Pope Francis Sunday announced that his ongoing Synod of Bishops on Synodality will be extended for an additional year, to allow, as he put it, more time for discernment and a greater understanding of the concept as a key dimension of church life.

As things now stand, bishops and other participants will gather for an initial meeting of the synod Oct. 4-29, 2023, in Rome, to be followed by a year of reflection, with another culminating meeting set for October 2024.

Though notoriously difficult to define, “synodality” is generally understood to refer to a collaborative and consultative style of management in which all members, clerical and lay, participate in making decisions about the church’s life and mission.

Speaking to pilgrims following his Oct. 16 Angelus address, Pope Francis noted that the first stage of the synod, which holds the theme, “For a synodal Church: Communion, participation, mission,” opened last October, and that since then, the process has been moving forward “in the particular churches, with listening and discernment.”

The pope voiced confidence that this decision will “foster understanding of synodality as a constitutive dimension of the Church, and help everyone to live it in a journey of brothers and sisters who bear witness to the joy of the Gospel.”

Formally opened by Pope Francis with an Oct. 10, 2021, Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, the synod, typically a month-long meeting of bishops at the Vatican, has been re-conceived in this instance as a multi-stage process beginning with a local consultation carried out among pastors and faithful around the world.

The diocesan phase lasted from October 2021 to April 2022, and was designed as a consultative process that took place according to certain guidelines issued by the Synod of Bishops. A second, continental phase, began in September and will last through March 2023, when continental bishops’ conferences will coordinate and evaluate the results of the diocesan consultations.

For the United States, which does not belong to a continental conference of the bishops, that second phase will consist of a meeting between American and Canadian bishops.

A final, universal phase was set to conclude the process during next year’s Oct. 4-29 gathering in Rome, but with Pope Francis’s announcement Sunday, that universal phase is now extended to 2024….

The above comes from an Oct. 16 posting in Crux.