Pope Francis indicates ten themes for Synod Study Groups

Pope Francis sends a letter to Cardinal Mario Grech, the Secretary General of the General Secretariat of the Synod, and outlines ten discussion points that Study Groups will examine ahead of the second Synod session in October 2024.

Mar 15, 2024

File photo of Pope Francis receiving Cardinal Mario Grech in the Vatican (Vatican Media)

By Deborah Castellano Lubov
In light of the Synthesis Report, approved at the conclusion of the First Session of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod, on October 28, 2023, Pope Francis has indicated ten themes that Synod Study Groups will consider ahead of synodal discussions in October.

The Holy Father listed the discussion topics in a letter addressed to Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the General Secretariat of the Synod, which was published on Thursday.

At the same time, the Holy See Press Office held a press conference to illustrate two new documents from the General Secretariat. The first document is entitled "How to be a synodal Church in mission? Five perspectives to deepen theologically in view of the Second Session," whereas the second is "Study groups on questions arising in the First Session of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to deepen in collaboration with the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia."

In the letter to Cardinal Grech, the Pope said the Synthesis Report "enumerates many important theological issues, all of which are to varying degrees related to the synodal renewal of the Church and not without juridical and pastoral repercussions."

"These issues, by their very nature," he observed, "require in-depth study."

Study Groups to examine issues
"As it will not be possible to carry out this study in the time of the Second Session," which will take place on October 2-27, 2024, the Pope said, "I am arranging for them to be assigned to specific Study Groups, so that they may be properly examined."

"This," he said, "will be one of the fruits of the Synod process launched on October 9, 2021." The Holy Father also recalled that this consultation will be done in the spirit of his 16 February chirograph, in which he disposed that "the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia shall cooperate, 'according to their respective specific competencies, in the work of the General Secretariat of the Synod' by setting up Study Groups that will initiate, with a synodal method, the in-depth study of some of the themes that emerged in the First Session of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops."

The General Secretariat of the Synod, in agreement with the competent Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, the Pope said, is entrusted with constituting such Study Groups.

Considering experiences
"They are also to do so in a way," he explained, that "calls Pastors and Experts from all Continents to be part of them and taking into consideration not only the studies that already exist, but also the most relevant experiences taking place in the People of God gathered in the local Churches."

"It is important that the aforementioned Study Groups," he said, "work according to an authentically synodal method," requesting that Cardinal Grech act as "guarantor."

All of this, the Holy Father suggested, "will enable the Assembly, in its Second Session, to focus more easily on the general theme that I assigned to it at the time, and which can now be summarized in the question: 'How to be a synodal Church in mission?'"

The Pope said the Study Groups will offer an initial report of their activities at the Second Session and will aim, if possible, to conclude their mandate by June 2025.

Ten themes for Study Groups
"After giving all matters due consideration," wrote Pope Francis, "I direct that the Groups in question address the topics listed below in summary form, in the light of the contents of the Synthesis Report."

The ten themes, the Pope delineated, are the following:

1. Some aspects of the relationship between the Eastern Catholic Churches and the Latin Church (SR 6)

2. Listening to the Cry of the Poor (SR 4 and 16)

3. The mission in the digital environment (SR 17)

4. The revision of the Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis in a missionary synodal perspective (SR 11)

5. Some theological and canonical matters regarding specific ministerial forms (SR 8 and 9)

6. The revision, in a synodal missionary perspective, of the documents touching on the relationship between Bishops, consecrated life, and ecclesial associations (SR 10)

7. Some aspects of the person and ministry of the Bishop (criteria for selecting candidates to Episcopacy, judicial function of the Bishops, nature and course of ad limina Apostolorum visits) from a missionary synodal perspective (SR 12 and 13)

8. The role of Papal Representatives in a missionary synodal perspective (SR 13)

9. Theological criteria and synodal methodologies for shared discernment of controversial doctrinal, pastoral, and ethical issues (SR 15)

10.  The reception of the fruits of the ecumenical journey in ecclesial practices (SR 7)

The General Secretariat of the Synod, Pope Francis reiterated, has the task to prepare, "the outline of the work to specify the mandate of the groups, in the light of my indications." 

Pope Francis concluded by thanking Cardinal Grech for the work accomplished thus far, and reassuring "all those who generously collaborate in this ongoing journey" of his blessing and accompaniment.--Vatican News

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