A School of Formation: Synod Report for October 16, 2023

On the 45th anniversary of the election of Pope John Paul II, Synod participants assembled today to listen to the first reports from working groups on sections B.2.1 and B.2.2 of the Instrumentum Laboris, Dr. Paolo Ruffini reported at a press briefing this morning.

Ruffini, who serves as the Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication and is himself a Synod delegate, confirmed that Fr. Momoko Nishimura, SEMD, of Japan presided over the Synodal Assembly.

Delegates have spoken of “the beauty of the time we are giving ourselves to be converted,” Ruffini said. He expressed hope that “we’ll feel like a family” at the end of the synodal journey.

Sheila Pires, a member of the Synod’s communications team, said that the inclusion and recognition of women in the church continues to be a subject of discussion. Pires said that the assembly has addressed the issue of ordaining women to the diaconate.

Fr. Vimal Tirimanna, a professor of moral theology, member of the Synod’s Commission for Theology, and delegate from the Continental Assembly of Asia, highlighted the connection between the Synod and the developments of the Second Vatican Council.

“The ecclesiology of Vatican II is being revived” by the synodal process, Fr. Tirimanna said. He identified two principal ways this revival is being realized: the conception of the church as the “People of God” and the shared baptismal dignity of all believers.

“The round tables themselves [in the Synodal Assembly] are a symbol of the ecclesiology of Lumen Gentium,” he added, referring to the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church and one of the principal documents of the Second Vatican Council.

Lumen Gentium states that the lay faithful “are by baptism made one body with Christ and are constituted among the People of God; they are in their own way made sharers in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly functions of Christ; and they carry out for their own part the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world” (31).

“Lay women are rubbing shoulders with the hierarchy” in the Synodal Assembly, Fr. Tirimanna said.

Synod delegate Sr. Patricia Murray, IBVM, executive secretary of the International Union of Superiors General, said that religious communities have a history of putting synodality into practice, and that “it is a joy to see this spread into the universal church.”

“We’re holding our unity in our diversity,” she elaborated. “[One] can feel one’s own position being opened, widened, deepened” in spiritual conversation, she said.

Sr. Murray, who hails from Ireland, has been named as one of the members of the drafting committee for the Synod synthesis report to be issued at the end of the assembly. She said it was “an honor and a surprise” to be the first woman and the first religious sister appointed to such a committee. She also said it was the indication of a desire to have women more involved in decision-making processes.

Describing synodality as “a spiritual practice” and “like entering a school of formation,” Sr. Murray emphasized that “the authenticity of living into this synodal way” takes dedicated prayer and study.

In synodality, she said, “we are called to live the fullness of our personhood.”

Mons. Zdenek Wasserbauer, Auxiliary Bishop of Prague, also spoke of the spirituality of synodality, connecting it to the apostolic exhortation on St. Thérèse of Lisieux issued by Pope Francis yesterday.

St. Thérèse was “looking for the good of the others” when she entered into religious life, Bishop Wasserbauer said. In the apostolic exhortation, Francis writes, “In a word, [Thérèse] did not view her consecration to God apart from the pursuit of the good of her brothers and sisters” (9).

Bishop Wasserbauer likened Thérèse’s vocation to the sense of mission of the Synodal Assembly, “who are good people devoting their time to help the others.”

“Mission is a will to free the others and save them,” Bishop Wasserbauer continued. Alluding to Thérèse’s “dark night” of faith when tested against the atheism of her time, he said, “This Synod truly helps us if there is this darkness, this night in the life of the church.”

He also said that Synod members are “trying to let our hearts acknowledge all the pain and the wounds” of others, including victims of colonialism in Africa and Asia. ♦

Michael Centore
Editor, Today’s American Catholic

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