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

Agata from Indonesia, representing the International Youth Advisory Body, expressed gratitude for the diverse voices that had shaped the synodal journey. She celebrated how the process had embraced creativity and amplified the voices of the marginalized, acknowledging that “the protagonist of the Synod is the Holy Spirit.”

Tilen from Slovenia emphasized the importance of listening and dialogue in a synodal Church. He recognized some young people have experienced hurt and pain within the Church. Acknowledging these struggles, he invited the assembly to weeop with those who suffered, praying for healing and transformation through the Holy Spirit.

The Transformative Power of Synodal Conversations

One powerful insight emerged: synodality isn’t confined to official settings in grand halls. The most transformative synodal conversations often happen organically, driven by a simple question from a friend. These conversations involve deep listening, disagreement, growth, and a shared journey toward understanding. Young people’s faith was particularly inspiring, echoing Pope Francis’ words that “The Church needs [their] momentum, intuitions, and faith.”

People of God

Members of Laudato Si’ Movement, instrumental in organizing this service, celebrate with a selfie.

Gratitude for the Gift of the Other

The assembly recognized that no one is self-sufficient, emphasizing that relationships are fundamental to growth. The parable of the Good Samaritan beautifully illustrated the value of caring for one another, irrespective of our differences.

Wael, a Syrian refugee, reminded everyone of the challenges faced by displaced individuals and the importance of embracing a wider “we.” He urged the assembly to reject prejudice, stereotypes, and bias, celebrating the beauty of diversity and working together for peace and respect.

The symbolic river, guided by the hands of various representatives, flows into the prayer service.

Via Creationis: Celebrating Creation

Amidst this gathering, the Season of Creation was observed, emphasizing the importance of the relationship between faith and the environment. The Via Creationis, reading from the two books of God—Scripture and creation, served as a poignant reminder of our responsibility to care for the world. A symbolic river symbolizing justice and peace flowed as a testament to our shared commitment to protecting our planet and its creatures.

In the end, the gathering in St. Peter’s Square was a profound celebration of faith, unity, and diversity. It showed that, as members of the human family, we are called to journey together, care for one another, and work towards a more synodal and ecumenical Church, embodying the message of unity that Jesus prayed for: “that they may all be one… that the world may believe.”

To commemorate the spirit of this event, we invite you to pray the Via Creationis along this video premiered in St. Peter’s Square: