What happens after this four-week meeting during which many diverse viewpoints have been expressed? How will the process work? Will the results wind up in a binder gathering dust?
You and Pope Francis agree that the synod’s theme, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission” (October 4–29), is much too extensive and important for a month’s meeting. That’s why the pope has added a second session for October 2024.
Previous synods focused on a single topic (Eucharist, word of God, lay faithful, young people, bishops, and so on). This theme, however, is more about how to be Church in the future. This synod’s working document published on June 20 can be accessed via the synod tab at Vatican.va. A summary of diocesan, national, and continental consultations precedes worksheets with five questions each on three topics: a communion that radiates, co-responsibility in mission, and participation, governance, and authority.
This synod’s follow-up will probably reflect its unique composition of 355 voters. Instead of bishops and 10 men representing male religious communities as voters, now it will include bishops plus 70 lay members (10 from six continental groupings and 10 from the Middle East and Eastern Catholic Churches). Women voters will number 55, including two among its nine president delegates.
Among the experts and facilitators are 21 women and 36 men. Instead of meeting in the Vatican synod hall with tiered seating, participants will be seated at round tables in the Paul VI Audience Hall. The October 2023 session will probably end by identifying work to be done before the October 2024 session.
The synod office’s permanent staff has a 15-member committee of bishops (12 elected at the last synod and three appointed by the pope). Because of this synod’s other changes, this committee’s work after October 2023 might involve a few additional members. Wait and pray that all members will be open to whatever the Holy Spirit is asking of the Church at this time!