Pope announces second session for assembly of synod of bishops

Pope Francis meets with leaders of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops in the library of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican on Oct. 14, 2022. Pictured with the pontiff are Missionary Sister Xaviere Nathalie Becquart, Undersecretary; Bishop Luis Marín de San Martín, undersecretary; Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, general rapporteur; Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General and Jesuit Father Giacomo Costa, consultant. (CNS Photo/Vatican Media)

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Saying he did not want to rush the process of discerning how the Holy Spirit is calling the Church to grow in “synodalism,” Pope Francis announced that the upcoming Synod assembly of Bishops would take place in two sessions.

The synod assembly, with mostly bishops as voting members, will meet Oct. 4-29, 2023, as previously announced, the pope said, but the assembly will also have a second session in October 2024.

Pope Francis made the announcement on October 16 at the end of his Angelus address. He had met on October 14 the direction of the synod.

The pope and local bishops initiated the process of listening and discernment for the “synod on synodality” in October 2021, and by November the synod secretariat is expected to publish a working document for the continental assemblies.

While 112 of the 114 episcopal conferences around the world sent a summary of what emerged from the listening sessions in their country, Pope Francis said that “the fruits of the synodal process underway are many, but for them to be fully mature, you must not be in a hurry.

“To have a more relaxed period of discernment,” the pope announced, “I have established that this synodal assembly will take place in two sessions” rather than the one originally planned.

“I hope this decision will promote 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,” Pope Francis told thousands of people gathered in Saint Petersburg. St. Peter’s Square for the Sunday Angelus prayer.

The synod secretariat website describes synodality as a style seen in the life and mission of the Church that reflects its nature as “the people of God journeying together and gathering together, called together by the Lord Jesus in the power of the Holy -Spirit to proclaim the Gospel.”

While this does not imply that everyone has a vote on issues facing the Church, it does mean that all members of the Church – ordained or lay – have a responsibility to contribute to the mission of the Church. Church and to pray, offer suggestions and join in discerning the voice of the Holy Spirit.

A statement from the synod’s secretariat on October 16 said that Pope Francis’ decision to add a second assembly “stems from the desire that the theme of a ‘synodal church,’ because of its breadth and importance, could make the object of prolonged discernment not only by the members of the synodal assembly, but by the whole Church.

Although it did not feature the same widespread and popular listening sessions, the Synod of Bishops’ deliberations on the challenges and joys of families also came together in two sessions. First, Pope Francis in 2014 convened an “extraordinary general assembly” on “the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.” Then, using the final report of the 2014 meeting as a canvas, the ordinary general assembly of the synod of bishops met in 2015 to consider “the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world”.

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, then secretary general of the synod, then wrote to the episcopal conferences explaining that “the two synodal assemblies, sharing the same subject of the family, are part of a unique synodal process, which includes not only the two phases of celebration but also the intermediate time between synods, a time to reflect on the reaction to the first synod and to make a thorough theological examination of the pastoral activity of the Church in the light of the next one.

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