On October 4th, in commemoration of the Feast of St. Francis, the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops commenced its proceedings with a solemn Celebration of the Eucharist. Prior to this significant event, the participants had undergone a three-day retreat in the tranquil setting of Sacrofano.
This inaugural session of the 16th Synod, focused on the theme of Synodality in the Church, is scheduled to span the entire month of October. A noteworthy development in this assembly is the participation of 365 members with voting rights. Among these, a majority comprises bishops, numbering close to 300. In a historic move, women and laypeople have also been granted voting privileges, with 54 women, both religious and lay, actively engaging in the proceedings.
In addition to these voting members, a contingent of 100 experts will contribute to the synodal process, with 36 of them serving as facilitators for the spiritual dialogues within small groups. These dialogues will revolve around the themes outlined in the Instrumentum Laboris.
Among the facilitators are found current members and collaborators of the Discerning Leadership Team: Father David McCallum, Ms. Sandra Chaoul; faculty of the Roman DL formations such as Dott. Paolo Foglizzo and Ms. Christina Kheng; and esteemed collaborators including Sister Jolanda Kafka, Sister Laurence Loubières, Dott. Austen Ivereigh, and Professor Rafael Luciani.
At the inaugural Eucharist of the General Assembly the Pope addressed the participants saying “we do not need purely natural vision, made up of human strategies, political calculations, or ideological battles.” Instead, he invited “We are here to walk together with the gaze of Jesus, who blesses the Father and welcomes those who are weary and oppressed.”
The Pope concluded his homily insisting that the Synod is “not a political gathering, but a convocation in the Spirit; not a polarized parliament, but a place of grace and communion.” And insisted participants to “Let us open ourselves to Him, the protagonist, the Holy Spirit. And let us walk with Him, in trust and with joy.”