Home Christian News The Vatican’s ‘Synod on Synodality’ Is About to Begin. Here’s What to...

The Vatican’s ‘Synod on Synodality’ Is About to Begin. Here’s What to Know.

synod on synodality beginning
Image courtesy of the Vatican

VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Catholic clergy and laypeople will gather at the Vatican Oct. 4-29 for a synod, or summit of bishops and lay people, to discuss synodality, with an emphasis on communion, participation and mission.

While some might dismiss the highly anticipated event as a meeting on meetings, the term synodality under Pope Francis has expanded to reflect his vision for dialogue and decision-making in the church.

“I am well aware that speaking of a ‘Synod on Synodality’ may seem something abstruse, self-referential, excessively technical, and of little interest to the general public,” Francis said to journalists at the Vatican on Aug. 26.

The summit will bring 464 Catholic clergy and laypeople, including women, to the Vatican to discuss hot-button issues ranging from sexual abuse to LGBTQ inclusion and female ordination.

“It is something truly important for the church,” the pope said.

What is the Synod on Synodality?

The synod is the result of a two-year process that started in September 2021, when the Vatican released a preparatory document and instructions on how to prepare for the summit. Catholic faithful around the world then met in their parishes to discuss the questions posed by the synod. The syntheses of those conversations were then sent to their respective bishops’ conferences.

Once bishops had the opportunity to discuss — and debate — the syntheses, they sent their conclusions to the Vatican, where a group of some 30 experts, theologians and pastoral workers met in the town of Frascati near Rome in September 2022 to draft a document that would guide the next phase. This document, titled “Enlarge the Space of your Tent,” was sent to the Continental Assemblies, or groups of bishops divided by continents. The Eastern churches and Catholic advocacy groups also had a chance to submit their reflections on the synodal topics.

The results of those continental discussions were sent once again to the Vatican, where officials at the synod office drafted another document, the “Instrumentum Laboris 2,” that will guide discussions at the upcoming synod.

When is the synod?

On Saturday (Sept. 30), right before the synod takes place, there will be a consistory where 21 new cardinals will be made, followed by an ecumenical vigil in St. Peter’s Square. Afterward, participants at the synod will travel to the town of Sacrofano for a spiritual retreat where they will get to meet and talk to one another until the eve of the synod on Oct. 3.

Pope Francis will celebrate the inauguration Mass for the synod on Oct. 4. The Vatican announced in April that the synod will be extended, meaning participants will convene again for a second time in the fall of 2024.

The monthlong synod will be sprinkled with other important gatherings and events, including Masses, pilgrimages, retreats and a prayer for migrants and refugees scheduled for Oct. 19. Attendees will pray the rosary in the Vatican gardens on Oct. 25.

Where is the synod?

Instead of taking place in the traditional synod hall, the summit will unfold at the larger Pope Paul VI Hall, which can hold over 6,000 individuals. This is a reflection of the growing number of participants at the synod.