In light of the start of the Synod on Synodality, an ecumenical prayer vigil will be held at St. Peter's Square on September 30.
Twelve heads of Christian churches and communities and more than 3,000 young people from dozens of countries are expected in Rome for an ecumenical prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square on September 30, 2023. This event is to introduce the General Assembly of the Synod on the future of the Church, which will take place from October 4 to 29.
The prayer, organized by the ecumenical Taizé Community in collaboration with about 15 other movements, was presented in a press conference at the Vatican on September 8.
The organizers explained that in addition to young people aged 18 to 35 — who will spend a weekend in Rome on the theme ‘Together: Gathering of the people of God’ — a dozen leaders from various Christian communities and Churches will attend and lead the vigil with Pope Francis. That morning, the 86-year-old Pontiff will celebrate a consistory to create 21 new cardinals.
The list of Christian representatives
The Orthodox Churches will send six representatives to the vigil: the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I, the Patriarch Theophilus III of Jerusalem, a representative of Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria, the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius Ephrem II, the representative of the Catholicos-Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East Mar Paulus Benjamin, and Archbishop Abune Ermias, on behalf of the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.
Various Protestant denominations will also be taking part: Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of the Anglican Church; Anne Burghardt, General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation; and Bernd Wallet, Archbishop of the Old Catholic Church.
The Evangelical and Pentecostal communions will be represented by Thomas Schirrmacher, General Secretary of the World Evangelical Alliance; William Wilson, President of the Pentecostal World Fellowship; and Kuzipa Nalwamba of the World Council of Churches.
The program and the young people’s participation
The vigil will begin on Saturday, September 30, with testimonies from 5 pm to 6 pm, prior to the arrival of Pope Francis. It will start with a sung prayer to invoke the Holy Spirit which says: “Adsumus, Sancte Spiritus, veni a nos, adesto nobis” in Latin, meaning, “We are here before you, Holy Spirit, come to us, dwell in our hearts.”
Pope Francis will then give an introductory speech, followed by an opening prayer by Patriarch Bartholomew, a reading from the Bible, and intercessions read by the various Christian delegates. At the end, the 12 leaders, together with the Pontiff, will bless Synod participants.
The 3,000 young people who are joining this ecumenical prayer will be coming to Rome for the weekend and participating in various activities. They will arrive the night before from around 43 countries and be hosted by families and parishes in Rome. They will then participate in workshops on Saturday morning on the theme “together” before pilgrimaging to St. Peter’s Square.
The space will be decorated with trees, bushes, and flowers to remember the importance of celebrating creation and there will be moments of prayers and music in the afternoon before the vigil begins.
Three-day spiritual retreat
After the vigil the leaders will then dine in the atrium of Paul VI Hall before departing that evening for the north of Rome for a spiritual retreat in preparation for the General Assembly. The retreat will last until October 3.
In addition to the Synod’s governance team, the assembly comprises 362 members — with voting rights — accompanied by eight special guests, 56 experts and facilitators, and 12 delegates from other Christian denominations.
Their three-day spiritual retreat will be led by the Synod’s two spiritual assistants, British Dominican priest Timothy Peter Joseph Radcliffe, and Italian Benedictine nun Maria Ignazia Angelini.
The participants will then return to the Vatican on October 4 for the beginning of the Synod.
The day’s program includes the solemn opening Mass with Pope Francis at 9 am, which will also be the first celebration with the Cardinals created on September 30; and the first General Congregation in the afternoon, with speeches by General Secretary Cardinal Mario Grech, the General Relator Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, and Pope Francis.
Unlike the work that follows, this first day will be open to the public.