Synod on Synodality extended to 2024

Pope Francis announced on October 16 that he is significantly expanding the timeframe for his ongoing consultation process for the world’s Catholics.

Oct 28, 2022

Pope Francis meets with leaders of the Synod of Bishops’ general secretariat in the library of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican Oct 14, 2022. (Vatican Media)

VATICAN: Pope Francis announced on October 16 that he is significantly expanding the timeframe for his ongoing consultation process for the world’s Catholics. The Vatican meeting of the Synod of Bishops, originally planned for next year, will now be held across two sessions: one in October 2023, and another in October 2024.

The synod process, which has been underway for more than a year, has involved discussions with Catholics across the world on a range of sensitive topics. The announcement indicates that Pope Francis wants the process, and the discussions, to continue on much longer than formerly planned.

“The fruits of the synodal process that has gone ahead are many, but in order for them to bear much fruit, we can’t hurry. I trust that this decision will promote the understanding of synodality as a constitutive dimension of the Church, and help everyone to live it as the journey of brothers and sisters who proclaim the joy of the Gospel,” said the Pontiff.

The two sessions of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will take place from Oct 4 to 29, 2023, and in October 2024, bringing together bishops from across the world to discuss and prepare a document to counsel the Pope.

An official communique from the Vatican’s synod office, which was published after the Pope’s Oct 16 announcement, said 112 out of the 114 episcopal conferences from around the world had participated in the first diocesan phase.

The statement said that the Pope’s decision to extend the Synod on Synodality for a year “stems from the desire that the theme of a Synodal Church, because of its breadth and importance, might be the subject of prolonged discernment not only by the members of the Synodal Assembly, but by the whole Church.”

This choice is in step with the ongoing synod process, they said, insisting that the synod is “not an event but a process in which the whole People of God are called to walk together towards what the Holy Spirit helps to discern as being the Lord’s Will for His Church.”

Calling the ordinary synod gathering “a journey within the journey,” the statement said the extended version will aim “to foster more mature reflection for the greater good of the Church.”

In addition, the Pope has also urged local dioceses and bishops’ conferences to launch similar initiatives at both the local, national, and continental scale. The bishops of both Germany and Italy are currently knee-deep in their own synod processes, launched at the Pope’s request and inspiration.

The world-wide diocesan phase of the Synod on Synodality lasted from October 2021 to April 2022, and was designed as a consultative process that took place according to certain guidelines issued by the Synod of Bishops. A second, continental phase, began in September and will last through March 2023, when continental bishops’ conferences will coordinate and evaluate the results of the diocesan consultations.

The Synod of Bishops said they will better define the practical aspects of the 2023 and 2024 gatherings, and the time in between, in the coming weeks, and will communicate the information “in due time.”

Earlier this month, a group of synod advisers concluded nearly two weeks of meetings in Frascati, Italy to draft the working document for the continental phase of the synodal process.

While the full text is expected to be released later this month, the key themes that emerged from the diocesan listening stages included calls for greater attention to social justice and environmental justice, care for the suffering and the poor, the need for greater concern for the Church in conflict areas and the role of women in the Church.

The Synod of Bishops was launched by Pope Paul VI during the Second Vatican Council in 1965 as an attempt to broaden the involvement of bishops from around the world in the governance of the Church.

Since then, ordinary synods have taken place every three to four years in Rome, gathering the world’s shepherds to discuss a topic of particular relevance. In addition, “extraordinary” or “special” synods can be, and have also been called, prior to the ordinary gathering, when a pope determines a certain topic merits particular attention and discussion.

Pope Francis has called five synods to date. The first were his back-to-back synods on the family in 2014 and 2015, followed by his 2018 ordinary synod on youth and his 2019 special synod on the Amazon.

The current process marks his fifth synod which, instead of being concentrated during a three-week stretch in Rome, is unfolding over a four-year period throughout the global Church. --Agencies

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