Bishop Nicholas Hudson – Intervention at the European Continental Assembly in Prague

Source: Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales

Bishop Nicholas Hudson, who oversees Justice and Peace in the Diocese of Westminster, is one of four representatives from England and Wales joining over 200 delegates from Europe in the Czech capital of Prague to discern the fruits of the synodal work at the local level. A further ten country representatives are attending remotely.

The European continental assembly for the third phase of the Synod on Synodality is taking place from 5-12 February. Then, in October 2023, the Synod of Bishops will meet in Rome for the first of two synod gatherings.

Delegation for England and Wales

Attending in person in Prague

Bishop Nicholas Hudson (Lead, Auxiliary Bishop, Diocese of Westminster)
Rev. Jan Nowotnik (Director of Mission for the Bishops’ Conference)
Sarah Adams (Diocese of Clifton)
Jessica Wilkinson (Diocese of Leeds)

Attending via live stream

Dr Johan Bergström-Allen
Amy Cameron
Rev. David Cross
Deborah Cottam
Sr Lynda Dearlove VCF
Simeon Elderfield
Elizabeth Harris-Sawczenko
Fr John McGowan OCD
Rev. Dr Callan Slipper
John Smartt

Intervention by Bishop Nicholas, Prague, 6 February 2023

In England and Wales, the resonances were deep between the Document for the Continental Stage (DCS) and our own National Synthesis. The role of women had been a headline finding of the Synod in our countries[1] – as it was in the DCS. Like the DCS, we heard fewer calls for women’s ordination than for their inclusion in the Church’s governance. However, we noted that few lay men exercise governance roles either.

Other headline findings which we shared with the DCS? Inclusion was a dominant concern of our Synodal journey: the inclusion of LGBT+ people; the inclusion of remarried divorcees in the life of the Church. These conversations often encountered a tension which the DCS echoed from our National Synthesis: the tension to be found in the Church needing boldly to “(proclaim) its authentic teaching while at the same time offering a witness of radical inclusion and acceptance.”[2] 

The inclusion of young people was also a dominant topic in our Synodal journey. Many dioceses had a large youth engagement, especially from schools.  The joy expressed by the young people who took part contrasted with the pain of those concerned about young people’s involvement. This tension the DCS failed to observe. However, we were with DCS in recognising the tension between young people who seek to adhere to the 1962 Missal and those who prefer more contemporary celebrations.[3] We felt DCS did not communicate sufficiently the “sadness and anger… sense of grievance and marginalisation”[4] of many around the liturgy.

As in most countries, many English and Welsh priests were unclear as to how they were supposed to engage with the Synodal process. As in most countries, there was frequent expression of appreciation for our priests, along with concern that too much is asked of them. However, clergy and laity alike were surprised to find scant reference in DCS to clerical sexual abuse.[5]

The deepest resonance came with the call for formation, which pervades both DCS and our National Synthesis[6] – a sense that diverse resonances and tensions call for diverse types of formation. This is to say:

  • formation which gives voice both to those who feel themselves to be on the margins of the Church and also to the voice of Tradition;
  • formation in truth and mercy: formation that holds in tension the authority of Scripture, Tradition, the Magisterium and personal experience;
  • formation in the Faith, not least in the teachings of Vatican II;
  • formation in Synodality – for clergy and laity together;
  • formation in listening;
  • formation in accompaniment. 

The desire for formation might be expressed as a yearning for a Synodal spirituality. Such a spirituality could be captured, in essence, as a tent held up by the four vital poles – of encounter, journeying, formation, and accompaniment.

[1] “One of the headline findings of the Synod in England and Wales,” Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales, National Synthesis Document, London, 2022, #15

[2] ibid. #49; DCS #30

[3] “Trying to have their own space in liturgy and songs, ”DCS #9

[4] National Synthesis Document #72

[5] This especially given the DCS’s acknowledgment that it is an “obstacle of particular relevance on the path of walking together,” DCS #20

[6] ibid. #82-83


Bishops Conference of England and Wales – Synodal Pathway

Report from Farm Street Parish Synodal Day – 21st February 2023

Diocese of Westminster – For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission