Bishops release North American final document, end continental stage of Synod

May 9, 2023

Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, second from left, meets with Pope Francis and other members of the preparatory commission for the general assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in March. (CNS photo)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) have issued the North American final document for the Continental Stage of the 2021-2024 Synod: For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.

Begun in late 2022, the Continental Stage of the Synod was the second stage of the three-year process initiated by Pope Francis in October 2021. For the North American Continental Stage, the United States and Canada held 12 virtual assemblies: seven in English, three in Spanish, and two in French between December 2022 and January 2023. In total, 931 delegates and 146 bishops from Canada and the United States were appointed to participate in one of these 12 assemblies to share their reflections and responses to the Document for the Continental Stage (DCS) issued by the Holy See’s General Secretariat of the Synod in October 2022. Those reflections were brought together by the North American writing team to create the final document.

“I think one of the aspects of the continental process that was quite impressive was the specific inclusion of a ‘Spiritual Conversation’ apart from the discussions on the content of the regional documents,” said Jim Barrette, Secretariat Director of Pastoral and Educational Ministries for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. “Participants in the Continental Phase from our archdiocese were very moved by the spiritual reflections this phase. We experienced many spiritual reflections in the archdiocesan synodal listening sessions, but the Continental Phase gave the ‘Spiritual Conversation’ extra emphasis.”

As to the content of the Continental Phase, Barrette said the three key themes – “Called and Gifted Through Baptism,” “Communion with Christ and One Another” and “Sent Forth on Mission” – resonated with the themes from Galveston-Houston.

“In the specifics topics under those themes there were some items that were “largely outside of our experience, for example merging, clustering, or combining parishes,” Barrette said, “while others seemed more specific to our experience than others, like congregations comprised of multiple significant ethnic groups.”

Bishop Raymond Poisson of Saint-Jérôme-Mont-Laurier, president of the CCCB, welcomed the release of the final document and expressed gratitude at the conclusion of the Continental Stage.

“We wish to extend our most profound gratitude to all those who participated in the North American Continental Stage,” he said. “In a special way, we would like to thank all those throughout the continent who kept the process and those involved in prayer over these last five months. The Holy Spirit is truly at work in the Church in North America, and we hope this final document will serve to strengthen our communion as sisters and brothers in Christ.”

The final document from North America, along with the contributions of the six other continental assemblies, will form the basis of the Instrumentum Laboris to be released by the General Secretariat of the Synod in June 2023.

Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine, who has been shepherding the synodal process in the United States, commented on the significance of the final document.

“This document is an important step in our commitment to become a more synodal Church,” he said.

Begun in October 2021, the “Synod on Synodality” was recently extended by Pope Francis through October 2024, to allow for more time for reflection and discernment from both the local and universal Church. The universal phase of the Synod will be held in two parts, the first in October 2023 and the second a year later in October 2024.

The final document for the Continental Stage is available in English, Spanish and French. More information about the North American Continental Stage of the 2021-2024 Synod – For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission, and other resources can be found at