"In Jesus we find everything"

General Government of the Brothers and Sisters, Rome


Home / News / Interview with Antonio Ávila, head of the diocesan phase of the Synod in Madrid

Interview with Antonio Ávila, head of the diocesan phase of the Synod in Madrid

"Synodality means that the laity have a place and a voice"



priest, psychologist and
head of the diocesan phase o
f the Synod in Madrid



What prospects for change does the Synod open up for the Church in the world? What challenges are on the horizon?

First of all, it is important to differentiate between what we can call "substantive issues" and "headlines". The first substantive issue would be synodality itself, i.e. creating real channels of participation in the Church. This begins with the laity having a place and a voice that is heard in the Church. These channels should be the pastoral councils, but it is important that they are not formal (i.e. they do what the parish priest says) though in some places they do not even exist.

This also implies a need for a change of conscience and formation on the part of the laity. This does not mean that the laity should be the same as the clergy and be in the parish all day long, but that, with their family, lay, professional, social, etc. life, when they participate in the ecclesial community, their voice should cause the ecclesial structure itself to be transformed.

Among the laity there are also women …

Yes, and this is the second basic issue, the role of women in the Church. It is clear that women are in the majority compared to men in the Church, but since women have historically been considered as "juveniles", they have never had a presence in any participatory body. In this sense, Pope Francis is being exemplary in appointing women to important bodies in the Church. This is an issue that needs to be strengthened, and for this to happen, the channels we were talking about earlier need to facilitate them to have a voice and be heard, and to take on responsibilities.

In relation to the above, another issue arises that responds more to the concept of the "incumbent" is that is that of female ordination. In this regard, I am convinced that it will not be long before the female diaconate is possible, because in the first centuries of Christianity it already existed, and as such ordaining women as deacons would be no more than a restoration. Another point is that of priestly ministry. Here we would be talking about something new that would be more complicated on account of the rupture it could involve.

A third key issue is that of combining community life with a deep spirituality, with a form of celebration and a process of transmitting the faith alive, and with insertion in the social problems that we are experiencing, so that the Church is not a ghetto. Because if the Gospel is a leaven in society, all these fundamental issues must be addressed.

Another aspect of this Synod that has been very interesting has been the attempt to listen to the voice of non-believers and the excluded. In this case the attempt to listen has been broader than what was done at the Vatican Council. There really has been an effort to include groups that are not usual in the Church (prisoners who have participated through prison ministry, university professors, or people in situations of exclusion through Caritas), although this has not taken place everywhere.

Are there also challenges for religious and priests?

With regard to religious life, although the Synod does not address it directly, it does have an impact on its meaning, since in religious life there is still a lot of anti-synodal language. An example would be that we continue to speak of "superior", which indicates a way of understanding religious life. It is true that since the Vatican Council, religious life has undergone a very important transformation, but there is still a long way to go.

As for priests, Pope Francis has been sending a very clear message from the onset, "no to clericalism". Priests must be animators of the community, not masters of it. This presupposes a process of conversion of the clergy, moving from a situation of clericalism in which collabo-rators are sought to help the priest, to one of becoming aware of a Christian community that needs to be animated, moderated, accompanied, supported...