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Synod on Synodality Update

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The Vatican's Synod on Synodality is embarking on a new phase this week, characterized by a shift from small group discussions to a plenary assembly, known as "Congregationes Generales." This change offers a unique opportunity for journalists to witness the actual speeches and proceedings taking place within the audience hall.

Photo credit: James Coleman

Photo credit: James Coleman


By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
10/9/2023 (8 months ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: Vatican, Synod on Synodality, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, Synodal Communion, Reform, External Influences, Summary Document

One particularly anticipated address is the statement by Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, who serves as the relator general. He delivers these statements at the conclusion of discussions on each section of the synod's document.

In the upcoming days, the synod will also witness the presentation of reports, scheduled for October 13 and October 18. These reports are likely to be livestreamed, providing even more transparency to the proceedings.

The ongoing week unfolds with a mix of new speeches and critical themes, including the potential for external influences, the pursuit of synodal communion, and the echoes of reform discussions resonating through the Vatican.

Questions and concerns linger regarding the possibility of external pressure groups attempting to sway the course of the synod. Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, the Archbishop of Kinshasa, sought to allay these concerns by emphasizing that there should be no personal agendas, and everyone participating is equal as brothers and sisters. He expressed his belief that the synod's outcome should be embraced as the will of God.

References to the pursuit of communion at the synod are hardly new. In the past, the term "synodal consensus" prevailed, with documents subjected to paragraph-by-paragraph voting. The absence of a two-thirds majority vote resulted in the withholding of documents' publication, a practice aimed at fostering unity over division.

In a bid for transparency, Pope Francis has consistently disclosed all forms of final documents and vote tallies. However, this synod will adopt a different approach.

Instead of a final document, a summary document will take center stage, with its approval dependent on the overall recounting of the synod's experience rather than specific chapters. The assembly's endorsement of the final text in October 2024 could potentially alter the summary document's fate.

The week brings much anticipation, especially concerning the activities on Monday afternoon, when the synod commission responsible for drafting the summary document will cast votes. The results and the names of commission members may provide insights into the document's formation and tone.

As per the official schedule, two vital points from the Instrumentum Laboris, the working document, are slated for discussion this week:

Section B1: "How can we be more fully a sign and instrument of union with God and unity of the human race?"

Section B2: "Co-responsible for the mission," with a central inquiry: "How to share tasks and gifts in the service of the Gospel?"

The small working groups, known as "circoli minori," are set to present their interventions on October 11, followed by finalizing and submitting their reports to the General Secretariat on October 12.

The week culminates with a free afternoon designated for a pilgrimage, potentially to the Roman catacombs. Starting from October 13, Section B2 of the Instrumentum Laboris will undergo scrutiny.

Two afternoons in this week's schedule are allocated for the "conversation of the Spirit," described as a time of common discernment for the synod. This process, outlined in sections 37 to 39 of the Instrumentum Laboris, involves profound deliberation, silence, prayer, and consensus-building.

The aim of these "conversations of the spirit" is to craft a document that embodies consensus and communal spirit. However, the success of this objective remains uncertain, and Cardinal Hollerich has hinted at a cautious approach in the year ahead.

From the synod's inception, there has been an emphasis on confidentiality to prevent media-driven agendas from influencing the proceedings. Nonetheless, there are indications of attempts this week by certain interest groups to advance their own agendas, potentially reshaping the Catholic Church's essence.

Self-appointed reformers are organizing a conference called Spirit Unbounded, scheduled for October 8-14 and accessible online. Two documents framing this event, the "Bristol Text" and a proposal for a constitution for the Catholic Church, offer distinct perspectives.

The Bristol Text advocates for a more "secular" Church, promoting democratic structures, alignment with human rights principles, and a revamp of liturgical ministry.

The proposal for a constitution for the Catholic Church also aligns with a secular tone but reaffirms the Gospel as the primary reference for every Christian.

These developments reflect a push for a democratized Church, similar to what observers have seen in initiatives like the German Synodal Way.

The conference also features prominent speakers, including theologian Rafael Luciani, liberation theologian Leonardo Boff, former Irish President Mary McAleese, and Cherie Blair, who will address Catholic attitudes and teachings about women.

Both within and outside the synod hall, questions arise about the significance of this parallel conference. Is it a mobilization of pressure groups, or is it an attempt to shape media discourse while leaving the synod's trajectory unaltered?

The evolving Synod on Synodality continues to be a focal point for the Catholic Church and the world at large, with discussions and developments that have far-reaching implications. As the week progresses, all eyes remain on the Vatican and the ongoing synodal journey.

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