How exactly are the discussions at the Synod in Rome organised?
Here's a helpful update from Bishop Brian McGee (Argyll & the Isles), the Scottish delegate at the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.
"Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, For myself one of the most uplifting elements of the Synod has been the quality of discussion in the Small Groups, principally because we are engaging the Spiritual Conversation method.
Once allocated a topic we prepare in advance by personal prayer before writing a four minute presentation.
I have been struck by the prayerful, respectful and open dialogue even during potentially contentious topics.
When the group meets, our sharing takes places over three phases which are each preceded by silent prayer.
- Firstly, each person delivers their presentation while the rest listen in silence without responding, although notes are taken.
- Secondly, each member sums up what they heard from the entire group especially focusing on what “burned in their heart”, both that which pleased or disturbed them.
- Thirdly, an open discussion follows.
Then the secretary and presenter draft a tentative statement (4 min) and, after discussion, adaptation and approval it is read to the General Assembly.
After every Group’s statement is read out, free interventions (3 min) from across the Assembly are permitted. After every four interventions there is a 3 min pause for silent prayer.
Finally, the Small Groups discuss what they have heard from across the Assembly and decide if they wish to accordingly adapt their own statement. This usually happens.
The point is not to necessarily reach complete consensus but rather to agree what the significant points were, even if they are divergent.
The final document cannot be longer than two pages and once complete is then submitted to the theologians for synthesis with those from the other Small Groups with the same topic.
It seems complicated but the facilitators keep us right. I have been struck by the prayerful, respectful and open dialogue even during potentially contentious topics. Something to try in our parishes, dioceses and Conference?"
Follow Bishop Brian's updates on the Facebook page of the Diocese of Argyll & the Isles. Title image: Vatican News.