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SynodWatch RoundUP for Oct. 4: Laity First; Introductions; and Don’t Talk

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Release of Laudate Deum

As the synod opened, Pope Francis released his most pointed climate challenge to the world, but especially to the United States.  The hope is that this straight talk will spur U.S. bishops and all Catholics, many who are climate change deniers, into new ways of caring for our common home. 

If we consider that emissions per individual in the United States are about two times greater than those of individuals living in China, and about seven times greater than the average of the poorest countries, we can state that a broad change in the irresponsible lifestyle connected with the Western model would have a significant long-term impact.

Opening Eucharist: Laity First

The synod opened with a formal procession and Mass with Pope Francis presiding.  While there was still a lot of overdressing from our ordained members, it was symbolic to witness women and laity processing into the Eucharistic celebration before the prelates.


Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak, one of 10 delegate presidents, gave the first speech of the day. Pope Francis’ remarks were followed by speeches from synod Secretary General Cardinal Mario Grech and synod Relator General Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich who recapped the goals, spirit, and method of the three-year synodal process launched by the Pope in 2021.

Don’t Talk

The rules for the synod engagement were released and included codes of conduct, dress codes, voting rules, etc.  One of the most restrictive rules for journalists was stated as follows:

“To guarantee the freedom of expression of each and every person regarding his or her thoughts and to ensure the serenity of common discernment, which is the main task entrusted to the assembly, participants are bound to confidentiality and privacy both with regard to their own interventions and other participants’ interventions. This duty remains in effect even after the synod assembly has ended.”

It added that “recording, filming, and disseminating” speeches is prohibited.

Pope Francis made it clear that he wants to preserve the confidential atmosphere of the synod and asked that participants “fast” from speaking about what they know publicly.  But, of course, this makes it very difficult to learn what is actually happening inside the synod hall.  Journalists are rightly frustrated because, as with all such events, it is important to learn about the actual experience of synod participants, and not just what the Vatican wants to project.  My guess, is that there will be leaks and interviews that come our way despite the lock down.

Cardinal Mario Grech explained that, as in the past, there has been a Commission for Disputes created composed of three members appointed by the Pope.

He further explained that working groups will begin tomorrow.  Each working group has a facilitator, recorder, and reporter.  Also, the fraternal delegates and experts will join.  These delegates have a right to speak but not to vote.

Finally, Grech explained that each person must stay in their assigned place at the table and use the assigned tablet throughout.

Following Grech, there were two witnesses at the opening session, one by a newly appointed cardinal and one by a layman.

Newly Elected Cardinal Ryś

Especially touching was the witness of Cardinal-elect Archbishop Grzegorz Ryś of Lotz, Poland,.  He spoke of those who came to his synodal gatherings, and especially of one who had not participated in the church for decades.  He explained that after a whole day of listening, this person shared that he did not understand anything that had been discussed.  This informed the cardinal elect most.  For Ryś, the heart of the synodal work is to move far beyond talking to those who are already involved, and to reach out to those who have been excluded.  Let’s hope his words become action!

Video of first day

Vatican media is recording some of the synod meetings.  If you want to see some of the first day’s activities and view how the hall is set up, you can view the opening day here: