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Synod, October 12: participants pray for peace

October 13, 2023

On October 12, participants in the first session of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops prayed for peace as they gathered in the morning. In the afternoon, participants had the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to the catacombs.

Cardinal Louis Raphaël Sako, Patriarch of Chaldean Catholic Church, led the time of prayer.

“I would like to invite you this morning to pray for peace in the world, especially in the Holy Land, but also in Ukraine, the violence in Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon,” he said.

Margaret Karram, an Arab Catholic and the president of the Focolare Movement, also offered prayers.

“Lord, we pray to you for the Holy Land, for the people of Israel and Palestine who are under the grip of unprecedented violence, for the victims, especially the children, for the wounded, for those held hostage, for the missing and their families,” she said. “In these hours of anguish and suspension, we join our voices to that of the Pope and to the choral prayer of those around the world who implore peace.”

Press conference

The Synod has 364 voting members. At a press conference on October 12, Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, said that 343 members were present at the general congregation the previous afternoon (October 11), with 39 delivering interventions, or brief speeches. (339 were present on the afternoon of October 10, and 345 on the morning of October 11.)

During the pontificates of St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, it was customary for the Vatican to publish the texts of interventions at the various synods; that practice ceased with the pontificate of Pope Francis. The current Synod’s rules compel participants to keep even their own interventions confidential (Art. 24), ensuring maximum confidentiality for participants and minimal transparency for the faithful.

As Synod participants discussed the Synod’s second topic (“How can we be more fully a sign and instrument of union with God and of the unity of all humanity?”), Ruffini and others at the press conference listed the following topics from the interventions:

  • interreligious and intercultural dialogue
  • colonialism and indigenous communities
  • the importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation
  • “listening to and involving young people in their thirst to meet Jesus”
  • Mother Teresa of Calcutta and her care for the sick
  • “the urgency of Catholic leaders’ commitment to the promotion of peace”
  • “the drama of marginalized women in the peripheries”
  • “the need for inclusion and listening in the life of the Church”

“This morning”, Ruffini added, “the importance of the Marian profile of the Synodal Church was emphasized. Mary is mother, is lay, is prophecy, is dialogue, is charisma, she is holiness, she is lived Gospel.”

The discussion of the second topic began on October 9 and is drawing to a close; the Synod will take up a new topic on October 13 (“Co-responsibility in Mission: How can we better share gifts and tasks in the service of the Gospel?”).

Positive experiences

Margaret Karram (Focolare Movement), Sister Caroline Jarjis (Baghdad), and Archbishop Andrew Nkea Fuanya (Cameroon) also spoke at the press conference. Karram spoke about the importance of prayer for peace; Sister Jarjis, about persecuted Christians; and Archbishop Fuanya, about plans for perpetual Eucharistic adoration in every parish of his diocese. All praised the synodal experience.

“Ever since the war broke out, my heart has been broken and I wondered what I was doing here at the Synod,” said Karram. “Joining in prayer with everyone was a very profound moment.”

“This experience is teaching me what it means to walk together, to dialogue, to let oneself be challenged by others, and synodality is not just a methodology, it must become a way of life of the Church: listening to the other with respect, beyond different opinions,” Karram added.

“God is present in the work we do at the Synod. He chose us and prepared us before coming to Rome,” said Sister Jarjis. “Together, we are having the experience of the first Christians who shared everything.”

“I came from a country at war, where Christians are a minority, but the richness of our Church is given by the presence of the martyrs,” she continued. “Their blood gives us the impulse to go on, and I will return home with a greater strength deriving from this experience of communion with the universal Church.”

“Synodality forms part of African culture, because we always do things together as a family,” said Archbishop Fuanya. “I think this synod is a very big consolation to Africa, because with the problems we have in Africa, sometimes we feel isolated and abandoned. But coming to the Synod, we join with the rest of the universal Church to sit down and pray together for the problems that are going on in Africa, and especially for the countries that are affected by war.”

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