The issues of migration, the preferential option for the poor, and the need for the church to be like a family that welcomes everyone have been some of the key topics raised in the opening discussions of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, also known as the “Synod on Synodality,” currently gathered in Rome.
This according to Dr. Paolo Ruffini, Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication, and Sheila Pires, a member of the Synod’s communications team, who related the latest developments of the Synod in a press briefing on October 6.
Pires characterized the Synodal Assembly as having “an atmosphere of joy,” adding that delegates feel they “are already in this synodal journey.” She said that the diversity of continents, languages, and experiences represented in each of the working groups has lent a fraternal spirit to the proceedings.
“We have had the opportunity to learn to listen,” she said.
Ruffini also noted the “fraternal climate” felt throughout the Synodal Assembly, though he acknowledged there were still points of difference and some “fear concerning dialogue with the other.”
If the delegates keep Christ as their reference point, “many barriers will fall,” he said.
The working groups completed their initial round of discussions on the first “module,” or subject for spiritual conversation, last evening. The module focused on the “distinctive signs of a Synodal church.”
This morning the Rapporteurs of each of the working groups presented summaries of their discussions to the Synodal Assembly. There was also time for individual contributions, Ruffini said.
Ruffini and Pires, who are both participating in the Synod as delegates, said that prayer breaks following the presentations were helpful for reflection and discernment.
Other topics that were raised in the assembly included seminary formation, the participation of women, attention to the young, strengthening non-ordained ministries, and ecumenism and interreligious dialogue.
A need to “purify the church of habits not in tune with the gospel” was expressed in the assembly, Ruffini said, along with the idea that the church should strive to be “a Samaritan church that loves her children” and takes care of the victims of clerical abuse.
“The church is to be attractive because it’s a joyful community,” he said.
The assembly also addressed the role of ordained ministers. The image of the pastor as “a shepherd who enters the enclosure” was invoked in discussions, as was need for pastors to be both “fathers and mothers” to their communities.
Ruffini reflected on the spirituality of synodality, saying that synodality is “part of the DNA of the church” and “the answer of the church to this rediscovering of ourselves as one.”
At the end of the briefing, Ruffini addressed a question about German Cardinal Gerhard Müller’s decision to give an interview about the Synod with the Eternal Word Television Network on October 5 despite Pope Francis’s request that Synod delegates maintain confidentiality about the assembly. Ruffini responded that the decision to speak publicly was a matter of each delegate’s own discernment.
The Synod Assembly continues this afternoon with sharing from the remaining working groups and other individual contributions on the subject of the first module. Discussions of the second module, on the theme of communion, will begin next week. ♦
Editor, Today’s American Catholic