Pope Francis creates study groups for Synod’s next stages

Pope Francis

Pope Francis has set up study groups to explore various themes that emerged from the Synod on Synodality’s session last October.

At the upcoming session, participants will continue to work on the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission”.

The pope has also set the dates for the second session which – after a two-day retreat for participants – will be held from 2 to 27 October this year.

This is the next stage of an initiative that was begun in October 2021 to reflect on the Catholic Church’s future. It particularly focuses on how the Church communicates its message in today’s societies.

The pope’s study groups

To prepare for October’s meeting, Pope Francis has asked for thematic study groups to be formed.

“These study groups are to be established by mutual agreement between the competent dicasteries of the Roman Curia and the General Secretariat of the Synod, to which coordination is entrusted” Francis says.

A Vatican source indicated that the themes the study groups will examine will be specified in early March.

There could be any number of these, as the synthesis report that followed the first synod assembly lists 75 different “matters for consideration”.

The matters of consideration are those which could not find a consensus in the first synod assembly.

It defines them as as “points on which we have recognised that it is necessary to continue theological, pastoral and canonical deepening.”

Among them are women’s access to diaconal ministry, priestly celibacy and “Eucharistic hospitality” for interfaith couples.

The work during this second session is expected to lead to a significant methodological change, a Vatican source suggested.

Intercontinental commission

The synthesis report also calls for a “special intercontinental commission of theologians and canonists” to be established.

The commission’s role would be to examine the definition and conceptual understanding of the “idea and practice of synodality” and its canonical implications.

It would also consider establishing a joint commission of Eastern and Latin theologians, historians and canonists.

Working document

The Vatican is reported as saying it hopes a first draft of the Instrumentum Laboris (“working document”) for the October meeting will be ready by mid-June.

It will then be submitted to the pope who will decide which suggestions to endorse or set aside.

New faces in the synod secretariat

On Saturday Pope Francis appointed six new consultants to the General Secretariat of the Synod in addition to the current ten:

  • Monsignor Alphonse Borras, Episcopal Vicar of the Diocese of Liège (Belgium)
  • Gilles Routhier, professor of Theology at Université Laval (Canada)
  • Ormond Rush, associate professor of Theology at Australian Catholic University
  • Sister Birgit Weiler, MMS, professor of Theology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru
  • Professor Tricia C. Bruce, president-elect of the Association for the Sociology of Religion
  • Maria Clara Lucchetti Bingemer, professor of Theology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro


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