No punishment for Synod members who speak to media

No punishment

Vatican officials have clarified that media engagement during the Synod of Bishops is a personal decision, and those who choose to give interviews will face no punishment.

The clarification followed a recent interview given by German Cardinal Gerhard Müller to EWTN, raising questions about Pope Francis’s call for a media ‘fast’.

Italian layman Paolo Ruffini, Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communications, addressed journalists during an October 6 press briefing.

“It’s an assembly of brothers and sisters who have been given this time” to pray and reflect together, “then there is personal discernment in all of this.

“We are not speaking of punishment or not, but a personal discernment the pope asked of the members, and the discernment is left to each individual person,” Ruffini said.

The Synod, titled “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission” opened on October 4 and is set to run until October 29. It is part of a multi-year process initiated by Pope Francis in October 2021, culminating in a second discussion in October 2024.

“Fast” from publicity

Pope Francis had urged the 464 participants to refrain from media engagement to prioritise listening and maintain a certain “fast” from publicity.

“A certain asceticism” is needed for the synod, the pope said. He asked forgiveness from journalists trying to cover the month-long meeting.

Still, Pope Francis insisted “a certain fasting from public words” would be needed to ensure the proper spiritual atmosphere for the synod members.

While there would be no punishment for breaking pontifical secrecy, the guidelines for the synod stressed the importance of confidentiality and discretion among participants throughout the gathering.

Ruffini provided insight into the discussions, mentioning topics such as seminary formation, the role of the laity and women, the liturgy, welcoming the marginalised, and prioritising the poor.

The role and status of young people, women’s participation and clericalism were also discussed.

Participants called for greater co-responsibility between pastors and the people, addressing clerical abuse and emphasising that the church is not just for the perfect but for all, especially those on the margins.

Synodality itself was a topic of discussion, with calls for active collaboration between pastors and the people.



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