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Reflections on the synodal process based on Augustinian ecclesiology

With just over a month before the start of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, the vice-president of the Pontifical Augustinian Patristic Institute, Professor Juan Antonio Cabrera OSA, in an article cherry-picked below, highlighted key links between the ecclesiological magisterium of the Bishop of Hippo and the concept of synodality, bringing the thinking of one of the most eminent Holy Fathers to bear on the process in which today’s Church is immersed

"Perhaps Augustine’s best contribution to synodality is the constant reminder that Christ and the Church are an indissoluble reality. If the Church never forgets this union, she will always be updated, renewed and in harmony with Christ, her head," father Cabrera concludes in his text "Augustinian Ecclesiology in the context of the synodal process", recently published as part of the ongoing formation program, FORCONT, of the Province of St John of Sahagún.

Prior to reaching this conclusion, however, Cabrera explains that, although "to speak of synodality in Augustine would be to force this particular term too much" - language evolves and in Augustione’s time different terminology was used when speaking of the Church - but, "this does not prevent us from developing some clear aspects of patristic thought to illuminate current ecclesial processes."

In the words of the vice-president of the Patristicum, "the essence of his ecclesiological thought is eminently Christological", and this must lead us, as Augustinians, to understand from this Christological perspective the three pillars - communion, participation and mission - on which the synodal process is based. Over the past two years, synod has allowed the Church "to reaffirm her status as the people of God."

"It is in how we understand what the Church is that we will find answers to its problems and discern how to fulfil our mission in the best possible way." To achieve this, Cabrera insists, it is vital to properly understand the term synodality - "a way of living and organising the life of the Church and of each one of the baptised" - and to know how to connect it with the tradition of the Church and with the magisterium of St Augustine, "especially useful in times of confusion like now" because it provides "useful keys to advance, renew and innovate without losing the richness and values of our Tradition."

The full text of Fr Cabrera’s article is available (in Spanish) from the communications office of the General Curia. Friars are encouraged to read it as it offers a rich analysis of key concepts readily found in St Augustine’s own writings, including his theological reflections on ecclesial mediation, the spousal bond between Christ and his Church, and the transformative power of prayer for improving communion in the following of Jesus.

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