Pope Francis started the Synod on Synodality - Journeying Together, in October 2021. The synodal process was finalised in March 2023 after completion at the diocesan, national, and continental levels. Currently, the first level of the synodal process is being discerned and discussed at the Vatican from October 4 to 28, 2023, while the second level is set for October 2024. The main goal of this synod is to encourage collaborative decision-making within the Catholic Church and the People of God. By journeying and reflecting together, the Church can learn from experience and improve living in communion by welcoming all, achieving participation, and becoming a missionary Synodal Church.
The synod comprises 464 participants, consisting of 365 members and 54 women, with the right to vote for the first time. This event is unique because, for the first time, the voting delegates will not be bishops but laypeople, priests, consecrated women, and deacons; some of whom were appointed by the Pope.
All the participants attended a four-day retreat from 1 – 4 October 2023 before entering the first level of the synodal process. The retreat, led by Dominican Father Timothy Radcliffe, included moments of prayer, reflection and silence to remind participants of the presence of the Holy Spirit. It helps them to seek guidance and direction in sharing their insights during the synodal assembly. It ensures that they are not self-directed in their approach.
During the opening of the XVI Synod Assembly, the Pope in his homily, highlighted the importance of the Holy Spirit in the Synod. He encouraged the participants to rely on Him throughout the assembly. He emphasised that the Synod is “not a political gathering, but rather a convocation in the spirit.” He reminded the participants that the Synod is “a place of grace and communion,” where the Holy Spirit is the central figure. The Pope invited the participants to “open themselves to the Holy Spirit, the protagonist of the assembly, and to walk with Him in trust and with joy.”
The first session of the Synod Assembly began on 4 October at the Paul VI Hall. The focus is on studying the Instrumentum Laboris (IL), also known as the Working Document, which forms the basis for the discernment and discussion of three main priorities of the Synod – Communion, Participation, and Mission. Topics such as women deacons, priestly celibacy, and outreach to the LGBTQ+ (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgenders, Queer, and more) will be discussed too. Along with these, the synod assembly will also talk about various theological topics, canonical studies, and its pastoral implications. The aim is to prepare a document that provides advice or counsel to the Holy Father for a second assembly in October 2024.
We hope this Synod on Synodality will be a moment of renewal for our Catholic Church, deeply rooted in the doctrine of faith, traditions, and morals. May all the participants of the Synod Assembly be attentive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and respond accordingly. May their discussions, sharing, and reflections help our Church to grow as a Synodal Church, carrying out the mission of Christ in a challenging world.