Pope: 'May the Jubilee help the people of God live in hope'

Archbishop Leo Cushley was in Rome recently for the plenary assembly of the Dicastery for Evangelization.

Members heard from Pope Francis on the need for a new approach to evangelization in our secularized and individualistic world, writes Vatican News.

He remarked that over the past decades secularism has caused “enormous difficulties” which span “from the loss of the sense of belonging to the Christian community, to indifference regarding faith and its contents”.

These negative effects, the Pope noted, have been further accentuated by the new digital culture, which "also brings with it a vision of mankind that appears problematic when referring to the need for truth that resides in every person, joined with the need for freedom in interpersonal and social relationships."

The crucial role of catechists

Emphasizing the crucial role of catechists, he expressed his hope “that bishops will be able to nurture and accompany vocations to this ministry”, especially among the young, “so that the gap between generations may be narrowed and the transmission of the faith may not appear as a task entrusted only to older people.”

“I encourage you to find ways for the Catechism of the Catholic Church to continue to be known, studied, and valued, so that it may respond to the new needs that manifest themselves with the passing decades.”

Need for prayer to prepare for the Jubilee of Hope

The Holy Father reflected on the preparation of the 2025 Jubilee of Hope, which he will officially proclaim in an Apostolic Letter to be released in the weeks to come.

“I hope that those pages will be able to help many people reflect and, above all, experience hope in a real way," he said, remarking that “the holy people of God needs it so much!”

Thanking the Dicastery for its efforts to welcome the millions of Jubilee pilgrims flowing to Rome next year, Pope Francis concluded by recalling the importance of prayer to prepare for the event, for which 2024 has been designated as a Year of Prayer.

“We need to rediscover prayer as the experience of being in the Lord’s presence, of feeling we are understood, welcomed, and loved by Him,” he said. "Let us start, brothers and sisters, to pray more, to pray better, in the school of Mary and of the saints.”

Synod Report released

In the Synthesis Report approved and published by the 16th General Assembly of the Synod on Synodality, there is a renewed look at the world and the Church, writes Vatican News.

After four weeks of work, which began on 4 October in the Paul VI Hall, the General Assembly concluded its first session on Saturday in the Vatican.

The 40-page document is the result of the work of the assembly over the last month. It is divided into a preface and three parts, tracing the path for the work to be done in the second session in 2024.

The following is a summary of the document by Vatican News. The document can be read here

Listening to all, beginning with victims of abuse

As in the Letter to the People of God, the synod assembly reaffirms an “openness to listening and accompanying all, including those who have suffered abuse and hurt in the Church”, which “addressing the structural conditions that abetted such abuse, remains before us, and requires concrete gestures of penitence”.

The face of a synodal Church

Synodality is a first step. It is a term that the participants in the Synod themselves admit is “a term unfamiliar to many members of the People of God, causing some people confusion and concern” (1 f), including fears of a departure from tradition, a debasement of the hierarchical nature of the Church (1 g), a loss of power or, on the contrary, immobility and a lack of courage for change. “Synodal” and “synodality” are instead terms that “speak of a mode of being Church that integrates communion, mission, and participation”. So they indicate a way of living the Church, valuing differences and developing the active involvement of all. This begins with deacons, priests, and bishops: “A synodal Church cannot do without their voices” (1 n), we read. “We need an understanding of the reasons for resistance to synodality by some of them”.

Mission

The document continues explaining that synodality goes hand in hand with mission. Hence, it is necessary that “Christian communities are to enter into solidarity with those of other religions, convictions and cultures, thus avoiding, on the one hand, the risk of self-referentiality and self-preservation, and on the other hand the risk of loss of identity” (2 e). In this new “pastoral style”, it would seem important to many to make “liturgical language more accessible to the faithful and more embodied in the diversity of cultures” (3 l).

The poor at the centre

Ample space in the Report is devoted to the poor, who ask the Church for “love”, understood as “respect, acceptance, and recognition” (4 a). “For the Church, the option for the poor and those at the margins is a theological category before being a cultural, sociological, political or philosophical category” (4 b), the document reiterates, identifying the poor not only as those who are materially impoverished, but also migrants; indigenous peoples; victims of violence and abuse (especially women), or racism and trafficking; people with addictions; minorities; abandoned elderly people; and exploited workers (4 c). Among “the most vulnerable of the vulnerable, on whose behalf constant advocacy is needed, [are] the unborn and their mothers”, the document continues. “The Assembly hears the cry of the ‘new poor’, produced by wars and terrorism that plague many countries on several continents, and the assembly condemns the corrupt political and economic systems that cause such strife”.

The most vulnerable of the vulnerable, for whom constant advocacy is needed, are the children in the womb and their mothers," reads the text of the Assembly, which says it is "aware of the cry of the 'new poor' produced by wars and terrorism also caused by 'corrupt political and economic systems'.

Commitment of believers in the field of politics and for the common good

In this sense, the Church is urged to be committed both to the “public denunciation of the injustices” perpetrated by individuals, governments, and companies; and to active engagement in politics, associations, trade unions, popular movements (4f and 4g). At the same time, the consolidated action of the Church in the fields of education, health, and social assistance, “without any discrimination or the exclusion of anyone”, must not be neglected (4 k).

Migrants

There is also a focus on migrants and refugees, “many of whom bear the wounds of uprooting, war and violence”. They “often become a source of renewal and enrichment for the communities that welcome them and an opportunity to establish direct links with geographically distant churches” (5 d). Faced with increasingly hostile attitudes towards them, the General Assembly says, “We are called to practice an open welcome, to accompany them in the construction of a new life and to build a true intercultural communion among peoples”. Fundamental in this sense is “respect for the liturgical traditions and religious practices of migrants” as well as respect for their own language. For example, a word like “mission”, in contexts where “the proclamation of the Gospel was associated with colonization, even genocide”, is laden with “painful historical memories” and “hinders communion today” (5 e). “Evangelising in these contexts requires acknowledging mistakes made, learning a new sensitivity to these issues”, the document states.

Combating racism and xenophobia

Equal commitment and care is required of the Church “to engage decisively in education, in the culture of dialogue and encounter, combating racism and xenophobia, especially through pastoral formation” (5 p). It is also urgent to identify “systems within the Church that create or maintain racial injustice” (5 q).

Eastern Churches

Remaining on the subject of migration, the Report looks to Eastern Europe and the recent conflicts that have caused the flow of numerous faithful from the Catholic East into territories with a Latin majority. It is necessary, the Assembly says, “for the local Latin-rite Churches, in the name of synodality, to help the Eastern faithful who have emigrated to preserve their identity and cultivate their specific heritage, without undergoing processes of assimilation is the request of the Fathers” (6c).

On the road to Christian unity

With regard to ecumenism, the Report speaks of a “spiritual renewal” that requires “processes of repentance and healing of the memory” (7c). It goes on to quote Pope Francis’ expression about an “ecumenism of the blood”; that is “Christians of different affiliations who give their lives for faith in Jesus Christ” (7d), and it mentions the proposal for an ecumenical martyrology (7o). The Report also reiterates that “collaboration among all Christians” is a resource “for healing the culture of hatred, division and war that pits groups, peoples and nations against each other”. It does not forget the issue of so-called mixed marriages, which are realities in which “it is possible to evangelize each other” (7 f).

Laity and families (Part II)

“Laymen and laywomen, those in consecrated life, and ordained ministers have equal dignity” (8b): this conviction is forcefully reiterated in the Synthesis Report, which recalls how the lay faithful are “increasingly present and active in service within Christian communities” (8e). Educators in the faith, theologians, formators, spiritual animators, and catechists, active in safeguarding and administration: their contributions are “indispensable to the mission of the Church” (8 e). The different charisms must therefore be “called forth, recognized and fully appreciated” (8 f), and not be ignored, underutilized, or “clericalised” (8 f).

Women in the life and mission of the Church

There is, then, a call for a strong commitment on the part of the Church to accompany and understand women in all aspects of their lives, including pastoral and sacramental ones. Women, it says, “cry out for justice in societies still marked by sexual violence, economic inequality and the tendency to treat them as objects” (9 c), adding “Pastoral accompaniment and vigorous advocacy for women should go hand in hand”.

Clericalism

Many women present at the Synod “expressed deep gratitude for the work of priests and bishops”, but “also spoke of a Church that wounds" (9 f). “Clericalism, a chauvinist mentality, and inappropriate expressions of authority continue to scar the face of the Church and damage its communion”. A “profound spiritual conversion is needed as the foundation for any effective structural change”; and the General Assembly noted that “we desire to promote a Church in which men and women dialogue together
 without subordination, exclusion, and competition” (9h).

Opening the diaconate to women?

Various opinions on opening the diaconate to women were acknowledged (9 j): for some, it is “unacceptable because they consider it a discontinuity with Tradition”; for others, it would restore a practice of the early Church; still others see it as “an appropriate and necessary response to the signs of the times 
 that would find an echo in the hearts of many who seek new energy and vitality in the Church”. Then there are those who are concerned that opening the diaconate to women would involve “a worrying anthropological confusion, which, if granted, would marry the Church to the spirit of the age”. Fathers and mothers of the Synod ask to continue “Theological and pastoral research on the access of women to the diaconate”, making use of the results of the commissions specially set up by the Pope, as well as the theological, historical and exegetical research already carried out: “If possible”, they say, “the results of this research should be presented at the next Session of the Assembly” (9 n).

Discrimination and abuse

In the meantime, the urgency of ensuring “that women can participate in decision-making processes and assume roles of responsibility in pastoral care and ministry” is reiterated, noting that canon law should be adapted accordingly (9m). Cases of employment discrimination and unfair remuneration must also be addressed, including those in the Church where consecrated women are often considered “cheap labour” (9 o). Similarly, women’s access to theological education and training programmes must be expanded (9 p), including promoting the use of inclusive language in liturgical texts and Church documents (9 q).

Consecrated Life

Looking at the richness and variety of the different forms of consecrated life, the Report warns against the “persistence of an authoritarian style, which makes no room for dialogue”. The Report notes, too, that “cases of abuse of various kinds experienced by those in religious life and members of lay associations, especially of women, signal a problem in the exercise of authority and demand decisive and appropriate interventions” (10 d).

Deacons and formation

The Assembly then expresses gratitude to ordained ministers, who are “called to live their service to the People of God in a disposition of proximity to people, welcoming and listening to all, while cultivating a deep personal spirituality and a life of prayer” (11b). The Report warns against clericalism, a “distortion of the priestly vocation” that “needs to be challenged from the earliest stages of formation” by ensuring “close contact” with the people and those in need (11 c). The request is also expressed, along these lines, that seminaries or other courses of formation of candidates for the ministry be linked to the daily life of communities (11 e), in order“to avoid the risks of formalism and ideology that lead to authoritarian attitudes, and impede genuine vocational growth”.

Celibacy

Mention was made of the theme of celibacy, which received different evaluations during the assembly.” Its value is appreciated by all as richly prophetic and a profound witness to Christ”; the Report says, while noting that some ask “whether its appropriateness, theologically, for priestly ministry should necessarily translate into a disciplinary obligation in the Latin Church, above all in ecclesial and cultural contexts that make it more difficult. This discussion is not new but requires further consideration”.

Bishops

There is ample reflection on the figure and role of the bishop, who is called to be “an example of synodality” (12 c) by exercising “co-responsibility”, understood as the involvement of other actors within the diocese and the clergy, so as to lighten the burden of “administrative and legal commitments” which can hinder his mission (12 e). Coupled with this, the bishop does not always find the human and spiritual support he needs, while “a certain sense of loneliness is not uncommon” (12 e).

Abuses

On the question of abuse, which “places many bishops in the difficult situation of having to reconcile the role of father with that of judge” (12 i), the Report supports the exploration of the “appropriateness of assigning the judicial task to another body, to be specified canonically” (12 i).

Formation (Part III)

A “synodal approach” is then requested for formation, with the recommendation that work be undertaken “on relationship and sexual education, to accompany young people as they mature in their personal and sexual identities and to support the maturation of those called to celibacy and consecrated chastity” (14 g). The Report emphasizes the importance of deepening “the dialogue between the human sciences” (14 h) so as to enable “careful consideration of matters that are controversial within the Church” (15 b) – that is, among other issues, matters “such as those relating to matters of identity and sexuality, the end of life, complicated marital situations, and ethical issues related to artificial intelligence”. Issues such as these are controversial precisely “because they pose new questions” in society and in the Church (15 g). “It is important to take the time required for this reflection and to invest our best energies in it, without giving in to simplistic judgments that hurt individuals and the Body of the Church”, the Report says, while recalling that “Church teaching already provides a sense of direction on many of these matters, but this teaching evidently still requires translation into pastoral practice”.

Listening

With the same concern, the Report renews the invitation to hear and accompany “people who feel marginalized or excluded from the Church because of their marriage status, identity or sexuality”. “There was a deep sense of love, mercy and compassion felt in the Assembly for those who are or feel hurt or neglected by the Church, who want a place to call ‘home’ where they can feel safe, be heard and respected, without fear of feeling judged”, the document says, while insisting that “Christians must always show respect for the dignity of every person” (16 h).

Polygamy

In light of the experiences reported in the Synod hall by some members of the Synod from Africa, SECAM (Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar) is encouraged to promote “a theological and pastoral discernment” on the topic of polygamy and the accompaniment of people in polygamous unions who are coming to faith” (16 q)

Digital culture

Finally, the Synthesis Report speaks of the digital environment: “It is up to us to reach today's culture in all spaces where people seek meaning and love, including the spaces they enter through their cell phones and tablets” (17 c), bearing in mind that the internet “can also cause harm and injury, such as through intimidation, disinformation, sexual exploitation, and addiction”. The Report adds, “There is an urgent need to consider how the Christian community can support families in ensuring that the online space is not only safe but also spiritually life-giving” (17 f).

FAQs: Final week at the Synod

What happened at the Synod this week?
Two main things happened:

What is the final summary document?
It has been described as a 40-page 'transitory' document, so it is not the final document of the Synod. The final document will be the one produced from the Synod meeting in 2024.

What is the final document expected to say?
Dr Paolo Ruffini, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, said: "The Document will serve to encourage those who are already on the journey: all the baptized, laymen and laywomen, deacons, priests, bishops, consecrated persons. Everyone should feel encouraged and thanked for embarking on or continuing the journey."

So the Synod finishes this week?
Yes, this Assembly of the Synod concludes on Sunday with Mass at 9am (UK) in St Peter’s Basilica. It will resume with another Assembly in October 2024.

What else happened?
Synod members gathered on Wednesday to pray the Rosary at St Peter's Basilica.

What has Pope Francis said this week?
He made an intervention at the Wednesday afternoon session. He described the Church as "God’s faithful people... infallible in believing". He also criticised clericalism, describing it as "a whip, it is a scourge, it is a form of worldliness". Read his intervention here.

What has the Scottish Delegate, Bishop Brian McGee, said about the Synod in the past week?
Yesterday (Thursday) he posted on Facebook: "Everyone agrees on what a positive experience we have been blessed to live through. As Christians, no matter the difficulties, we have so much to hope in."

Bishop McGee (second left) posted this image on Sunday of his final rotating 'Small Group'.

Earlier in the week he said: "Work continues on the Synod’s synthesis report before being made public. It is important to remember that the Synod was never intended to resemble a Parliament’s debating chamber but rather is a spiritual experience where communal discernment of God’s Will is the primary purpose."

 

What happened in the first week of the Synod?
See our Week 1 FAQs here.

What happened  in the second and third week of the Synod?
See our Week 2 FAQs here and our Week 3 FAQs here.

Where should I go for more news about the Synod?
Vatican News has regular updates in a section of its website dedicated to the Synod here. An official Facebook page has been set up here. A Twitter account is here.

Images: Vatican Media.

SYNOD: Letter published to 'the People of God'

On Wednesday, participants at the Synod in Rome approved the Letter of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to the People of God.

Letter of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to the People of God.

Dear sisters, dear brothers,

As the proceedings of the first session of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops draw to a close, we want to thank God with all of you for the beautiful and enriching experience we have lived. We lived this blessed time in profound communion with all of you.

We were supported by your prayers, bearing with you your expectations, your questions, as well as your fears. As Pope Francis requested two years ago, a long process of listening and discernment was initiated, open to all the People of God, no one being excluded, to “journey together” under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, missionary disciples engaged in the following of Jesus Christ.

The session in which we have been gathered in Rome since 30 September is an important phase of this process. In many ways it has been an unprecedented experience. For the first time, at Pope Francis’ invitation, men and women have been invited, in virtue of their baptism, to sit at the same table to take part, not only in the discussions, but also in the voting process of this Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Together, in the complementarity of our vocations, our charisms and our ministries, we have listened intensely to the Word of God and the experience of others.

Using the conversation in the Spirit method, we have humbly shared the wealth and poverty of our communities from every continent, seeking to discern what the Holy Spirit wants to say to the Church today. We have thus also experienced the importance of fostering mutual exchanges between the Latin tradition and the traditions of Eastern Christianity. The participation of fraternal delegates from other Churches and Ecclesial Communities deeply enriched our discussions.

Our assembly took place in the context of a world in crisis, whose wounds and scandalous inequalities resonated painfully in our hearts, infusing our work with a particular gravity, especially since some of us come from countries where war rages.

We prayed for the victims of deadly violence, without forgetting all those who have been forced by misery and corruption to take the dangerous road of migration. We assured our solidarity and commitment alongside the women and men all over the world who are working to build justice and peace.

At the invitation of the Holy Father, we made significant room for silence to foster mutual listening and a desire for communion in the Spirit among us.

During the opening ecumenical vigil, we experienced how the thirst for unity increases in the silent contemplation of the crucified Christ. In fact, the cross is the only cathedra of the One who, having given himself for the salvation of the world, entrusted His disciples to His Father, so that “they may all be one” (John 17:21).

Firmly united in the hope brought by His Resurrection, we entrusted to Him our common home where the cries of the earth and the poor are becoming increasingly urgent: “Laudate Deum!” (“Praise God!”), as Pope Francis reminded us at the beginning of our work.

Day by day, we felt the pressing call to pastoral and missionary conversion. For the Church’s vocation is to proclaim the Gospel not by focusing on itself, but by placing itself at the service of the infinite love with which God loved the world (cf. John 3:16).

When homeless people near St. Peter’s Square were asked about their expectations regarding the Church on the occasion of this synod, they replied: “Love!”. This love must always remain the ardent heart of the Church, a Trinitarian and Eucharistic love, as the Pope recalled on October 15, midway through our assembly, invoking the message of Saint ThĂ©rĂšse of the Child Jesus. It is “trust” that gives us the audacity and inner freedom that we experienced, not hesitating to freely and humbly express our convergences, differences, desires and questions.

And now? We hope that the months leading to the second session in October 2024 will allow everyone to concretely participate in the dynamism of missionary communion indicated by the word “synod”.

This is not about ideology, but about an experience rooted in the apostolic tradition. As the Pope reminded us at the beginning of this process, “communion and mission can risk remaining somewhat abstract, unless we cultivate an ecclesial praxis that expresses the concreteness of synodality (...) encouraging real involvement on the part of each and all” (October 9, 2021).

There are multiple challenges and numerous questions: the synthesis report of the first session will specify the points of agreement we have reached, highlight the open questions, and indicate how our work will proceed.

To progress in its discernment, the Church absolutely needs to listen to everyone, starting with the poorest. This requires a path of conversion on its part, which is also a path of praise: “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children” (Luke 10:21)!

It means listening to those who have been denied the right to speak in society or who feel excluded, even by the Church; listening to people who are victims of racism in all its forms – in particular in some regions to indigenous peoples whose cultures have been scorned.

Above all, the Church of our time has the duty to listen, in a spirit of conversion, to those who have been victims of abuse committed by members of the ecclesial body, and to commit herself concretely and structurally to ensuring that this does not happen again.

The Church also needs to listen to the laity, women and men, all called to holiness by virtue of their baptismal vocation: to the testimony of catechists, who in many situations are the first proclaimers of the Gospel; to the simplicity and vivacity of children, the enthusiasm of youth, to their questions, and their pleas; to the dreams, the wisdom and the memory of elderly people.

The Church needs to listen to families, to their educational concerns, to the Christian witness they offer in today's world. She needs to welcome the voice of those who want to be involved in lay ministries and to participate in discernment and decision-making structures.

To progress further in synodal discernment, the Church particularly needs to gather even more the words and experience of the ordained ministers: priests, the primary collaborators of the bishops, whose sacramental ministry is indispensable for the life of the whole body; deacons, who, through their ministry, signify the care of the entire Church for the most vulnerable.

She also needs to let herself be questioned by the prophetic voice of consecrated life, the watchful sentinel of the Spirit’s call. She also needs to be attentive to all those who do not share her faith but are seeking the truth, and in whom the Spirit, who “offers everyone the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery” (Gaudium et Spes 22, 5), is also present and operative.

“The world in which we live, and which we are called to love and serve, even with its contradictions, demands that the Church strengthen cooperation in all areas of her mission. It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium” (Pope Francis, October 17, 2015).

We do not need to be afraid to respond to this call. Mary, Mother of the Church, the first on the journey, accompanies our pilgrimage. In joy and in sorrow, she shows us her Son and invites us to trust. And He, Jesus, is our only hope!

Vatican City, October 25, 2023

FAQs: Week 3 at the Synod

What happened at the Synod this week?
Delegates discussed Section B2 of the Instrumentum Laboris, the working document for the Synod and began section B3, which is the final part of the document.

What was the theme?
The B2 theme was Co-responsibility in Mission and discussions included how the church can properly value ordained ministry, the dignity of women and the raising of  awareness of the meaning of mission.

Bishop Brian McGee, left, with members of his group at the Synod on Wednesday.

What questions did delegates actually discuss in B2?

What questions are delegates currently discussing in B3?

Why have delegates been asked not to share the content of their talks?
Bishop Brian McGee, the delegate for Scotland, explained in a Facebook post: "The simple reason is because we have been asked only to communicate our experiences during the Synod but not what is actually being said. Why is this?

1. "To protect discernment. The Synod is not a Parliament where one group or another is trying to get its way. Rather we are trying to discern God’s Will. Therefore, we need a prayerful and reflective atmosphere where we are not caught up in external controversies.
2. "Fruitful Conversations in the Spirit depends on confidentiality. People will only share, and even (allow themselves to) be vulnerable, within a trusted environment. Confidentiality is not the same as secrecy.

"So I am happy to share my personal experiences so that you can feel engaged while, at the same time, protect the integrity of the Synod."

Some of the women delegates at the Synod.

What else happened this week?
The Holy Father invited Synod members to a prayer service for Migrants and Refugees last night (Thursday) in St Peter's Square.

What else has Bishop Brian McGee said about the Synod this past week?
He said that before he went to the Synod that he was "saddened" by predictions of discord at talks. " The Synod is not about personal (or communal) preferences or agendas but seeking the Spirit’s guidance, he posted of Facebook. " This has been my consistent desire, prayed for regularly each day. Interestingly I’m not the only person who thinks like that. The Church is of divine origin and God knows what the Church needs more than we do. Humility and listening are key for discernment."

The Holy Father enjoys a refreshment during a break in Synod discussions.

What happened in the first week?
See our Week 1 FAQs here.

What happened  in the second week?
See our Week 2 FAQs here.

What happens next?
The Commission will meet to draw up the summary report. The draft of the first part of this report is scheduled to be read at the general meeting on Monday. The draft of the second part will be read on Wednesday 25 October. At each stage, participants will be able to send their opinions to the General Secretariat. The final report will be read on Saturday 28 October and presented by the 364 members entitled to vote. The meeting will conclude with a closing mass on Sunday 29 October at 9am (UK) in St Peter’s Basilica.

Does that conclude the Synod?
No, a second General Assembly is scheduled for October 2024.

Where should I go for more news about the Synod
Vatican News has regular updates in a section of its website dedicated to the Synod here. An official Facebook page has been set up here. A Twitter account is here.

What other updates are there?
Vatican briefings are held most days 1:15pm. These are press conferences where media can ask questions about the Synod. Watch them live on Vatican Media's YouTube.

All images: Vatican Media.

FAQs: Week 2 at the Synod

What happened at the Synod this week?
Delegates have been discussing Section B1 of the Instrumentum Laboris, the working document for the Synod.

What was the theme?
The theme was "communion" and discussions included how the church might provide greater welcome to all of its members.

On Thursday groups finalised and submitted reports on section B1 of the Instrumentum Laboris. Image: 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops
What questions did delegates discuss?
The following questions are from Section B1 of the working document:

What else happened?
On Thursday, groups finalised and submitted their reports on Section B1 and then made a pilgrimage to the Catacombs of St Sebastian, following in the footsteps of Peter, Paul and the first martyrs.


What has Bishop Brian McGee said about the synod this past week?
He said: "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." He added: "I have been struck by the prayerful, respectful and open dialogue even during potentially contentious topics."

Bishop McGee, of Argyll & the Isles Diocese, is the Scottish representative at the Synod. He is posting updates on Facebook. See here.

Bishop Brian McGee (seated, centre) with members of his Synod group.

What happened in the first week?
See our Week 1 FAQs here.

What other updates are there?
Vatican briefings are held most days 1:15pm. These are press conferences where media can ask questions about the Synod. Watch them live on Vatican Media's YouTube.

Where else can I get info on the Synod?
An official Facebook page has been set up here. A Twitter account is here. See also Vatican News here, which has extensive coverage.

Do delegates get time off?
Sundays throughout October are days off, as well as Friday 27 October.

What happens next week?
From today (13 October) until 17 October, groups will focus on section B2 of the Instrumentum Laboris. The theme is 'Co-responsibility in Mission'.

What about the final report?
It will be finalised on 27 October 27 and presented to the 364 members entitled to vote. The meeting will conclude with a closing Mass on Sunday 29 October at 10am in St Peter’s Basilica.

SYNOD: Bishop McGee explains 'spiritual conversations'

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.

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.

 

FAQs: Week 1 at the Synod

What happened at the Synod this week?
The Synod officially began in Rome on Wednesday. The official title is the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops (although lay people and religious are also contributing). The Synod continues until Sunday 29 October.

Who's involved?
There are 464 people involved. 365 of them can vote, including 54 women, an historic first (a total of 82 women will be present). The full list of participants has been published (in Italian) here .

Who is representing Scotland?
Bishop Brian McGee is representing the Catholic Church in Scotland. He is posting updates on the Facebook page of his Diocese. See here.

What's being discussed?
Delegates are discussing Module A first part of the working document of the Synod (called Instrumentum Laboris - see here). They are discussing "the characteristic signs of a synodal Church" and "conversation in the Spirit."

What does that mean exactly?
"The participants had the opportunity to get to know each other better by introducing themselves, and sharing their own experiences of synodality, and reflecting on what struck them from others' reflections," said Paolo Ruffini, President of the Commission for Information of the Synodal Assembly. Delegates also shared the experience of the Synod in their own country/area.

I want to read exactly what's being discussed.
The full text being used in the Module can be read here.

How are groups set up?
The Synod has 35 working groups (called circuli minores) divided into groups of around 10 people. This process began on Thursday and continues to Saturday.

A screenshot from morning prayer on Friday 6 October. Bishop Brian McGee can be seen towards the bottom left of the screen, facing left.

How do these groups give feedback to the Synod?
A "rapporteur" has been elected for each working group to gather feedback from their group and present them to the assembly following discussion. This person, elected by majority vote, drafts the report, and "will report convergences, divergences, ideas".

How are language barriers overcome?
There are five official languages of the Synod: English, French, Italian, Portugese and Spanish. Working groups are organised by language.

Where exactly are the working group taking place?
Group work is taking place in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican, where the seating arrangement is designed to facilitate listening and participating (ie circular tables).

Group discussions taking place in the Paul VI Audience Hall (Vatican News).

What updates are there?
Vatican briefings are taking place at 1:15pm. These are press conferences where media can ask questions about the Synod. Watch them live on Vatican Media's YouTube.

Paolo Ruffini, President of the Commission for Information of the Synodal Assembly, is leading the Synod briefings (Vatican News).

Where else can I get info on the Synod?
A Facebook page has been set up here. See also Vatican News here, which is giving extensive coverage.

Do delegates get time off?
Sundays October 8, 15 and 22, as well as Friday October 27, are days off.

What happens next week?
From 9-12 October, delegates will discuss the second part of the working document 'Communion, participation and mission - three priority issues for a synodal Church.

What spiritual events are planned?
Masses are also scheduled in St Peter’s Basilica on  9, 13, 18 and 23 October and will be broadcast on Vatican Media's YouTube. On Thursday 19 October there is a prayer service for migrants and refugees in St Peter’s Square. On Wednesday 25 October there is a Rosary in the Vatican Gardens.

What about the final report?
It will be finalised on 27 October 27 and presented to the 364 members entitled to vote. The meeting will conclude with a closing Mass on Sunday 29 October at 10am in St Peter’s Basilica.

This article has used information from Vatican News and Aleteiea websites.

Synod underway in Rome

The 16th Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops began this week in Rome.

It was launched with Pope Francis celebrating Holy Mass in St Peter's Square (see here).

Bishop Brian McGee (Argyll & the Isles), who  is representing the Church in Scotland, posted on Facebook: "In the scriptures one image of God’s presence is mist...As we walked towards St Peter’s Square early this morning the Basilica was surrounded by mist (See Bishop McGee's photo, below)

"I was surprised but also comforted by the image. God is present! The Synod of Bishops will only be a true Synod if we seek the Spirit’s guidance and trust that he is always present, guiding us. Please pray that we will seek nothing but God’s Will."

Please join Fr John Deighan (Ss John Cantius & Nicholas, Broxburn) in the below Archdiocesan video in praying for its success.

The Pope video for October is titled 'For the Synod'. Watch the video below or on YouTube

FAQs

How long does the Synod last?
This first session lasts from 4-29 October and takes place in Rome.
Who is representing Scotland?
Bishop Brian McGee (Argyll & the Isles) is representing the Catholic Church in Scotland
Who is taking part?
It is mainly for Bishops from across the world  (hence the title The 16th Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops) but there is lay representation and women from relgious orders.
Where can I watch the Synod Sessions?
Vatican Media Live on YouTube. Most sessions will not be broadcast. But there will be a briefing to summarise the day's work.
Can I follow on social media?
Yes - official channels have been created for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Bishop Brian will be giving updates from Rome on the Facebook page of the Diocese of Argyll & the Isles.
Is there an official website?
Yes, it's www.synod.va. It includes FAQs, resources, news and more.
Is there a working document?
Yes, the instrumentum laboris. Participants. will use this as a guide for the duration of the Synod. Find it here.

Bishop McGee in Rome for global Synod

Bishops from around in Rome are in Rome this weekend ahead of the first of two Synod meetings.

The Catholic Church in Scotland will be represented by Bishop Brian McGee, of the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles.

He said “I am very excited, although also nervous, about going to Rome for the Synod.

"The focus is to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church today.

"I have enjoyed listening to the feedback from people across Scotland and it will be fascinating to hear what people from across the world have to say."

Bishop McGee previously led a Scottish delegation, including our diocesan representative Sr Anna Marie McGuan RSM, to the Continental stage of the Synod in Prague (see below video).

The Rome synod takes place from Wednesday 4 to Monday 30 October on the theme 'For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission’.

While the gathering is a Synod of Bishops, there will be participants who are not bishops including lay and religious women.

There is a wonderful opportunity for renewal of the Church at every level.

The theme is 'synodality' with an emphasis on listening to the Holy Spirit.

The main discussion theme is to ask how can the Church best listen to people and act in a way that accompanies people, including both her own members and wider society, especially the most marginalised.

Pope Francis has invited church leaders to join him in prayer on Saturday to entrust the work of the of the Synod to the Holy Spirit.

Bishop McGee added: "There is a wonderful opportunity for renewal of the Church at every level.

"The Synod process has planted seeds of hope in the hearts of the faithful and in the Church in Scotland.

"I pray for its growth and fulfilment as we enter the next phase of the Synodal Process so that the Church can continue to grow as a caring mother, and a community of hope.

"The focus however is not the participants but the Spirit and I ask for your prayers as we strive to discern.”

Recap key points of the Synod in our summary video available on our Synod playlist on YouTube. The Archdiocesan Synod Report is available here.