Pope Francis launches study groups to analyze Synod on Synodality’s key issues

Pope Francis launches study groups to analyze Synod on Synodality’s key issues

Pope Francis attends a session of the XVI General Assembly of the Synod on Synodality at the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican, Oct. 23, 2023. ROY LAGARDE/CBCP NEWS

By Courtney Mares

Catholic News Agency

February 18, 2024

VATICAN— The Vatican announced Saturday that Pope Francis has launched synodal study groups to analyze key issues ahead of October’s Synod on Synodality assembly.

Pope Francis has issued a chirograph asking the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia to collaborate with the General Secretariat of the Synod to establish the study groups for “in-depth analysis” of some of the themes that emerged in the first Synod on Synodality assembly.

The pope did not specify in the chirograph published on Feb. 17 how many groups will be formed, what topics will be studied, or who will participate in the study groups.

The synthesis report published at the end of the first synod assembly lists 75 different “matters for consideration,” including women’s access to diaconal ministry, priestly celibacy, and “Eucharistic hospitality” for interfaith couples.

These “matters of consideration,” which could not find a consensus in the first synod assembly, are defined as “points on which we have recognized that it is necessary to continue theological, pastoral, and canonical deepening.”

In addition, the synthesis report also calls for the establishment of a “special intercontinental commission of theologians and canonists” to examine the definition and conceptual understanding of the “idea and practice of synodality” and its canonical implications, as well as the establishment of a a joint commission of Eastern and Latin theologians, historians and canonists.

According to Vatican News, the study groups will require a substantial amount of time and will not “directly constitute the material up for discussion in the next session of the Synod, which will focus on synodality itself.”

The General Secretariat of the Synod, led by Cardinal Mario Grech, will coordinate the work of the study groups among the dicasteries, which will “involve experts from all continents” following a synodal process, the Vatican’s state media outlet said.

The Vatican also announced on Saturday the dates for the second Synod on Synodality assembly and the appointment of six new consulters to the General Secretariat of the Synod.

The 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops’s second session will take place from Oct. 2 to Oct. 27. The participants in the assembly will arrive in Rome on Sept. 29 to participate in a two-day spiritual retreat ahead of the start of the assembly.

Among the new synod consulters, Pope Francis chose three female professors.

Dr. Tricia Bruce, a sociology professor at Maryville College in Tennessee and president-elect of the Association for the Sociology of Religion, and Dr. Maria Clara Lucchetti Bingemer, a theology professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, are both appointees.

As is Sister Dr. Birgit Weiler, a German missionary in Peru and theology professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. Weiler is a member of the Congregation of the Medical Missionary Sisters and has lived in Peru for more than 35 years, where she works with the Episcopal Council of Latin America (CELAM) and the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM).

The other appointees are Monsignor Alphonse Borras, a Belgian canon lawyer and specialist in the theology of the diaconate; Father Gilles Routhier, a professor of religious studies at Laval University in Quebec; and Father Ormond Rush, a theology professor at Australian Catholic University. Rush addressed the first synod assembly in October with a speech that focused on Vatican II’s discussion of tradition as the authority for the Synod on Synodality.

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