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Theologians gather in Rome to prepare working document for the next stage of the synod (Oct 2024)

By Loup Besmond de Senneville (in Rome) for La Croix, June 4th, 2024

 A handout picture provided by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis (R) attending the 16th General
A handout picture provided by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis (R) attending the 16th General Congregation during the Synod of Bishops, Vatican City, 23 October 2023.(EPA/MAXPPP

Following Pope Francis’s request, some 15 theologians from around the world gathered in Rome on June 4 to prepare the next steps of the Synod on the church’s future. Meeting at the General Curia of the Jesuits in Rome, the theologians are working behind closed doors to prepare the text that will then become the working document for the next October assembly.

Further reading: Synod: Pope’s message of encouragement to parish priests

The Instrumentum laboris, the working instrument of the synod, will be drawn up on the basis of this text. This will guide the reflection of the 364 synod fathers and mothers from October 2 to 27.

Questionnaires and working groups

To achieve this, the theologians are working on the answers sent by bishops worldwide from a consultation conducted by Rome after the First Ordinary Plenary Assembly held in October 2023. This survey invited participants to share local synodality initiatives, and also asked about concrete initiatives for training in synodality.

During their ten days in Rome, the theologians will also consider the work of the five groups, set up in mid-March, to reflect on the governance of the church. The participants of these groups focused on “the true missionary face” of the local church (bishops, representative bodies), “groups of churches” (status of episcopal conferences), “the universal church” (role of the Curia, ecumenism, Eastern Churches), “the synodal method” and “the place of a synodal church in mission,” have already submitted their work.

Ten working groups

At the same time, Francis also requested the establishment of 10 other working groups on subjects discussed during the 2023 Assembly but will no longer be dealt with in 2024. These include “listening to the cry of the poor”, “mission in the digital environment”, “theological and canonical matters regarding specific ministerial forms” and discernment on “controversial doctrinal, pastoral, and ethical issues” and “of the fruits of the ecumenical journey in ecclesial practices”.

Further reading: Pope Francis shifts approach to contentious topics ahead of synod’s final assembly

The participants in these groups will report on their progress in October, but will have more time to submit their conclusions, which they must finalize by June 2025. Their work is just beginning, and Rome has not yet identified the members of these groups, according to sources. “It is a gift from Francis to his successor,” explained a senior official. “He is opening up the debates. The next pope will have to decide.”

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