The Synod on Synodality commenced on Wednesday, 4 October 2023, and will end on Saturday, 28 October 2023, at Vatican City. The synodal is a preparation for the celebration of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October 2024. The Holy Father has called on us to pray for the General Assembly of the Synod on Synodality as we work to strengthen the bond of the Catholic tradition and morality. During the Synod, we pray for the participants to journey together, listening and discerning together and praying together for deeper communion with Christ.
During the Angelus on 16 October 2022, Pope Francis extended the Synod on Synodality until 23 October 2024. He decided to divide the Synod of Bishops into two sessions, which is being held in Rome. The first session is currently underway since 4 October and will go on until 29 October 2023, while the second is scheduled for October 2024. This decision was made “to have a more relaxed period of discernment.” He wants to ensure that the fruits of the synodal process reach full maturity, and it is not something to be rushed, but instead, requires patience.
The first session of Synod comprises 363 voting members, including women. Some attendees will represent Bishops’ Conferences, and some have been personally appointed by Pope Francis. Additionally, some individuals will be present as “fraternal delegates,” “spiritual assistants,” or “experts and facilitators.” The synodal is a preparation for the celebration of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October 2024.
Pope Francis officially launched a three-year synodal journey with the theme: “For a Synodal Church”, focusing on the three priorities - Communion, Participation, and Mission on 9 October 2021. In September 2021, the Vatican released the preparatory document for this General Assembly. Thousands of Catholics from around the world gathered in their parishes to discuss the questions posed by the Synod. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some faithful participated in the discussions virtually.
We completed the first phase, the Diocesan / National Phase, between October 2021 – April 2022, and it has been conducted through a process of listening and discernment among the priests and faithful worldwide. The results of these discussions were then sent to the respective Bishops’ Conferences for their review. The Conferences were responsible for gathering all the participants’ voices and bringing them to the table.
The second phase of the process is the Continental Phase (September 2022 - March 2023). During this phase, the Bishops’ conferences reviewed the journey made in the first phase and continued the listening and discernment regarding what emerged. The third phase is the Universal Phase. This phase of the synodal journey aims to encourage deeper reflection for the betterment of the Church.
Let us pray for all those participating in the Synodal Assembly over the next few weeks. May they be guided by the Word of God and listen to the workings of the Holy Spirit as they approach the heart of the Church. Our unity in prayer unites and strengthens the Catholic Church!