From October 4–29, 2023, the Catholic Church culminated the first phase of its largest ecclesial project since Vatican II: the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, commonly referred to as the “Synod on Synodality.” For the first time in history, laypeople were included as voting members of the Synodal Assembly. The 364 delegates came from all parts of the world, representing the reality of a global church seeking unity in diversity.
Today’s American Catholic was on hand to cover the proceedings. We enjoyed remote access to daily Vatican briefings and bulletins and kept in close touch with some of our friends and colleagues who were present “on the ground” in Rome. We have collected all of our reportage below, along with reflections published during the Synod—Ed.
The Synod formally opened with an ecumenical prayer service on September 29, followed by a three-day retreat for delegates and a Mass celebrating the memorial of St. Francis of Assisi on October 4. The Mass coincided with the release of Laudate Deum, an apostolic exhortation from Pope Francis on the climate crisis written to build on the messages of Laudato Si’, the encyclical on the environment promulgated in 2015.
In the second week of the Synod, we also followed the “Human Rights in the Emerging Catholic Church Event” presented by Spirit Unbounded, attempting to draw connections between the conversations that we happening there and those in the Synod hall. In the interest of full disclosure, TAC editor Michael Centore served as a voluntary member of Spirit Unbounded’s press group in advance of the event.
Synod delegates continued their discussions on the various sections of the Instrumentum Laboris, or working document for the assembly. In daily briefings, participants made repeated reference to the “round tables” that were being used for discussions—instead of being separated by rank, status, or background, delegates gathered in mixed groups to share their unique perspectives.
The last week of the Synod was dedicated to finalizing conversations on the Instrumentum Laboris and drafting and approving the Synthesis Report. The Report was published on October 28. It will serve as a guide for reflection for the church in the coming year, before the Synod reconvenes for its second assembly in October 2024.