The synod titled “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission” is now underway in Rome (from October 4 to 29.)
A look at some numbers gives us a behind-the-scenes take on this Church event.
While this new-format synod began in September 2021, with local and then continental phases, Pope Francis solemnly launched the Roman phase of the synod on October 4 with a mass celebrated in St Peter’s Square in the presence of the new cardinals. A closing mass in St. Peter’s Basilica will conclude this first Roman session on October 29.
A total of 464 participants are taking part — discussing, listening, facilitating or organizing the running of this session. In addition to the members, the assembly includes theological experts, a communications team and, for the first time, facilitators to help members experience synodality in their discussions.
Members, also known as “synod fathers and mothers,” are the participants with voting rights. They are much more numerous than in previous synods: There were 185 for the Synod for the Amazon (only a regional synod) (2019), 267 for the Synod on Youth (2018), 270 for the Second Synod on the Family (2015); and 253 for the First Synod on the Family (2014). The Pope is one of the members, although he will not be voting on the final summary of this session.
English, French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese are the five official languages of the Synod. German, which mainly concerns only three countries — Germany, Austria, and Switzerland — has been omitted to avoid German-speaking participants interacting with too few members.
For the first time in the history of the Catholic Church, 54 women will take part in a synod as members — and therefore with voting rights. They are a mix of lay and consecrated: 25 of them are nuns, and the other 29 are laywomen.
43 lay people
Another major innovation is the participation of 43 lay people in the synod, i.e. more than one in ten members; 29 are women, and 14 men. Some are youth.
96 non-bishop members
In addition to lay men and women, the Synod will allow priests who aren’t bishops (27) and non-priestly religious (2) to participate as members. In all, 96 people — more than a quarter of the assembly — will take part in a synod assembly as members for the first time. Nevertheless, the main group remains the bishop members, with 269 bishops taking part.
2 bishops from mainland China
As at the Synod on Youth in 2018, two bishops from the Catholic Church in China will be taking part, specially invited by Pope Francis. With the two representatives from Hong Kong, a laywoman, Cardinal-Bishop Stephen Chow, and a bishop from Taiwan, China will have five members at the synod.