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Pope Francis Opens the Synod on Synodality

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In his opening remarks for the Synod on Synodality on October 4, 2023, Pope Francis set the tone for the monthlong assembly by offering essential guidance to the participants. This year's synod is distinct from its predecessors in various ways, from its seating arrangement to its use of modern technology.

Photo credit: Aaron Burden

Photo credit: Aaron Burden


By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
10/4/2023 (8 months ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: Pope Francis, Synod on Synodality, Vatican, Synodal Assembly, Synod Delegates, Listening, Holy Spirit, Church Meeting

Unlike past synods, which took place in an auditorium-style room known as the "new synod hall," the 2023 synod features participants seated at round tables in the vast Paul VI Hall, where Pope Francis frequently engages with members of the public. This unique layout aims to foster a more collaborative and open environment for discussion.

Another remarkable aspect of this synodal assembly is the integration of new technology. Participants are equipped with tablets, while video cameras and microphones are readily available at each table, enabling contributions to be shared on screens at the tables of other members. Simultaneous translations in the principal languages ensure that all participants can engage effectively.

The 364 delegates are divided into tables of approximately 12 individuals, categorized by language: English, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, or French. This arrangement promotes effective communication and allows for more inclusive discussions.

During the first general congregation, Pope Francis emphasized that a synod on the topic of synodality, though not without its challenges, is a beautiful and necessary endeavor. He shared the process that led to this particular synod, explaining that after the Amazon synod in 2019, a survey was distributed to the world's bishops to gauge their opinions on crucial topics for Church discussion. Synodality emerged as the most popular choice, followed by the priesthood and an unspecified social issue. This underscores the global desire to reflect on synodality within the Church.

Pope Francis reiterated that the synod is not a parliamentary or pastoral care meeting. Instead, he underscored the importance of listening to the Holy Spirit over speaking. He cautioned against "empty words," which he identified as something that deeply saddens the Holy Spirit. Gossip, he added, remains one of the most common sins in the Church, emphasizing the need to avoid causing sorrow to the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, the Pope recommended "a certain fasting from the public word" during the synod, particularly concerning contentious topics that attract media attention. He referred to past synods, such as the 2019 Amazon Synod, which faced pressure regarding the ordination of married men to the priesthood and the debates surrounding divorced and remarried Catholics receiving Holy Communion. He acknowledged that there were speculations about the topics for this synod, including discussions about women priests.

The synod's opening session began with the Liturgy of the Hours, including a reading from the Gospel of St. Matthew in commemoration of St. Francis of Assisi.

Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak, one of the delegate presidents, delivered the first speech of the day. Pope Francis' remarks were followed by speeches from synod Secretary General Cardinal Mario Grech and synod Relator General Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich.

In the morning, Pope Francis celebrated the opening Mass of the synod in St. Peter's Square.

The synod will continue with small-group discussions, referred to as "conversation in the Spirit," on October 5. Pope Francis invoked St. Basil's words from a collection of patristic texts, emphasizing the significance of harmony in the work of the Holy Spirit. He concluded by stating that without harmony, there can be no Holy Spirit.

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