Listening to the Faithful: Synod 2021-2024

… We recall that the purpose of the Synod, and therefore of this consultation, is not to produce documents, but to plant dreams, draw forth prophecies and visions, allow hope to flourish, inspire trust, bind up wounds, weave together relationships, awaken a dawn of hope, learn from one another, and create a bright resourcefulness that will enlighten minds, warm hearts, give strength to our hands … (Pope Francis)

Click here or on the image above to read “A Synodal Church in Mission,” the synthesis report from the Synod on Synodality, the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, First Session, Oct. 4-29, 2023, Vatican City.

Getting Up to Date on the Synod

To see the questions dioceses should ask during this Interim Phase of the Synod, see the USCCB site. For the Synthesis Document from the October 2023 sessions, click here. To hear Bishop Daniel Flores on the interim stage of the Synod, watch this video.

For summaries of the Diocesan Phase and the Continental phase, watch the video Listening to the Faithful from our 2022 National Conference. For an earlier video, explaining the purpose and the background of the Synod, see “The Synod: What It Is and Why I Should Care.

You also may read Voice of the Faithful’s Synod on Synodality Report that was submitted to the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops in Rome. 

A Tribute to the Women of the Synod / FutureChurch

In posting their video to YouTube, FutureChurch said: “For the first time in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, women participated as co-equals with their ordained brothers and voted at the Synod. This is a moment that will forever change the Church as it opens itself to the richness of women’s faith, courage, and love. May their work and memory live on!”

Pope’s major Vatican summit ends without action on women deacons, mention of LGBTQ Catholics / National Catholic Reporter

Participants voted on the final text paragraph by paragraph through the early evening of Oct. 28. The threshold for passage for each paragraph was a two-thirds majority of the voting members. The paragraphs that received the most no votes were two of the primary paragraphs addressing the possibility of women deacons.

By Christopher White and Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

“Pope Francis’ high-stakes summit on the future of the Catholic Church concluded on Oct. 28 by postponing action on the possibility of ordaining women as deacons and failing to acknowledge deep tensions that surfaced in a month of debates over how the global institution should care for its LGBTQ members.

“A 41-page report, approved and published that evening, called for the results of earlier papal and theological commissions on women deacons to be presented for further consideration at the next assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to be held in October 2024.

“The report, titled ‘A synodal church in mission,’ follows an intense month of debates at the Vatican among some 450 participants over a range of big issues, including the role of women in church ministries, clergy sexual abuse and better inclusion of LGBTQ Catholics.

“While previous documents leading up to the closely watched meeting were marked by candor and openness, the synthesis report for the Oct. 4-29 assembly takes a much more cautious tone. Although it makes 81 proposals, they are often quite open-ended or general, and the text calls for further theological or canonical study, evaluation or consideration at least 20 times.”

By Christopher White and Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

General Assembly to the People of God: The Church must listen to everyone / Vatican News

Participants in the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops have approved a Letter to the People of God giving thanks for their experience, detailing the work of the past few weeks, and expressing the hope that in the coming months, everyone will be able to ‘concretely participate in the dynamism of missionary communion indicated by the word ‘synod.’

Vatican News

Letter of the 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.

Vatican City, October 25, 2023 — Read more …

Women’s voices and votes loom large as pope is set to open a Vatican meeting on church’s future / Associated Press

‘I don’t want to use the word revolution,’ (Sheila) Pires (who works for the South African bishops’ conference and is a member of the synod’s communications team) said in an interview in Johannesburg. But women ‘want their voices to be heard, not just towards decision-making, but also during decision-making. Women want to be part of that.’By Nicole Winfield and Trisha Thomas, Associated Press

By Nicole Winfield and Trisha Thomas, Associated Press

 “A few years ago, Pope Francis told the head of the main Vatican-backed Catholic women’s organization to be ‘brave’ in pushing for change for women in the Catholic Church.

“Maria Lia Zervino took his advice and in 2021 wrote Francis a letter, then made it public, saying flat out that the Catholic Church owed a big debt to half of humanity and that women deserved to be at the table where church decisions are made, not as mere ‘ornaments’ but as protagonists.

“Francis appears to have taken note, and this week opens a global gathering of Catholic bishops and laypeople discussing the future of the church, where women — their voices and their votes — are taking center stage for the first time.

“For Zervino, who worked alongside the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio when both held positions in the Argentine bishops’ conference, the gathering is a watershed moment for the church and quite possibly the most consequential thing Francis will have undertaken as pope.”

By Nicole Winfield and Trisha Jones, Associated Press — Read more …

Enlarge the Space of Your Tent

With an extraordinary amount of gratitude, the planning team of Enlarge the Space of Your Tent: A Boston Synodal Gathering share with you this synthesis of our discernment together. This document will be shared with his Eminence Cardinal Sèan O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston. You are very welcome to share the synthesis with their own local parishes, religious communities, prayer groups, etc., in service to the Synod on Synodality, which commenced in Rome on Wednesday, October 4. As Pope Francis has exhorted us, “Without prayer there will be no Synod.” Please continue to hold these and all the spiritual conversations of the Synod in your personal prayers. Click here to view, download, and print the Synthesis, and please continue to hold these and all the spiritual conversations of the Synod in your personal prayers.

2024 Synod Resources & Information

  • With every monthly issue, Commonweal offers a free discussion guide to use for one or more of its articles to help facilitate conversations in classroom, parish, or reading group. As the first session of the Synod on Synodality began Oct. 4, start a conversation about the history of Catholic synods in your community with a new, free discussion guide to go with the feature article, “Synodality & Catholic Amnesia.” You can access a PDF version of the discussion guide here. For even more comprehensive discussion materials on synodality, such as Synodality and the LaityListening to Marginalized Voices, or The Ecclesiology of Pope Francis, be sure to check out Commonweal’s Conversation Starter Series (CSS). An archive of our free discussion guides is posted at
  • Retreat for the participants of the Synodal Assembly — Prior to the First Session of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, participants experienced a three-day spiritual retreat in Sacrofano (near Rome). Each day, participants received two meditations by Sr. maria Grazia Angelini, O.S.B., one at Lauds and the other before Mass, and two meditations by Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, O.P., during the morning. Click here for links to texts of these meditations provided in several languages.
  • On April 20, the General Secretariat released the Instrumentum Laboris (working document) for the synod gathering of October 2023 where bishops from around the world and 70 lay people will gather in Rome. Here is a link to a PDF of the document.
  • The Synod on Synodality has completed its Continental Phase and started the first of the Bishop Synod meetings. A second series of meetings in Rome will begin October 2024. The extension encompasses an implementation period as well as a second bishops’ meeting.
  • For a summary of the Diocesan Phase and the new Continental phase, watch the video Listening to the Faithful from our 2022 National Conference. (For an earlier video, explaining the purpose and the background of the Synod, see “The Synod: What It Is and Why I Should Care.“)
  • The Continental Phase Working Document “Enlarge the Space of Your Tent,” can be your focus for continuing synod discussions in 2023, or you can consider the new working document prepared for the meeting in Rome. Click here to read the summary Voice of the Faithful sent to the office of the General Secretariat from the Continental Phase.
  • Click here for links to the Final Documents of the Continental Phase on the Vatican’s Synod 2021-2024 website.
  • Also please read the National Synthesis of the People of God in the United States of America for the Diocesan Phase of the Synod.
  • Click here to read Voice of the Faithful’s Synod on Synodality Report that has been submitted to the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops in Rome. Note: The submission included the requested 10-page summary as well as the additional appendixes allowed by the Secretariat. The full reports from the scribes in all Synod sessions are in Appendix D.

Thank you for Making Your Voices Heard

The culmination of our many Synod sessions January through May, distilled to the 10 pages the General Secretariat required, went to the Vatican last week. As promised, we sent it directly to the Secretariat to ensure that your voices would be represented among the lay voices seeking to be heard in the Synod for Synodality. We included in the report three appendices, as was also allowed, including one with three separate reports from diocesan groups who had asked us to please submit their reports with ours. In addition to our Synod Submission, an additional appendix will be ready shortly, with the hundreds of pages of scribe reports from the 45 sessions we held.

We thank you for raising your voices–not just those of you who spoke through us, but also the hundreds of you who attended Synod sessions in your own dioceses to ensure lay voices pursuing our mission and goals would be heard there.

We especially thank Bev Spencer, who devoted hours of time to tracking registrations, assigning each registrant to two session dates, making sure facilitators and scribes were assigned for each session, and helping deliver links and preparatory materials when needed, along with any lists needed to tabulate the reports. Thank you to our Executive Director, Donna B. Doucette, who handled all the registration downloads and provided the preparatory videos and slideshows for our Synod sessions, and to Nick Ingala, our Communications Director, who kept the Synod page fresh and fielded all the inquiries to the office.

We thank the committee that helped us put all the sessions together, from setting up the questions and formats to hosting pilot sessions: Chris & Ethel Doyle, Don Garbison, Karen James, Margaret Roylance, Susan Vogt, and Paul Welsh. Thanks also to Mary Pat Fox and Margaret Roylance who helped Donna condense the hundreds of responses into a 10-page summary. And thank you to every one of you who served as scribes and facilitators during the six months; your assistance was invaluable!

We have posted the Synod report on our Synod page, and we will add Appendix D with the scribe notes as soon as possible.

All the resources that were available during the sessions will remain here, for later and ongoing reference. The initial global listening phase is only the first step in the ongoing return of our Church to its roots as a synodal Church, in action and in decision making. Resources to guide your efforts in the future will remain relevant.

Conversations on Synodality” webinar with Prof. Rafael Luciani and Prof. Kristin Colberg now available on VOTF Vimeo channel.

2024 Synod Resources

Videos About Synodality

“Listening to the Faithful: The State of the Synod”: update on the Diocesan Phase and preview of the Continental Phase by Donna B. Doucette, VOTF Executive Director

“Why participate in the Synod?”

Sr. Natalie Becquart (of the General Secretariat) on synodality:

“A new way of being Church” by Prof. Rafael Luciani (one-hour lecture):

“From Episcopal Collegiality to Ecclesial Synodality,” a lecture by Prof. Massimo Faggioli:

“Webinar: For a Synodal Church,” by Discerning Deacons features Profs. Kristen Colberg, Rafael Luciani, and Hosffman Ospino–all specialists in ecclesiology and synodality–speaking about what Pope Francis is inviting us to do. 

“From the Margins to the Center” by Fr. Robert Choiniere for the New Ways ministry:

VOTF video on what the Synod is and how to participate, presented by VOTF Executive Director Donna Doucette (videographer Vincent Rocchio)

Toward a Synodal Church: Co-Responsibility and the Lay Apostolate, presented by the Catholic Appostolate Center 

​2024 Synod Media Coverage