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Vatican announces participants in October Synod of Bishops

July 07, 2023

The Vatican has released the list of participants in the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will be held in Rome in October 2023 and continue in October 2024.

The list includes the 120 delegates appointed by Pope Francis, who will comprise nearly one-third of the voting members of the Synod. The announcement of the Pope’s appointments completed the list of 364 participants for the October session of the Synod.

Although the list of papal appointments was heavily weighted toward supporters of the Pope’s policies, the list did include one prominent critic: Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the former prefect of (what was then) the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Two other retired prefects of curial offices were on the Pope’s list: Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer, who succeeded Cardinal Müller at the CDF; and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who headed the Congregation for Bishops.

American participants

The American delegates named by the Pope are:

  • Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago;
  • Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, DC;
  • Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego;
  • Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston;
  • Archbishop Paul Etienne of Seattle; and
  • Father James Martin, SJ.

The US Conference of Catholics Bishops had already elected five members to participate:

  • Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York;
  • Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the military ordinariate—the president of the US bishops’ conference;
  • Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas;
  • Bishop Robert Barron of Winona, Minnesota; and
  • Bishop Kevin Rhodes of Fort Wayne/South Bend, Indiana.

Two other American prelates will participate because of their ecclesiastical positions. Cardinal Kevin Farrell, the prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, has been chosen as a delegate representing the Roman Curia. Cardinal Joseph Tobin is an ex officio member, since he is a member of the Synod council.

Structure of the Synod

The Synod, informally known as the Synod on synodality, is devoted to the theme “For a synodal church: communion, participation, and mission.” The Synod in Rome follows diocesan, national, and continental phases of the Synod that began in October 2021. It will be the first Synod of Bishops in which non-bishops (apart from superiors of religious institutes) will be voting members.

Presiding over the October Synod is Pope Francis; the Synod’s secretary-general is Cardinal Mario Grech. As previously announced, the Synod’s relator general is Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich (Luxembourg); he “coordinates the discussion on the theme of the Synod Assembly and the elaboration of any documents to be submitted to the Assembly,” according to Episcopalis Communio, the Pope’s 2018 apostolic constitution on the Synod of Bishops. Assisting him in his work are the Synod’s special secretaries, Father Giacomo Costa, SJ, and Father Riccardo Battocchio, the president of the Italian Theological Association.

Nine members of the Synod have been chosen to serve as presidents-delegate who can preside over the Synod discussions in place of the Pope. They are Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak, Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes (Mexico), Cardinal Luis Cabrera Herrera (Ecuador), Archbishop Timothy Costelloe (Australia), Bishop Daniel Flores (Brownsville, TX), Bishop Lucio Muandula (Mozambique), Father Giuseppe Bonfrate (Italy), Sister María de los Dolores Palencia (Mexico), and Ms. Momoko Nishimura (Japan), a lay member of a missionary community.

Synod members include:

  • the heads and other representatives of Eastern Catholic churches
  • representatives of episcopal conferences (representing the US Conference of Catholic Bishops are Archbishop Timothy Broglio, Bishop Daniel Flores, Bishop Robert Barron, Bishop Kevin Rhoades, and Cardinal Timothy Dolan)
  • the heads of the continental bishops’ conference organizations
  • ten superiors of religious institutes: five of them men, and five of them women
  • the heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia

An additional 70 members of the Synod were announced from the continental synodal assemblies: ten each from Africa, North America (i.e., US and Canada), Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Oceania. The ten from North America are Sami Aoun, Cynthia Bailey Manns, Catherine Clifford, Richard Coll, Sister Chantal Desmaris, Father Ivan Montelongo, Wyatt Olivas, Julia Oseka, Sister Leticia Salazar, and Linda Staudt.

Lists of special guests and non-voting participants were also included in the Vatican announcement.


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