Diocese of Rome: Thousands expected at Vatican for ecumenical prayer vigil ahead of synod

Vatican Credit: TTstudio/Shutterstock

The Diocese of Rome on Monday said it is anticipating thousands of pilgrims in attendance at an ecumenical prayer vigil at the Vatican later this week, with the event scheduled ahead of the start of the historic synod taking place in Rome in October. 

The Roman vicariate said in a press release that “approximately 3,000 people” are expected to attend the event “Together — Gathering of the People of God” being hosted in that city over Friday and Saturday. 

The event is advertised on its website as “an ecumenical prayer vigil” that will “take place in Rome in the presence of Pope Francis and representatives of different Churches, to unite us in praise and silence, in listening to the Word.” 

The prayer service is occurring just days before the launch of the 16th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will take place in Rome over the course of October. The vigil “will be an opportunity to entrust the work of the [synod] to the Holy Spirit,” the diocese said. 

The Vatican said earlier this month that the event would “emphasize the centrality of prayer in the synodal process” and “underline the articulation between the synodal path and the ecumenical path.”

Hundreds of visitors are expected from numerous countries including France, Hungary, Vietnam, and the United States. Nearly 500 are projected to come from Poland alone.

The event is taking place under the auspices of the Vatican, with the Diocese of Rome having also organized several welcoming events for participants. The diocese said that on Friday “prayer vigils in the local communities and moments of fellowship and fraternity” have been planned, as well as on Saturday “a walk from the Basilica of St. John Lateran to the tomb of the apostle Peter.” 

Organizers have also planned several workshops for participants, including one focused on “build[ing] relationships with believers of Islam,” learning about “the real-life experience of refugees,” and a session on “feeding the hungry” that will include a service opportunity in a canteen of Caritas Roma. 

The overall synod itself — dubbed the “synod on synodality” due to its focus on synodality, or collaboration and participation among the Catholic faithful in the furtherance of the Church’s mission — is occurring over the course of several years, with Pope Francis having announced the start of the process in 2021. It is expected to conclude in 2024. 

Next month’s gathering of bishops is the first of two major assemblies of the prelates, with the second projected for October of next year. 

The bishops next month are expected to begin addressing numerous questions raised by synodal guidance documents, including how the Church can “be more fully a sign and instrument of union with God and of the unity of all humanity,” as well as how it can “better share gifts and tasks in the service of the Gospel.”

In January, announcing this month’s ecumenical vigil, Pope Francis invited “brothers and sisters of all Christian denominations” to participate. 

“The path to Christian unity and the path of synodal conversion of the Church are linked,” the Holy Father said at the time.

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