Committee begins writing Synod on Synodality working document behind closed doors

Synod on Synodality Synod on Synodality logo | Courtesy USCCB

A committee of 22 people this week kicked off the writing process for the Synod on Synodality’s working document that will be the blueprint for discussions during the meeting of bishops in October. 

According to a statement from the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops on April 12, a “group of experts from five continents” is meeting at the Vatican until April 19 “with the aim of starting the reflection that will lead at a later stage to the drafting of the Instrumentum Laboris, the working document for the first session of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.”

The Instrumentum Laboris, Latin for “working document,” frames the discussions of the Synod of Bishops. During a synod, bishops make comments and observations on the working document and meet in small discussion groups to propose changes to the text or to suggest new texts and additional areas for consideration.

To begin drafting the working document, the group of experts will meet behind closed doors to discuss the continental stage of the Synod on Synodality as a whole and analyze the seven final documents submitted by each of the regional assemblies. The committee’s analysis will “highlight tensions and priorities to be studied in depth during the October assembly.”

Who is working on the working document?

The Vatican published the names of the 22 people who will contribute to the first stage of the writing process of this document. Only four of the listed participants are the same “experts” who helped to write the working document to guide the continental stage of the synod last fall: Australian Archbishop Timothy Costelloe; Italian Monsignor Piero Coda; Australian Professor Susan Pascoe; and Mauricio Lopez, head of pastoral action for the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM).

Among the people working on the new synod document are U.S. Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas; Sister Nathalie Becquart; and Father Giacomo Costa, SJ, who served as the communications secretary for the Amazon synod.

The two other bishops contributing to the writing process are Bishop Luis Marín de San Martín, the synod’s undersecretary, and Bishop Lucio Muandula of Xai-Xai, Mozambique.

In addition to Becquart and Pascoe, four other women are taking part in the drafting meeting. Anna Rowlands, a professor of Catholic social thought at Durham University in the U.K., and Myriam Wijlens, a professor of canon law at the University of Erfurt in Germany, are participating, as are Sister Shizue Hirota, a Mercedarian Missionary from Japan, and Franciscan Sister Marie-Kolbe Zamora from Texas.

Laymen working on the document include Italian Paolo Foglizzo, an editor for the Jesuit monthly journal Aggiornamenti Sociali, and Thierry Bonaventura, the communication manager for the General Secretariat of the Synod of the Bishops.

The other committee members are Italian theologian Monsignor Pierangelo Sequeri and Polish priest Monsignor Tomasz Trafny, as well as three theology professors who teach at the Pontifical Gregorian University: Father Dario Vitali, Father Giuseppe Bonfrate, and Father Pasquale Bua.

Jesuit Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the relator general of the Synod on Synodality, is also participating in the group’s meetings along with Synod Secretary General Cardinal Mario Grech.

What comes next for the Synod on Synodality?

At the end of the weeklong meeting to begin drafting the synod working document, the Vatican will host a press conference on April 20.

Once the Instrumentum Laboris is published, bishops will have months to review the document before the first assembly from Oct. 4-29. The working documents for recent Synods of Bishops were published in June.

The Catholic Church’s Synod on Synodality has been underway since October 2021. It will include two nearly monthlong Vatican assemblies in October 2023 and October 2024. The continental phase, which followed a diocesan phase, concluded on March 31.

The two sessions of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will bring together bishops from across the world to discuss and prepare a final document to counsel the pope.

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