Delegates to the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, commonly referred to as the “Synod on Synodality,” have reached the end of an “intense” first week, according to Dr. Paolo Ruffini.
Ruffini is the Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication and a participant in the Synod, which continues through October 29. His comments came at a press briefing with other Synod delegates on Saturday.
Since Wednesday, delegates have been discussing the first module, or subject for spiritual conversation, which focused on the “distinctive signs of a Synodal church.” Delegates have discussed the module in small circles or working groups, and have had the opportunity to share their key points of discernment with the entire Synodal Assembly.
Ruffini reported that working groups submitted their final reports on the first module to the General Secretariat of the Synod on Saturday morning. These reports will be used in the creation of a synthesis document at the end of the Synod. A commission to oversee the drafting of the synthesis will be elected next week, he said.
Ruffini said that the interventions of groups and individuals during the Synodal Assembly “highlighted the grace of the moment” and revealed “the multifaceted nature of the church.”
Topics central to the discussions included the formation of priests and laypeople, the co-responsibility of the baptized, avoidance of all forms of clericalism, the role of women and the laity, and service to the poor and migrants.
Sister Leticia Salazar, ODN, Chancellor of the Diocese of San Bernardino in the U.S., is participating in the Synod as a delegate. She said that “this experience is different” than religious conferences she has attended in the past because it foregrounds “the global identity of the Catholic Church.”
Her observation was echoed by Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, Archbishop of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM).
Cardinal Besungu has participated in four previous Synods, he said, but “this Synod is not like the others.” In previous Synods, he said, “we knew more or less what would be the outcome. This is not the case with this one.”
He continued, “There is no agenda. We are all brothers and sisters listening to the will of God.”
Cardinal Besungu expressed “great joy” and “great trust and confidence” in the synodal process, saying, “I’m persuaded the Synod is going to give good fruits to the church.”
During a question-and-answer session with members of the press, Sr. Salazar spoke from her own experience about migration, which has been a recurring subject in the Synodal Assembly.
Sr. Salazar immigrated to the U.S. with her family at age 17. For migrants like her, she said, “Faith sustains you, but the church welcomes you.”
Sr. Salazar said that “this topic is very close to us” in her diocese of San Bernardino, which is located near the southern border in California. She said that immigration has been a “topic of discernment” in the diocese for over 30 years.
What she sees as the central question of the Synod should inform the church’s response to migration, she said: “How can we learn to be brothers and sisters?”
Synod activities will resume on Monday, as delegates begin to discuss modules on the theme of communion. Key points are outlined in section B.1 of the Instrumentum Laboris, the working document guiding the discussions. They include the commitment to justice and care for our common home, ecumenical dialogue, and articulating the Gospel within local cultures and contexts. ♦
Editor, Today’s American Catholic