Voice of the Faithful Focus News Roundup on the Synod on Synodality

The 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission,” is taking place in Rome from Oct. 4, 2023, through October 29, 2023. VOTF offers this special issue of Focus to bring you Synod news.


Navigating the Synod on Synodality with the Holy Spirit
“What does confidence in the Holy Spirit mean for the Church today? As pilgrims walk down the main aisle of St. Peter’s Basilica, the first thing that catches their eye is the main altar, crowned by its stunning baldachin … But curious pilgrims will continue past the main altar and discover just behind it the Altar of the Chair. There, they will see a massive bronze throne that appears to float in midair … Above the throne, pilgrims can’t miss the Holy Spirit’s glory shining through a spectacular stained glass window … Taken as a whole, the scene is nothing short of a brilliant depiction of the Holy Spirit, guarding and governing the life of the Church since the Church was inaugurated by Christ.” By Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board

The Vatican Briefing podcast: Women at the Pope’s table
“‘The Vatican Briefing’ is a new podcast from the National Catholic Reporter, featuring two respected Vatican journalists and experts: Joshua J. McElwee and Christopher White. As Pope Francis is presiding over the hotly anticipated 2023 Synod of Bishops, McElwee and White offer analysis and news updates, and interview some of the assembly’s key decision-makers. In their second episode, McElwee and White discuss Dominican Fr. Timothy Radcliffe’s widely praised reflections for the retreat before the opening of the synod, Pope Francis’ public suggestion that the Catholic Church may one day bless same-sex unions, and the difficult-to-navigate rules for press outlets covering the assembly.” By Joshua J. McElwee and Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter

Synod’s second week starts with call to steer into tensions, news of four COVID infections
“As Pope Francis’ high-stakes summit on the future of the Catholic Church entered its second week on Oct. 9, the some 460 participating bishops and lay members focused on the theme of ‘communion’ and considered how the church might provide greater welcome to all of its members. The delegates of the Oct. 4-29 Synod of Bishops are expected to continue discussions on that theme throughout the week, and also to discuss how Catholics can improve relations with other Christian denominations.” By Christopher White and Joshua J. McElwee

In the shadow of the Vatican, alternative Catholic groups push for change
“This week in St. Peter’s Square, as men in long robes shuffled in solemn processions, with chorales and canticles blending with church bells, small groups of Catholic protesters gathered half-a-kilometre away, at the far end of the wide avenue leading up to the Vatican square. At the end of Via della Conciliazione, or Road of the Conciliation, ceremonies marked the start of the ‘synod on synodality’ — essentially church-speak for a global summit on the future of the Catholic Church, with an emphasis on listening.” By Megan Williams, CBC News Australia

Exclusive: Bishop on synod drafting committee expresses openness to women deacons
“One of the 13 members of the committee expected to draft the hotly anticipated final document from Pope Francis’ ongoing Vatican summit on the future of the Catholic Church has expressed an openness to ordaining women as Catholic deacons. In an exclusive interview with National Catholic Reporter, Australian Bishop Shane Mackinlay, elected to the committee role by his peers at the Oct. 4-29 Synod of Bishops, said of discussions about women’s ordination: ‘I’m glad that it is being addressed.’” By Joshua J. McElwee and Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter

Participants say Pope’s replies o blessings, women freed synod from distractions
“Participants in the Synod of Bishops on Synodality selected by organizers to speak with the media have said Pope Francis’s comments on women priests and blessings for same-sex couples prior to the gathering eliminated the distraction of getting hung up on specific issues, thereby creating space for other topics to be addressed. The pope’s spokesperson for the synod, Italian layman Paolo Ruffini, head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication, also stressed that the synod is not a “talk show” in which participants respond to queries from the press but is rather a “spiritual conversation” aimed at discerning God’s will.” By Elise Ann Allen, Cruxnow.com

Participants say synod isn’t driven by ‘private agenda’ of Pope Francis
“Participants in this month’s Synod of Bishops on Synodality selected by organizers to brief reporters have praised the process as open and balanced, saying everyone is welcome in the Church and there is no ‘private agenda’ driving the discussion. They also applauded the process as being inclusive, and said the synod has done a sufficient job at including women’s voices. While stressing that issues such as women’s ordination and the welcome of the LGBTQ community are not the primary focus, they claimed discussion on these topics has been balanced despite vastly different opinions.” By Elise Ann Allen, Cruxnow.com

Synod discussions include addressing pain church has caused people
“A reporter asked the panel of synod participants whether discussions had included recognizing the hurt or pain the church may have caused people in the LGBTQ+ community and others as well. Loreto Sister Patricia Murray, executive secretary of the International Union of Superiors General, responded saying, ‘there is a deep awareness of the pain and suffering that has been caused,’ and ‘the question of hurt and the woundedness of people both individually and collectively’ has been brought up ‘and listened to.’” By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, in The Pilot

Synod focuses on poverty, migration, abuse and sexual identity
Discussions at the Synod on Synodality this week have focused on issues of poverty, migration, abuse and sexual identity, journalists were told at a Vatican press briefing yesterday (Oct. 11). President of the Commission for Information Paolo Ruffini and a panel of guests gave journalists an overview of the Synod’s work between Tuesday afternoon (Oct. 10) and Wednesday morning (Oct. 11).” By Vatican News on CathNews.com

Synod participants claim ‘no polarization’ on women, LGBTQ+ issues
“Participants in Pope Francis’s ongoing Synod of Bishops on Synodality said Wednesday (Oct. 11) that Church doctrine is not up for discussion on issues such as women and the inclusion of LGBTQ+ Catholics, and that while opinions on these topics may differ, there is no ‘polarization.’

Speaking to journalists during an Oct. 11 press briefing, Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communications, said that his experience is that the synod ‘is not polarized.’” By Elise Ann Allen, Cruxnow.com

Synod Diary: a synod doesn’t decide—it discerns
“The synod is now in its sixth day, and I am particularly struck by how its members have adhered very closely to Pope Francis’ call for ‘confidentiality’ and ‘reserve’ during the synod and not to disclose what they themselves or others have said in the small-group sessions or indeed what has been said in the plenary sessions. This is almost unprecedented in my experience covering synods for more than three decades.” By Gerard O’Connell, America: The Jesuit Review

Retreat for the participants of the Synod 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.

Below are the text …” By Synod.va

‘Orthodoxy is spacious’: at retreat, synod members hear about women’s hopes, LGBTQ issues
“In a first of its kind gathering, the more than 350 delegates from around the world that are participating in this month’s Synod of Bishops are first meeting outside of Rome for a three-day retreat before returning to the Vatican for a high-stakes summit on the future of the Catholic Church. The retreat is being led by a British theologian and former leader of the global Dominican Order, Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, at the personal invitation of Pope Francis. In his first four meditations, Radcliffe, 78, immediately addressed a number of the tensions surrounding the synod, using the Gospel’s story of the transfiguration of Jesus to reflect on themes such as clericalism, the inclusion of LGBTQ Catholics, the role of women in the church and clergy sexual abuse.” By Joshua J. McElwee and Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter

Podcast: everything you need to know about the Synod on Synodality
“Hello from Rome! Ashley and Zac are joined by their colleague Gerard O’Connell, a journalist who has covered the Vatican since 1985. They bring questions from listeners about the Synod on Synodality, which began this week: How will the discussions inside the synod hall work? How will the synod deal with internal polarization? What will determine the success of this synod?” By Ashley McKinless and Zac Davic, Jesuitical, America: The Jesuit Review

The Synod on Synodality doesn’t take away papal authority. But it includes the entire people of God.
“To come to a richer understanding of the upcoming Synod on Synodality, it is helpful to recall that the tenure of Pope Francis is deeply rooted in his formation and experience as a member of the Society of Jesus. While now serving as bishop of Rome and universal shepherd, Pope Francis remains a faithful confrere of the Jesuit community whose mission is captured in the belief of its founder, St. Ignatius Loyola, that it is possible ‘to find God in all things.’ This belief is a reflection of the model of spirituality developed by St. Ignatius that is grounded in the ability to listen attentively to our experience as disciples of the Lord.” By Edward J. Weisenburger, America: The Jesuit Review

Catholic synod: the voices of church leaders in Africa are not being heard – 3 reasons why
The Catholic church today is deeply polarized. This has created doctrinal fissures that are seemingly unbridgeable. There are many rumbling contestations on questions of identity, mission, faith and morality. Other questions touch on pastoral life, the nature of marriage and family life, denial of holy communion to divorced and remarried Catholics, clerical celibacy, authority in the church and reproductive rights. There is also a serious erosion of religious authority. Many church leaders have lost their credibility because of what Pope Francis calls the leprosy of clerical sexual abuse  and financial scandals.” By The Conversation

Synodal spirituality is at ‘heart of church’s renewal,’ cardinal says
“All members of the Catholic Church, from bishops to laypeople, must be formed in a ‘synodal spirituality’ which will guide the church forward, a cardinal said. ‘The laborers of the harvest are bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated men and women, the lay baptized; all need to be formed in a synodal way of proceeding’ as a church, Cardinal Béchara Raï, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, said in his homily during a Divine Liturgy with participants in the assembly of the Synod of Bishops Oct. 9.” By Justin McLellan, Catholic News Service, in Catholic Review

Synod delegates told expected tensions ‘part of the process’
“The theme of ‘communion’ and how the Church might provide greater welcome to all of its members is the focus for the 460 participating bishops and lay members of the Synod on Synodality this week. The delegates of the October 4-29 Synod of Bishops will discuss that theme throughout the week, and also to discuss how Catholics can improve relations with other Christian denominations. ‘If we act like Jesus, we will testify to God’s love for the world,’ Luxembourg Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the Synod’s relator general, said yesterday.” By CathNews.com

Synodal process has already changed the spirit of one West Virginia parish
“The global synod of the Catholic Church taking place at the Vatican Oct. 4-29 began with small, local listening sessions held all over the world. The synod is set to discuss continental reports summarizing dialogues that took place in parishes, dioceses and religious orders. Many U.S. dioceses and parishes did little or nothing to prepare for or contribute to the synod. But some parishes took the whole process seriously. One such parish is St. Agnes Church in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, in the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese.” By Peter Daly, National Catholic Reporter

Catholic Church synod: How explosive are calls for reform?
“Perhaps this small scene in Rome is symbolic of what is currently happening in the Catholic Church. A smiling Nathalie Becquart rides a bike that is too small for her toward St Peter’s Square and the Vatican. The French 54-year-old was named by Pope Francis in early 2021 as undersecretary to the Synod of Bishops and she is the first woman with voting rights at the male-dominated meetings … She warmly greets everyone she meets in these few days before this next phase of the world synod, which begins on October 4. The workshop in Rome, during which about 450 delegates will discuss reforms and new ways of working together in the Catholic Church, will run through October 29. It is scheduled to continue in October 2024.” By Christoph Strack, Deutsche Welle

Pope Francis, synodal delegates elect members of two synodal committees
“On Tuesday (Oct. 10), the Vatican press office announced the names of synod delegates elected to serve on two key synodal commissions, the Commission for the Synthesis Report and the members of the Commission for Information. In addition to the elected members, Pope Francis also appointed members to the two commissions.” By CatholicVote.org

Pope Francis’ responses to the ‘dubia’ cardinals were brilliantly done
“No one knows for sure why Pope Francis chose to publish his responses to the dubia presented by five intransigent cardinals. My first thought was: Don’t swing at pitches in the dirt. And, it is tempting to observe that these dubious cardinals simply had it coming. Coming on the eve of the opening of the synod, some will complain that Francis is putting his thumb on the scales of discussions before they happen. Robert Royal, at The Catholic Thing, already suggested the responses show the synodal game is rigged. But the disingenuousness of the questions themselves shows that it was the cardinals who were trying to foreclose discussion before it began.” By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter

Cardinal says synod will define new ways to approach church’s problems
“The Synod on Synodality is not geared to “resolve particular problems” in the Church, but to explore ways for the Church to discuss and address such issues, a cardinal said at the weekend. ‘There are a lot of people who believe that this Synod will bring solutions to all problems,’ Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo of Kinshasa, Congo, said during a news conference at the Vatican on Saturday (Oct. 7). ‘But the Synod will define the new way of ‘doing’ Church, the new way of approaching problems, what the problem is but also how in the spirit of synodality we will approach that problem.’” By OSV News on CathNews.com

The worries European bishops are bringing to the synod
“Some European bishops have declared that at the synod now underway in Rome, they will urge Pope Francis to change certain Church views usually seen as unchangeable, shocking more than a few Catholics. If dismayed, it might help to realize what situations confront these bishops at home, not for making excuses or taking their side, but as an opportunity for Catholics in this country to consider what is happening already, what seems to be affecting the future, insofar as religion is concerned, and what might be done about it.” By Msgr. Owen F. Campion, Our Sunday Visitor

Women’s voices being heard at Vatican’s big meeting on church’s future, nun says
“A prominent Irish nun said Oct. 16 that women’s voices are being heard at Pope Francis’ big meeting on the future of the Catholic Church, and said delegates are also acknowledging the hurt caused by the church’s position on homosexuality. Sr. Patricia Murray, executive secretary of the main umbrella group of women’s religious orders, provided an update on the status of discussions halfway through the Vatican’s nearly month-long synod, or meeting.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, in Global Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter

Synod’s focus on listening may signal power shift in Catholic Church, says sister
Listening is a key word at the synod, but it’s also a way to ‘shift the feeling that the truth resides at the top of the hierarchy’ in any church structure, said Sr. Patricia Murray, just before the start of the first session of the Synod of Bishops on Oct. 4. Murray, a leader of the Rome-based umbrella group representing Catholic sisters across the world and one of about 40 sisters taking part in the Synod, said: ‘We’re saying the truth resides in the body [of the church]. We listen to the body.’” By Rhina Guidos, National Catholic Reporter

Sisters at Vatican synod see ‘dismantling of the hierarchical’
“On the third day of the Synod of Bishops, Mercy Sr. Angela Perez, of Guam, walked toward Paul VI Hall in Vatican City on Oct. 6 as if it were a normal day of work. Since women haven’t been allowed into such synods as full members before, she had no reference point, nothing to compare it to, she said. Yet as normal as the gathering seems, she also understands something is different and historic. ‘I’m experiencing and witnessing the dismantling of the hierarchical,’ she told Global Sisters Report, describing the scene inside the synod hall — where cardinals, bishops, young and older lay Catholics, and women religious like herself are sitting together at roundtables, without hierarchical distinctions.” By Rhina Guidos, National Catholic Reporter

Religious women and men express hopes for co-responsibility during synod
“As Pope Francis kicks off a monthlong summit on the future of the Catholic Church, religious women and men from around the globe are looking to see a real commitment toward ‘co-responsibility in mission’ as church leaders consider the relationship between laity and ordained ministers. ‘It is important that lay life, religious life and the priesthood are all seen as complementary as a reciprocity of service,’ said Congregation of Jesus Sr. Gill Goulding.” By Christopher White, Global Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter

Synod ‘setting stages for future changes’ on role of women, first woman presides over assembly
“The first woman to preside over a Synod of Bishops described the experience of sitting with Pope Francis at the head table as ‘a gift and a grace’ — and a sign of things to come in the Catholic Church. Speaking at a press briefing today, Sister Maria de los Dolores Valencia Gomez, a Sister of St. Joseph, described the participation of women in the ongoing Synod of Synodality as ‘setting the stage for future changes.’” By Jonathan Kiedl, Catholic News Agency

For synod, questions around women’s diaconate run right through the priesthood
“As the Synod on Synodality opened Oct. 4 in Rome, among the most closely watched topics under discussion is the question of whether the Catholic Church can or will extend the permanent diaconate — restored after the Second Vatican Council — to women. The synod’s working document released June 20 notes that most continental assemblies called for a discussion on the inclusion of women in the diaconate, and asked, ‘Is it possible to envisage this, and in what way?’ Up to now, the answer to that question is not clear and is debated.” By Kimberly Heatherington, OSV News, in Catholic Review

Vatican safeguarding group calls on Synod on Synodality to address abuse in the Church
“The Vatican’s safeguarding commission has called on the Synod on Synodality to make sexual abuse ‘an explicit part’ of discussions during the October assembly. The group also condemned ‘harmful deficiencies in the norms intended to punish abusers’ related to recent public cases and a lack of accountability by those responsible for punishing wrongdoing in the Church.” By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency

Synod Files: Will ‘Synodality’ go the way of ‘New Evangelization’?
“As the Synod of Bishops on Synodality continues to unfold in Rome this month, it’s increasingly reminiscent of another synod just over a decade ago: The Synod of Bishops on New Evangelization, which took place under Pope Benedict XVI Oct. 7-28, 2012 … More basically, the question is whether the same fate awaits “synodality” after this papacy as befell the ‘new evangelization’ after John Paul II and Benedict.” By John L. Allen, Jr., Cruxnow.com

Synodality & Catholic Amnesia
“Discussions of synodality are about the future—about charting a path forward for Catholicism, from the individual Catholic to the parish community to the universal Church. But these discussions inevitably appeal to the past: to the testimony of Scripture, the practice of the early Church, medieval triumphs and tragedies, and, most of all, to Vatican II and its contested reception. When the conversation turns to history, however, it is rarely acknowledged that the Catholic Church’s own tradition of synodal governance endured into the early modern era and functioned as a powerful counter-narrative to the centralized ultramontane model we live with today.” By Shaun Blanchard, Commonweal

Are you ready for a synod of possibility?
“I was born in a Christian country where everyone is a Vodouisant. In Haiti, there is a common saying that goes like this: ‘Haiti is 70% Catholic, 30% Protestant and 100% Vodou.’ Vodou, as an African diasporic spiritual system of belief that was born based on the spiritual needs of the trans-Atlantic enslaved, is one of the spiritual practices of the African people in the West. Upon their arrival in Saint-Domingue, now Haiti, the enslaved created something that could bring them together …Today, the church is inviting us to see possibility in something other than what is familiar to us — something natural to us — new yet challenging: the synod.” By Patrick Saint-Jean, National Catholic Reporter

Ripple effect: delegates discuss synod impact beyond Catholicism
“Seated among Catholics cardinals, bishops, priests, religious sisters and lay Catholic leaders, 12 representatives from other Christian communities are listening and weighing in on discussions about the future of the Catholic Church. ‘Fraternal delegates,’ as they are called in the Vatican’s list of participants in the assembly of the Synod of Bishops, have been present in previous synods, yet at the synod on synodality these representatives from across Christianity are thrust into heart of a global conversation about how a church different from their own can better listen and speak to its members.” By Justin McLellan, Catholic News Service, on USCCB.org