‘Big differences’ among synod participants – Tokyo prelate

‘Big differences’ among synod participants – Tokyo prelate

Archbishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi of Tokyo speaks to the media during a press briefing at the Vatican on Oct. 20, 2023. Archbishop Kikuchi is also the president of Caritas Internationalis. ROY LAGARDE/CBCP NEWS

By Felipe F. Salvosa II

October 20, 2023

VATICAN– One of the most influential Asian voices in the ongoing Synod of Bishops pointed to “big differences” among delegates in many hot-button topics, which means decisions cannot be rushed.

There was also a big “difference of understanding” among synod participants, Archbishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi of Tokyo said in a press briefing on Friday (Oct. 20, 2023), Day 16 of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

“Understanding highly depends on cultural background. After three weeks we know there are big differences. It’s too early to make big decisions in this synod,” Kikuchi told reporters.

Kikuchi and others on Friday’s panel, namely Archbishop Gintaras Grušas of Lithuania; Sr. Mary Barron, head of the international organization of women religious superiors; and Sr. Houda Fadoul, a Syrian nun, were responding to a question on the possibility of ordaining women into the diaconate.

Barron, one of five voting women religious in the synod, said the “question is on the table” and there were people on both ends of the spectrum.

“It’s not about my personal opinion, she said. “We are in a synodal process, we discern together on all issues.”

Grušas, president of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences, said the synod was considering the role of women in the Church and even the possibility of new ministries.

Kikuchi said the laity should be more involved in the decision-making process as it won’t be easy to explain the synod’s conclusions to parishioners back home.

The former Divine Word missionary, who recently replaced Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle as president of Caritas International, is the secretary general of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences headquartered in Bangkok.

The “Synod on Synodality” is a consultative body to the pope and does not, strictly speaking, make decisions for the Church. But Pope Francis may adopt the synod’s final document.

The synod, which has been ongoing since 2021 with gatherings at various levels, is expected to wrap up in October 2024 with another month-long assembly that could reach major conclusions on how to make the Church more “synodal,” or more consultative and listening.


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