A summary of the discussions written by the smaller groups will be sent to the Secretariat of the Synod office led by Cardinal Mario Grech, which will collect all the information and send a digital copy to the theologians who attended the synod. The theologians will be charged with writing a final synthesis that will be submitted for the vote of the plenary assembly.
“It will be like the revelation of a mystery novel,” said the Rev. Orm Rush, a professor at Australian Catholic University and a member of the theological commission on the synod, speaking to Religion News Service.
The Vatican has made the decision to keep the conversations taking place at the synod secret. The opening session will be livestreamed to the public, but the remaining plenary sessions and the discussions of the circoli minori will remain behind closed doors. Journalists reporting on the synod will have to rely on occasional briefings by the Vatican’s communication department.
“The pope wants it to be like a closed room,” Rush said, “not to keep the journalists out, but to enable us to get away from people and their megaphones blasting at each other in a spirit of hate.”
Why is the synod important?
Synod organizers will say that it’s impossible to predict what will emerge from the synodal discussions, which they insist will be guided by the Holy Spirit. But the process that has led to the event offers some insights into the expectations of participants and observers.
At the parish level, the summaries of synodal discussions underlined the need to reflect on the role of women in the church, the welcoming of gay and lesbian Catholics and the possibility of a married priesthood. These concerns were not only present in Western churches, but also for faithful in parishes all over the world who are grappling with how these issues relate to their beliefs.
Synod organizers have made it clear these concerns will be discussed at the synod and there are several questions in the “Instrumentum Laboris” that address them. The event will also be an opportunity to think about how decisions are made within the hierarchy of the church, underlining the need for bishops to work closely with parish councils, take responsibility for the oversight of their dioceses and enact accountability for sexual abuse cases.
While the Vatican has yet to confirm whether there will be an official document from the synod, it is likely that the participants will vote on some sort of document emerging from their conversations. It is also likely that the document will be sent back to the local church level to be discussed — and if necessary amended — once again before the 2024 summit.
Changes in doctrine and morality are off the table, according to Vatican officials. But changing the way decisions are made and reshuffling the power structures within the historically hierarchical institution could pave the way for such changes in the future.
This article originally appeared here.