The Vatican announced on Friday that it will give dioceses around the world more time to complete local consultations ahead of the 2023 Synod on Synodality.

The Secretariat General for the Synod of Bishops said on Oct. 29 that bishops’ conferences worldwide would now have until Aug. 15, 2022, to submit summaries of their consultations.

The body overseeing the two-year synodal process had previously asked for summaries by April 2022, six months after the diocesan phase was formally opened by Pope Francis in October.

The change means that dioceses now have 10 months to complete the consultation process, which has been described as the largest in human history.

Dioceses are likely to welcome the extension as synod organizers have urged them to include “all the baptized” in the consultation process, not only churchgoers.

A handbook for dioceses says: “Special care should be taken to involve those persons who may risk being excluded: women, the handicapped, refugees, migrants, the elderly, people who live in poverty, Catholics who rarely or never practice their faith, etc.”

The Secretariat General said on Friday: “The numerous communications we have received in these first weeks of the synodal process from the Episcopal Conferences, dioceses and eparchies are truly an encouraging confirmation of those in the Church who are committed to celebrating the first phase of the synodal process — the theme of which is For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission — constituted by the consultation of the People of God. For all this, we are truly grateful.”

“During this period, we have heard, over and over again and from many quarters, the request to extend the duration of the first phase of the synodal process in order to provide a greater opportunity for the people of God to have an authentic experience of listening and dialogue.”

It went on: “Aware that a synodal Church is a Church that listens, considering that this first phase is essential for this synodal path and evaluating these requests, and always seeking the good of the Church, the Ordinary Council of the Synod of Bishops has decided to extend until Aug. 15, 2022, the deadline for the presentation of the summaries of the consultations by the Episcopal Conferences, the Oriental Catholic Churches sui iuris and other ecclesial bodies.”

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An infographic showing the timeline for the synod on synodality. Vatican Media.
An infographic showing the timeline for the synod on synodality. Vatican Media.

The Vatican announced in May that the process leading to the Synod on Synodality would open with a diocesan phase lasting from October 2021 to April 2022.

A second, continental phase will take place from September 2022 to March 2023.

The third, universal phase will begin with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in October 2023.

In an address to Catholics in the Diocese of Rome in September, Pope Francis stressed the significance of the diocesan phase of the synodal process.

“To return to the synodal process, the diocesan phase is very important, since it involves listening to all the baptized, the subject of the infallible sensus fidei in credendo [sense of faith in believing],” he said.

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