The numbers and detailed program of the next General Assembly on the Synod on the future of the church, to be held in Rome from October 4 to 29, 2023, were presented at the Holy See Press Office on September 21.
The full list of participants, which has been updated and is still subject to change, includes 464 people, 365 of whom – including 54 women, a historic first – are eligible to vote.
In all, 82 women will be present at the event. As well, 15 Eastern Catholic Churches will be represented. The voice of the Church across five continents will be carried by delegates from 36 bishops’ conferences of Africa, 32 of Europe, 24 of the Americas, 18 of Asia and 4 of Oceania.
They are joined by some 20 heads of dicasteries of the Roman Curia, and 52 members nominated directly by the Pope.
In addition to 12 fraternal delegates from other Christian denominations, the assembly will be supported by some 60 facilitators and experts, to ensure the smooth running of the meetings.
The first few days
The General Assembly will be preceded by a prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square on September 30, and a three-day spiritual retreat in an area outside of Rome for all members. This spiritual moment will be led by the Synod’s two spiritual assistants, British Dominican priest Timothy Radcliffe and Italian Benedictine nun Maria Ignazia Angelini.
Participants will then return to the Vatican on October 4. The day’s program includes a solemn opening Mass with Pope Francis at 9 am, and the first General Congregation in the afternoon. At this event the General Secretary, Cardinal Mario Grech; General Relator, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich; and Pope Francis will all speak. Unlike the work that follows, this first day will be open to the public.
Synod members will then alternate between sharing in small groups in the five official languages (Italian, Spanish, English, Portuguese and French), and the general congregations, from Monday to Saturday.
Working the documents
In all, there will be 14 meeting times for small groups (circuli minores) of around 10 people, and 21 general congregations in Paul VI Audience Hall, where the seating arrangement is designed to facilitate listening and participating.
Sundays October 8, 15 and 22, as well as Friday October 27, are days off.
From October 5 to 7, synod members will focus the first part of the instrumentum laboris, the working document, published on June 20. On October 9, they will elect the members of the Commission for the Summary Report, and the members of the Commission for Information. From October 9 to 12, they will deal with the second part of the document. From October 13 to 17, they will focus on the third part, and from October 18 to 21, on the fourth and final part.
The spiritual events and final days
A number of public spiritual events are planned: a pilgrimage (the location has not yet been announced) on October 12, a prayer for migrants and refugees in St. Peter’s Square on October 19, and a rosary in the Vatican Gardens on October 25. Masses are also scheduled in St. Peter’s Basilica on October 9, 13, 18 and 23.
On October 22, 24 and 27, the Commission will meet to draw up the “summary report” – the equivalent of the final document of this assembly. The draft of the first part of this report will be read at the general meeting on October 23. The draft of the second part will be read on October 25. At each stage, participants will be able to react and send their opinions to the General Secretariat.
The full text, finalized on October 27, will be read on October 28 and presented by the 364 members entitled to vote. The meeting will conclude with a closing mass on October 29 at 10am in St Peter’s Basilica.
A second General Assembly is scheduled for October 2024.