Anglican Centre Director Archbishop Ian Ernest was present in his capacity as Personal Representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury at the solemn opening in Rome of the Synod of Bishops on October 9.

The Synod of Bishops will take place in three stages over the next few years and aims to give the Roman Catholic Church the opportunity to become “a different Church”, as Pope Francis said in his inaugural speech. Laymen and women, priests, seminarians, women and men religious, cardinals and bishops – all the baptized – will be invited to engage together in the process. 


Pope Francis urged those present at the opening to reflect seriously on the need to build up a synodal Church. “It is precisely the pathway which God expects of the Church of the third millennium,” he said.

After the official opening ceremony, Archbishop Ernest participated in a discussion group of 13 men and women including prelates, lay theologians, superiors  of monastic communities and young people, chaired by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life.

Archbishop Ernest shared with the rest of the group the Anglican experience of synodality and three main themes emerged from the discussions:


  1. How to work for a Church which is synodically governed and episcopally led.
  2. To affirm a Synodality of Charisms under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
  3. To build up praying communities as they become the backbone of the Church.


Archbishop Ernest said: “This event showed already a synodal spirit which will benefit our ecumenical efforts to walk together”.

During the Mass celebrated to mark the solemn opening of the Synod, Pope Francis said that a true encounter only comes through listening to others, noting that Jesus listens not just with the ears, but with the heart. When we follow Jesus in listening with the heart, “people feel they are being heard, not judged; they feel free to recount their own experiences and their spiritual journey’, he said.

The Pope invited people to ask themselves if they are good at listening, if they allow others to express themselves. He said that the Holy Spirit is asking us to listen to the “questions, concerns, and hopes of every Church,” and to the challenges and changes presented by the world around us.”

“Let us not soundproof our hearts; let us not remain barricaded in our certainties,” he pleaded. Instead, “Let us listen to one another.”