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Synod, October 5: ‘Expert-facilitators’ guide discussion; final report will form agenda of 2024 Synod session

October 06, 2023

On October 5, the second day of the first session of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, synod participants gathered in 35 small working groups (circuli minores) to discuss the Synod’s first module, “For a synodal Church: An integral experience.”

The first module’s “question for discernment” is “Starting from the journey of the local Churches to which we each belong and from the contents of the Instrumentum laboris [working document], which distinctive signs of a synodal Church emerge with greater clarity and which deserve greater recognition or should be particularly highlighted or deepened?”

The official theme of the Synod, which will continue with a second session in October 2024, is “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission.” The first module will conclude on October 7.

Methodology

On October 5, the Synod of Bishops presented the methodology of the working groups, in which the Expert-facilitator, the Secretary, and the Rapporteur assume important roles.

  • “In order to facilitate its more fruitful application, each Working Group will include an Expert-facilitator, who will accompany the exchange from a methodological point of view. The role of this facilitator is to provide the proper guidance to ensure the flow of a process in which the Holy Spirit shall be the main protagonist.”
  • “Besides the facilitator, each group will also have an appointed Secretary and will elect a Rapporteur at the beginning of the proceedings. The joint task of the Secretary and the Rapporteur is to oversee the draft and final text of the Report.”
  • “The Rapporteur will also read the brief intervention on behalf of the group in General Congregation and deliver the final text of the Report to the General Secretariat.”

Although the Expert-facilitators (described in earlier Synod statements as “experts and facilitators”) are non-voting participants, they play a particularly important role in the Synod’s discussions. Their names were announced in July along with those of the other participants; they conclude the list of Synod participants.

Under the Synod’s methodology, each participant in the working group delivers a four-minute intervention at the beginning of the discussions, characterized as “conversation in the Spirit.” Participants are welcome to send the texts of their interventions to the Synod’s General Secretariat.

Each group elects its own Rapporteur and produces a two-page report, which is supposed to record areas of agreement and disagreement; the report must be approved by a majority of the group’s members. Each group’s Rapporteur will deliver a three-minute intervention when the Synod’s participants gather again in general congregation.

Press briefing

During the day’s press briefing, Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Dicastery for Communication and president of the Commission for Information of the Synodal Assembly, said that the results of the Synod’s first session (October 4-29) will guide discussion of the Synod’s culminating second session (October 2024), much as the results of the 2014 Synod on the family formed the agenda of the 2015 Synod on the family.

Vatican News reported:

The final report that will be formulated at the end of October, he [Ruffini] went on to say, will include “convergences and divergences” but still represent not a point of arrival but “a path that we are taking.” “It will therefore be something more like an Instrumentum laboris than the final document of past Synods,” Dr. Ruffini stressed.

“The way in which an institution as great as the Church allows itself a moment of silence in faith, in communion, in prayer is news,” Ruffini added. The Synod’s methodology of respectful listening, he said, can be an example to “the world on other fronts as well: the war, the climate crisis, to stop, to listen to one another.”

Ruffini’s description of the Synod as a “pause” in the Church’s life—a “suspension of time,” a “silence”—echoes a comment Pope Francis made at the conclusion of his October 4 synodal address:

The Church has paused, just as the Apostles paused after Good Friday, on that Holy Saturday, locked away: but they did it out of fear, we do not. But it is paused. It is a pause for all the Church, to listen. This is the most important message.

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